SELF-confessed home bird Leon Pryce is set to embark on what is likely to be the final chapter of a distinguished and glittering playing career in rugby league – 800 miles from his West Yorkshire roots.
The stand-off is the first Englishman to cross the Channel and sign for Catalans Dragons since the French club were accepted into Super League in 2006, and will be treading into relatively unknown waters.
But Pryce – one of the most gifted and skilful players in the 13-a-side code – is relishing the prospect of operating in a new environment and in fresh surroundings.
“It will be the biggest challenge of my career – more daunting than if I had stayed at home and maybe returned to Bradford or another Yorkshire club,” he said.
“That was probably the easier option, but I’ve had good reports about what coach Trent Robinson is trying to achieve in the south of France, and I want to be part of it.”
Aussie Robinson said: “Leon’s signing is one of the high points of our short history.
“It also recognises that six years of hard work have gained us the trust of major players, such as Leon.”
Pryce will head for sunnier climes with a record of success in Super League which few can match.
During eight years at Odsal, he made 190 appearances and scored 85 tries, winning three Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and three World Club Challenge trophies.
Then, following his move to St Helens in 2006, his run of success showed no signs of abating – the Great Britain international picking up more honours in the Challenge Cup (2006, 2007, and 2008), a further World Challenge title (2007) and the Super League crown (2006).
He is one of several members of the first-team squad to be severing their links with the club.
Joint skipper James Graham is moving to NRL outfit Canterbury Bulldogs, Kyle Eastmond is heading for Bath RU, Scott Moore will be pulling on the Widnes Vikings shirt, and Matty Smith will be lining up with Salford City Reds.
In addition, Tom Armstrong has indicated his intention to return to education.
On the credit side, however, Kiwi half-back Lance Hohaia will be heading to these shores on a four-year-old contract from New Zealand Warriors – a real coup as far as Saints are concerned – and will be joined by Australian international and Gold Coast Titans forward Anthony Laffranchi on a two-year deal.
A third ‘import’ is former Wigan Warriors utility man Mark Flanagan, who has spent the last two season playing for Wests Tigers in the NRL.
Prop Josh Perry can almost be described as a new signing as well, after his first season at Saints turned into little more than a nightmare due to injury.
He started only eight games and made just four appearances from the substitutes’ bench.
The former Manly Sea Eagles player will be extra keen to make his presence felt next year after Saints had brought him from the other side of the world 12 months ago.
Whether coach Royce Simmons has other irons in the fire remains to be seen.