WARRINGTON Wolves have pulled off a major coup swooping for England International Gareth Widdop from NRL side St George Illawarra Dragons to further strengthen the squad for the 2020 season.
British-born Widdop, 29, has signed a three-year deal with the club and will make his Super League debut in 2020; a signing which is a massive coup for both Warrington and the game in the UK, with Chief Executive Karl Fitzpatrick believing it to be “arguably the biggest signing in the club’s history”.
Widdop is no stranger to Head Coach Steve Price who signed him at the Dragons.
Widdop started his professional NRL career in 2010 with Melbourne Storm, lifting the Premiership trophy in 2012. He signed for the Dragons in 2014, named team captain in 2016 before stepping up to his current position as captain in 2017. The halfback is approaching 200 NRL appearance and is renowned for his goal-kicking attributes, with an 84% conversion rate last season for the Dragons.
The England playmaker made his International debut in 2010 and remains a pivotal player within the squad.
Widdop said: “With decisions like this there are a lot of things to look into. I think Warrington, in terms of the club itself, has got a lot of history, is a great team and is run very well. I have a lot of mates in the team and it’s been a top club for a number of years. It’s a club I want to be a part of and win some silverware with.
“I’ve been away from home for a long time now, and growing up in Halifax I always had dreams of playing in Super League. I’m at the stage in my career now when I have that opportunity; Simon (Moran), Karl (Fitzpatrick) and Steve (Price) have given me that opportunity to come home and live out a childhood dream. I’m really excited for that. It’s a long way off yet but it’s something I’m looking forward to.
“With my experience of playing in NRL, and having been lucky enough to represent my country, I am hoping I can draw from my leadership and bring that to Warrington. It’s a good team with some great players in the squad already; playing in the halves it’s a key position and hopefully I can do my part for the team whatever that might be.
“I’m looking forward to playing in front of Warrington fans and the fans of Super League in general. The crowd gets behind you and I’m excited for that. Every time I’ve been home and played for England the crowd is certainly behind you and I’ve witnessed what Warrington fans are like first hand having played here a couple of years ago. I’m now looking forward to playing on the right side of it.”
Warrington chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick added: “This is arguably the biggest signing in the club’s history and quite possibly in the history of Super League. Bringing in this world-class player is a major boost for the sport in this country. In 2020 Gareth will be a fantastic addition to an already formidable squad. This, once again, demonstrates the ambition of Warrington Wolves.”
Steve Price, Warrington head coach, said: “I’ve had the pleasure of coaching Gareth having signed him when at the Dragons. He’s a terrific person who sets high standards for himself and is a really good family man. He’s matured into an outstanding leader and has played on the biggest stage in the game at international level. Gareth’s a player with integrity and a high level of experience; he’ll complement our team in 2020 and help take us to another level.
“He’s a huge signing for the game in England. It says how good our competition is when a marquee player in Australia shows the desire to come and play in Super League while holding aspirations to keep playing for his country. We see ourselves as a benchmark club in Super League and to be able to sign a player like Gareth is credit to our owner in Simon Moran, chairman Stuart Middleton and all involved.”