Leilua in shock switch to English 2nd-tier

Joey Leilua, the former Wests centre, has joined English second-tier club Featherstone Rovers.
Joey Leilua, the former Wests centre, has joined English second-tier club Featherstone Rovers.

Joey Leilua has signed for English second-tier club Featherstone Rovers after being released by Wests Tigers.

Rovers' acquisition has been hailed as 'stunning' in UK media and 'one of the most unexpected signings in recent times'.

The 29-year-old Leilua, a two-time Dally M centre of the year, and twice a losing grand finalist, left Wests with a parting shot at coach Michael Maguire claiming he had been axed because he was prepared to "speak up "when something is wrong - and there were plenty of things going wrong at that club."

New Featherstone coach Brian McDermott said: "This signing is another clear demonstration of this club's unwavering ambition and focus on gaining Super League promotion.

"Joey brings a level of experience and raw ability that is unrivalled in the Championship.

"He'll add some serious size, strength and focused aggression which will help this side go up to another level.

"I've had many conversations with Joey over the last few weeks and we're looking forward to working together to achieve our Super League objective."

Rovers chairman Mark Campbell, whose side lost to Toulouse in the Championship promotion decider this year, said: "This is one of the most significant signings in our history, for the Championship and for rugby league in this country."

Leilua, who has made a total of 225 NRL appearances with Sydney Roosters, Newcastle Knights, Canberra and the Tigers, will undergo a change of sport when he takes on former England forward Chris Heighington in a boxing match in Newcastle on Friday, December 10.

Australian Associated Press