Kai O’Donnell’s next club revealed as Leigh Leopards man secures NRL return

Aaron Bower
Kai O'Donnell

Leigh Leopards' Australian ace Kai O'Donnell

Kai O’Donnell’s exit from Leigh Leopards has been confirmed – with the forward signing a two-year deal to return to the NRL with North Queensland Cowboys in 2025.

O’Donnell has become one of Super League’s most consistent and impressive forwards since joining Leigh in 2022. He helped the Leopards win promotion back to the top-flight in his first season with the club, and has continued to contribute to Leigh’s upward trajectory of recent years.

Heavily linked with a return to the NRL for weeks, his time in Super League will now officially come to an end later this year after agreeing a deal to sign with the Cowboys.

It marks a return to O’Donnell’s junior club for the forward, who began in the North Queensland academy before signing for Canberra Raiders in 2020. He made four appearances for the Raiders before joining Leigh.

“Kai will add depth and experience to our back row stocks,” Cowboys General Manager Micheal Luck said.

“It’s always great to bring a North Queenslander home. Kai was part of our Academy in the same class as Reuben Cotter and has always been a highly talented player.

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“We believe he will be a fantastic addition to our squad for 2025 and beyond.”

O’Donnell’s impending exit leaves Leigh with another major spot to fill in their squad for 2025. It also frees up a quota spot for the Leopards as they prepare for a fairly significant off-season rebuild following the departure of a number of key players.

They are, however, expected to confirm the arrival of Melbourne Storm prop Aaron Pene as early as this week – with Pene arriving on a deal for this year and next at the very least to hand the Leopards a mid-season boost.

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