Keegan Hirst has decided to come out of retirement to join Championship outfit Batley Bulldogs for the remainder of the season.
Hirst, 34, announced his retirement in October 2020.
The prop forward made almost 300 career appearances for Hunslet, Dewsbury, Batley, Featherstone, Wakefield and Halifax.
The news broke on Sky Sports, with Hirst set to join the Bulldogs this week.
A statement said: “Covid added to my own personal circumstances which made me lose touch with some of the things that I hold dearest to me; friends and rugby league.
“After the recent thinly-veiled homophobia over a rainbow shirt, I thought how can I help with visibility and inclusion? By lacing up my boots, putting on a playing shirt and getting back out there. That’s how I help with visibility and inclusion. I still have plenty of games in me and I’m looking forward to helping Batley continue their incredible season.”
The comment refers to the Manly Sea Eagles in the NRL. Seven players boycotted their recent game against Sydney Roosters over the club’s pride jersey.
Last week, the Sea Eagles became the first club in the NRL to wear a kit which promotes LGBT diversity and inclusion in the sport.
Josh Aloiai, Jason Saab, Christian Tuipulotu, Josh Schuster, Haumole Olakau’atu, Tolu Koula and Toafofoa Sipley all refused to play at it ‘conflicted with their cultural and religious beliefs’.
Hirst’s retirement U-turn will mark his third stint with the Bulldogs, having also played for them in 2012-13 and 2014-16.
BREAKING 🚨: Keegan Hirst is set to make a return to Rugby League following his decision to retire last year. pic.twitter.com/BuMwYBqRuC
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) August 1, 2022
More on Keegan Hirst
In 2015, Hirst became the first British professional rugby league footballer to come out as gay.
He began his career with Hunslet in 2008. The forward went on to play for the likes of Batley, Dewsbury and Featherstone in the Championship.
He made his Super League debut with Wakefield in 2017, enjoying three seasons there before returning to the second tier with Halifax.