Leeds confirm signing of Tonga star Tui Lolohea

Drew Darbyshire

Leeds have signed Tonga half-back Tui Lolohea on a three-year deal from Wests Tigers from next season.

The 23-year-old has found chances limited at the Tigers this season, making just six appearances due to injury.

Lolohea was at New Zealand Warriors before Wests and has made a total of 71 appearances in the NRL.

The half-back, who can also play at full-back, played for New Zealand against the Rhinos in 2015 and said playing at Emerald Headingley was a big factor in his decision to join the club.

He said: “I have always remembered that game back in 2015 when I played at Emerald Headingley with the Kiwis.

“The singing and support for the Leeds boys was amazing and I can’t wait to play for those supporters. That game was Kylie Leuluai’s farewell game for the club and I remember the warmth and passion the supporters had for him and the team – that was special.

“People talk about the passion that the English fans have for the game but I had seen it for myself and it was definitely a factor when I was thinking about who to sign for.

“I am really excited, it is a long way from home but a different challenge for me and something I am looking forward to.

“I want to be part of the Rhinos team and I can hopefully bring my energy to the game over there. It will be very different for me and a new way of life. I am still really young and this is a big journey for me and I want to make the most of my career and my time in England.

“I have had a couple of injuries this year that have held me back a bit but I am looking forward to finishing the season strongly with the Tigers and then making the most of the opportunity to come over to Super League.”

Rhinos director of rugby Kevin Sinfield is pleased to have secured Lolohea’s services.

He said: “We are delighted to have captured a player of the quality of Tui for next season.

“It is rare in the modern game for any Super League club to sign an international class 23-year-old from the NRL and I am sure he will be a popular addition to our squad.”