Leigh Leopards have pulled off a major coup ahead of the Challenge Cup final with Australian forward Kai O’Donnell signing a new two-year deal.
The 24-year-old back-rower was out of contract at the end of the season, but he has now put pen to paper on a new contract that will see him remain at the Leigh Sports Village until at least the end of 2025.
O’Donnell, currently in his second season with Leigh, has scored 19 tries in 40 appearances for the club since arriving from the NRL.
On committing his future to the Leopards, O’Donnell said: “I’m really stoked to be staying. Leigh has become my home away from home.
“Being at Leigh feels like a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. The fans and everyone at the club have all been so welcoming.
“I did think about going home but I had a good chat with Derek (Beaumont, owner) a few days ago and the advice he gave me convinced me to stay.
“I’d also like to thank Lammy (Adrian Lam, head coach) who’s played a big part in my decision. The club has been outstanding in being so patient while I reached my decision.
“I’d also like to thank all my family as well as my management.
“Playing at Wembley seems surreal. I’m so excited about it. I never thought I’d ever get the chance in my life to play at Wembley.”
Leigh Leopards boss hails Kai O’Donnell re-signing: ‘This is huge news for the club’
O’Donnell made his NRL debut for Canberra Raiders in 2020 and made four appearances for the club before making the switch to Leigh.
On O’Donnell’s new deal, Leopards head of rugby Chris Chester said: “This is huge news for the club and gives us continuity going forward.
“Kai’s performances over the past 12 months or so have been unbelievable.
“I remember saying after Kai made his debut at Widnes last year, just a few days after arriving on a plane from Australia, that we had a special player on our hands.
“Kai’s signing is huge for Leigh, our left edge and the town. He’s an unbelievable competitor and wants to be the best at everything he does, more often than not he is.
“It’s a huge thing to come 12,000 miles at a young age and settle in another country.
“Kai’s opportunities in Australia were limited but I saw something in him and took good recommendations from people we trust over there.
“I knew from day one he was the kind of guy we needed at the club. It’s a massive boost for us in Wembley week.
“There’s something really special happening at our club and I’d like to thank Derek and Kai’s agent Liam Ayoub for making it happen.”