NRL-bound Leigh Leopards star shows why he’s sought after with mammoth display in Huddersfield Giants victory

Ben Olawumi
Kai O'Donnell

Leigh Leopards' Australian ace Kai O'Donnell

Leigh Leopards’ NRL-bound ace Kai O’Donnell showed exactly why he’s sought after Down Under with another fine showing as they secured a 16-10 victory at Huddersfield Giants on Friday night.

As first reported by ExaminerLive earlier this month, Brisbane-born O’Donnell will head back to Australia at the end of this season.

The 25-year-old is contracted at Leigh until the end of the 2025 campaign, but press Down Under are now reporting that the North Queensland Cowboys are the club who have activated an NRL release clause in O’Donnell’s Leopards contract.

Given the consistently top-level performances we’ve seen from the powerful forward over the last 18 months or so in Super League, it comes as no surprise that’s the case, and we saw another huge showing from him at the John Smith’s Stadium.

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NRL-bound Leigh Leopards star Kai O’Donnell shows exactly why he’s sought after with mammoth display in Huddersfield Giants victory

Ex-Canberra Raiders ace O’Donnell – with Leigh since 2022 – was his side’s top tackler in their Round 12 victory, successfully bringing down an opponent on 36 occasions.

Huddersfield skipper Luke Yates, another man who will switch clubs next year with a move to Warrington Wolves all but confirmed, was the only man on the field to make more.

Six of those 36 tackles made by the Leopards’ second-rower were on the marker, halting the Giants before they’d even had chance to think about building an attack.

Josh Charnley & Edwin Ipape the try-scorers for Leigh on the night with the damage done in the first half on a night which saw four players sin-binned including three men donning Leopard print.

But it’s players like O’Donnell who lay the platform for their team in attack, and often their role in getting the ball over the try-line is overlooked unless it’s them going over or providing the official assist.

The Queensland native – whose mum hails from Newcastle and emigrated to Australia as a teenager – made 92 metres of his own with the ball in hand across 11 carries on Friday night, a constant driving force.

O’Donnell has been on some journey with Leigh since his arrival at the start of 2022, helping Adrian Lam’s side to promotion up from the Championship, lifting the 1895 Cup and then the Challenge Cup last year as well as finishing in the Super League play-offs for the first time in the club’s history.

He arrived at the then-Centurions as a young man not near the level required to succeed in the NRL, but will leave at the end of this year transformed into a forward ready to take the Australian elite by storm, preparing to enter the peak of his carer.

He’ll no doubt leave as a bit of a cult hero to the Leythers too. An underrated star who will be tough to replace.

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