Australian half-back Drew Hutchison has become the latest player to join Leigh’s quest for an immediate return to Super League.
The former Junior Kangaroo has penned a two-year deal with the Centurions, who were relegated to the Championship after losing last month’s Million Pound Game.
Hutchison, 22, came through the youth ranks at St George Illawarra Dragons and made his NRL debut in 2015, although his progress was halted this year by a serious knee injury.
“Drew is an outstanding signing for Leigh Centurions,” said head coach Neil Jukes. “He is a very highly rated and exceedingly talented half-back.
“The fact he has chosen Leigh Centurions, ahead of interest from many other clubs, shows how far we have come as a club in the past few years.
“Drew will be an instrumental figure for Leigh Centurions in 2018 and beyond. He has all the qualities to forge a senior career as outstanding as his junior career.”
Hutchison will link up with a host of fellow new faces when Leigh start pre-season training in early November, including Peter Mata’utia, Bodene Thompson and Paterika Vaivai.
“Drew is the one I really wanted to land and I was as relieved as I was pleased and excited when Kez (head of rugby Keiron Cunningham) forwarded me his contract,” said Leigh owner Derek Beaumont.
“A Junior Kangaroo and State of Origin junior, Drew has been the main man all the way and indeed earned the (number) seven shirt at St George only to suffer a setback.
“He is really looking forward to being a part of the young, energetic team that we are building at the club to earn our place back in Super League, where we can kick on to great things.”
Hutchinson replaces half-back Martyn Ridyard, who joined Feathertsone on a two-year deal.
The 31-year-old played a key role in the Centurions’ promotion to Super League in 2016 and impressed during a loan spell with Huddersfield this year.
“We are thrilled to have pulled off such a big signing for the club,” said Rovers head coach John Duffy, who played with Ridyard at Leigh.
“We feel Martyn will bring a great deal to what we are trying to achieve here. He brings strong leadership qualities and a fantastic track record. I feel he can be a genuine leader for the team going forward.
“Martyn has the kind of composure that a coach looks for in a player during big games and we feel confident he will achieve great things here.”
Featherstone secured a second successive top-four finish in 2017 and Ridyard is confident the club will be in the promotion mix again next season.
“A top-four finish is an extremely realistic aim for this club and it is where we want to be at the very least,” he said.
“Every year the Championship has got tougher and tougher but we will be right there in the mix with the likes of Leigh, Toronto, London and Toulouse.
“This move feels very much right for me and I am now fully focused on expressing myself in the way I like to, displaying the game I have developed over the years.”