Leigh Centurions have signed Kurt Baptiste on a one year contract until the end of November 2018.
The 26-year-old Papua New Guinea international hooker will join up with his new teammates in early January as preparations for the 2018 season intensify after the successful conclusion of negotiations with head of rugby Keiron Cunningham.
Baptiste played in all four of PNG’s matches during the 2017 World Cup and has played over 60 NRL games for Brisbane Broncos and Canberra Raiders.
Leigh Centurions head coach Neil Jukes said: “Kurt’s signature is a huge coup for the Club.
“On and off the field he will add great leadership values and bring the quality trends he has developed from two elite environments in the Broncos and the Raiders.
“His energy, control and running game will be infectious for the players around him and with the staff look forward to enhancing those skills further.
“He’ll join up with the boys after the New Year and jump straight into our preparations for 2018.”
Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont said: “ Keiron has been working on bringing Kurt to the Club since the Mitch Rein deal fell through and Neil (Jukes) and me got involved during our time over there but weren’t able to get it over the line.
“Keiron being at the Club was a big draw in getting Kurt to spend the next twelve months with us as he wants to improve himself working with undoubtedly one of if not the best hookers to have played the game. Keiron is looking forward to working with Kurt and it is, as he says, ‘the cherry on the top’ and will conclude our recruitment of our squad for 2018 at 27 members.
“I am really pleased with the job Keiron has done and the calibre of players he has brought to the Club within the reduced budget provided to him. Recruitment is the most important part of any club being successful and I am really looking forward to seeing us gel into a close knit band of brothers as the season progresses.
“Kurt’s capture is a further statement of our intention to regain our Super League place at the first opportunity and with the quality backroom additions of Adam (Seymour) as head physio, Scott (Hill) as nutritionist and Bubble (Chris Baron) as head conditioner alongside Kez and Jukesy and the rest of the staff we have a fantastic off- field team to help us achieve that.”
Born in Brisbane of PNG descent, Baptiste enjoyed an outstanding junior career and was on a scholarship at Brisbane Broncos from a teenager. In 2011 he was named National U20s hooker of the year and also represented the Junior Kangaroos, while also making his NRL debut for the Broncos.
In November 2013 Baptiste signed for Canberra and went on to make 56 appearances for the club, scoring five tries.
After making his PNG debut in 2016 he went on to become a key figure in the Kumuls side that reached the 2017 World Cup quarter-finals. Earlier in his career he also represented Queensland Residents.