BUSTLING back-rower Steve ‘‘Bluey’’ Southern hopes he can still contribute to Newcastle’s NRL finals charge before he joins English Super League club Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Southern has signed a three-year deal with the Wildcats, who have been granted a new three-year Super League licence after the collapse last week of the Welsh-based Crusaders.
‘‘I agreed to terms with Wakefield on the weekend and I’m signing the contracts today,’’ Southern told the Newcastle Herald after training yesterday.
‘‘It’s three years, so I would have been silly to knock it back.
‘‘I’m fortunate that the Knights gave me an opportunity here this year and the boys brought me in, and I wouldn’t be in this situation if they didn’t.
‘‘I was talking to the club [about re-signing] here, but when your future is solid for three years, you’ve got to take it.’’
Southern joined the Knights this year after 123 games in seven seasons for North Queensland.
After recovering from reconstructive knee surgery last year, the 29-year-old Dapto Canaries junior has started at lock in six games for Newcastle but has spent much of the year playing for their NSW Cup feeder club Central Coast Centurions.
Southern is determined to do his best for the Knights or Centurions in the last four weeks of the regular season, and the NRL or NSW Cup finals if either team qualify.
‘‘You don’t win premierships or make semi-finals just using 17 players, you use your whole squad, and I’m still fighting healthy, touch wood,’’ he said.
‘Whenever I’m needed, I’m going to take that opportunity.’’
Southern’s career was in limbo after he tore knee ligaments last season. He was playing for the Cowboys’ Queensland Cup feeder club Northern Pride midway through the year when he was hurt, but the Knights threw him a lifeline in the form of a one-year incentive-based contract.
‘‘I think I’ve shown in the last couple of games I’ve played that I’m back to what I’ve been used to playing before the last couple of years,’’ he said.
He thanked Knights coach Rick Stone and assistants Andrew Dunemann and Craig Sandercock for giving him a chance to prove he could still play in the NRL.
‘‘I didn’t want to just come here as a standby player, I wanted to come here and prove myself because the last two years haven’t been that good for me,’’ he said.
‘‘But credit to this club, and Stoney and Duney and Sandy for having faith in me.
‘‘I’ve worked hard this year because it’s only been a year since my knee reco. I’m finally on top of that so I feel I’m getting better and better, and I’m fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been.’’
Southern said he had spoken to the Knights about the possibility of signing on for another season but could not knock back Wakefield’s guaranteed income for the next three years.
‘‘I didn’t come here for much money. I had to play first grade ... so it’s been a tough year for me [financially] ... but it’s been a good experience,’’ he said.
‘‘They were talking bottom end of the salary cap again for next year, and it would have probably only been for one year, so when you hear three years, that’s security, so you’ve got to take that.’’
Southern said he was looking forward to catching up with some former and current teammates playing for Super League clubs.
‘‘Glenn Morrison is a good mate of mine and he plays for Wakefield ... and Luke O’Donnell and Dave Faiumu play for Huddersfield only half an hour away,’’ he said.
‘‘Keith Lulia will be at Bradford next year so he won’t be far away either, so it should be good.
‘‘I’ve never been there but I’ve got a lot of my family over there and I’ve only ever caught up with a couple of them ... so it will be good to catch up with them.’’