Former Knights centre Peter Mata’utia has taken a leap of faith by signing a three-year deal with Leigh Centurions – who have been relegated from Super League to England’s second-tier competition.
Leigh dropped out of the top flight last month after losing the do-or-die “million-pound game” against Catalans Dragons, which means Mata’utia will spend his first 12 months in England trying to help his new club win promotion back into Super League.
To do so, Leigh will need to qualify in the top four of the 12-team Championship, and then finish in the top half of the eight-team play-offs involving the bottom four Super League outfits.
Leigh won the Championship in seasons 2014, 2015 and 2016 but this season was their first in Super League, and they finished second-last, after winning six of their 23 regular-season games. Among Leigh’s players this season were former Knight Cory Paterson, Glenn Stewart, Daniel Mortimer and Mitch Brown.
They had also signed former South Sydney winger Bryson Goodwin for next year, but he transferred to Warrington when he learned Leigh had been relegated.
Mata’utia has played in 76 NRL games, 41 for Newcastle (including all 24 this season) and 35 for St George Illawarra. The Knights had expressed interest in re-signing him, but the Samoan World Cup representative decided to explore the marketplace for a better deal.
Leigh owner Derek Beaumont described 26-year-old Mata’utia as “a significant signing for the club”.
"Peter is a proven quality NRL player who has age on his side and will add a lot to the squad,” he said.
“Although he joins us in the Championship, he is aware of our club's ambitions and his signing is indicative of his belief in that vision.”