LEIGH Centurions have signed Catalans Dragons experienced second row Joel Tomkins for next season.

The 34-year-old is a former dual code England international who has also played for Wigan Warriors and Hull Kingston Rovers in the Super League.

Tomkins is currently an integral member of the Catalans Dragons side challenging for honours in the Betfred Super League, playing alongside younger brother Sam in his second season in the south of France.

With experience of over 250 Super League games since making his Wigan debut as an 18-year-old in 2005, Tomkins also spent three years in rugby union with Saracens, earning international honours for England in the 15-a-side code.

Leigh Centurions interim head coach Kurt Haggerty said: "The signing of Joel is a statement of intent from the club. He’s a proven winner and is still playing at the highest level in Super League.

“Joel brings experience, a winning mentality and leadership qualities. This is a brilliant signing for the club.”

Speaking from his home in Perpignan Tomkins says he is excited about the move back to England, but first of all has unfinished business with the Dragons.

“It will be with a heavy heart when I leave Catalans,” he said. “I’ve built up some great relationships over here and I owe a lot to the coach, Steve McNamara and owner Bernard Guasch.

“Steve was the main reason I signed after leaving Hull KR. He is one of the genuine good guys and though he was keen for me to stay I explained my reasons for leaving and he was very supportive.

Leigh Journal:

“Bernard understands my reasons and that I’m looking forward to a different challenge. Soon after I joined, the pandemic hit and the club has faced tough financial challenges. Bernard has led from the front and always puts others before himself, and whatever the problems he always keeps a smile on his face.

“Covid turned everything upside down and the lockdowns made it tough for the players and their families over here, while the kids missed out on a lot of schooling.

"But through the adversity the Catalans club has achieved a lot and the challenges we’ve faced have definitely brought us together a lot closer as a group and galvanised the team and the club. I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can achieve for the rest of the season.”

When he does say au revoir, however, Tomkins says he will relish the new challenge ahead and is keen to reward the ambition of Centurions owner Derek Beaumont.

Leigh Journal:

“Club owners like Bernard and Derek are few and far between in the modern world of sport,” he says.

“First and foremost, they are both passionate supporters of their clubs and there are only a couple of that kind of owner knocking about these days.

“A few other clubs had shown an interest in me signing for next season, but I planned on making a decision at the end of the season. The Leigh offer came a bit out of the blue for me but once I’d heard about the club’s plans and ambitions, I was really excited.

“I’ve played with quite a few of the Leigh players, Lewis Tierney, Joe Mellor, Ben Flower to name three and I’m really excited to be working again with PJ (head of performance Paul Johnson).

“At the start of this year I was really excited about Leigh being back in Super League, because for me games like the Wigan-Leigh derby are every bit as big as Wigan-Saints. But when the club was let in Super League, looking from outside it seemed as though they had their hands tied behind their backs with the reduced funding they received.

“The game needs clubs like Leigh which is a proper Rugby League town with a fantastic stadium and big fan base. And it needs owners like Derek who is so passionate and driven towards achieving success for the club and the town.

Leigh Journal:

“I’m excited to get involved and see how far we can go. With my age and experience I believe I can add a lot to the group and when I do leave the club, I want to have left a legacy that I helped them become an established Super League club for years to come.

“When I do retire, I want to be able to look back at my time at Leigh with pride, to have had a big impact and to have helped an up and coming club reward Derek’s passion and vision and become a sustainable, long term club within Super League.”

Pictures: SWpix.com