Wigan have finally confirmed George Williams will be leaving this year to move to the NRL.
His departure for Canberra Raiders has been one of the worst-kept secrets in rugby league.
The Warriors will receive an undisclosed fee to release him early from the final year of his marquee contract - and say they have first refusal if he returns to Super League.
Wigantoday reported in March that Williams had a agreed a three-year deal with Canberra starting next season.
The move will reunite the 24-year-old with ex-Wigan team-mates John Bateman and Ryan Sutton, who have both been successful in the NRL.
“Firstly I want to say a massive thanks to everyone at Wigan Warriors for everything they have done for me," said Williams, who counts a World Club Challenge and two Super League titles among his 172 appearances for his hometown club. "Those people who have supported me, coached me and played with me – I really appreciated your support.
“I’ve been at Wigan since I was 12 years old and I have managed to live my dream playing 170-plus games and winning two Grand Final’s for my hometown club, along the way making some incredible memories and friends for life.
“Another dream of mine was always to play and to test myself in the NRL so I want to thank Ian Lenagan and Kris Radlinski for their understanding in allowing me to do this. It is something I have always wanted to pursue and playing in the NRL big goal of mine, so I’m excited and very much looking forward to the massive challenge ahead.
“Most importantly, although I will leave at the end of the season it doesn’t change my attitude for the remaining games of this year. I will give everything I’ve got to go out on the highest and best way possible with my best mates.”
Academy-product Williams has not been made available to speak to the media by his club this season but has previously spoke of his ambition to test himself Down Under.
He had offers in 2017, prompting Wigan to upgrade his contract to marquee status - a place which now goes to his replacement, Jackson Hastings, whose arrival was confirmed by the club this evening.
Williams' move to Canberra is now expected to be confirmed by the Raiders.
Radlinski said: “George has developed into one of the world’s finest half-backs, and although we are naturally disappointed to lose a home-grown player of his calibre, we wish him the best in his move to the NRL – I have no doubt he’ll take that competition by storm.
“On a personal level, it has been great to see George develop from a 12-year old junior into the player he is today. He has the complete skillset of an international class half-back. George has never hidden away from me his ambitions to test himself in another league and experience a new lifestyle, and we feel that this is the right time for us to grant his wish having turned down several approaches for his services in the last three years.
“I have no doubts in my mind that George will continue to show his skill and leadership for the remainder of his time with us and I’m sure our loyal fans will continue to support him for the rest of the season.”