Wigan have confirmed Sam Tomkins will leave at the end of the season - with Catalans his expected destination.
Warriors will not be taking up the option on his contract, making the 29-year-old a free agent.
They issued an early-morning statement confirming his exit and though they did not name his new club, their announcement clears the path for the Dragons to confirm his signing for next season.
Warriors executive director, Kris Radlinski, said the club did offer Tomkins a new four-year deal but he turned it down.
“This new deal was still one of the top three contracts that the club has offered anyone in the past 10 years,” said Radlinski.
“Sam subsequently told us that the opportunity for him and his family to experience a different culture and lifestyle and to see his kids speaking another language was something that really appealed to him. He also said he wasn’t expecting the Wigan offer to be as good as it was and that had made the decision even more difficult.
“In situations like this, there is nothing that the club can do other than be generous, fair and wish the player well.”
He added: “It came as a surprise to us that another club had engaged with Sam so early in the year when the deadline for approaching a player under contract is at the end of April. We have made our feelings known about this to the club involved.”
Warriors have French livewire Morgan Escare under contract for the next two years and ex-Castleford ace Zak Hardaker, who can play full-back or centre, has agreed a deal to join the Warriors when he has served his doping ban this November, though that capture has yet to be confirmed.
Today’s announcement about Tomkins will not come as a surprise – Catalans’ interest was revealed in the Wigan Observer on April 3, and within days it became clear he was heading to Perpignan.
Still, many fans will be sad to see him depart.
A former St Pat’s junior, Tomkins burst onto the scene with a sparkling five-try display in 2008 - a decade ago this week - and quickly became a fans’ favourite. He cracked into the England side the following year and in 2010, having switched from stand-off to full-back, helped Wigan to Grand Final glory.
The 2012 Man of Steel moved to the NRL with New Zealand Warriors ahead of the start of the 2014 campaign but returned home after two years, becoming Super League’s first ‘marquee’ player – meaning a portion of his lucrative deal does not count on the salary cap.
His previous two seasons have been disrupted by injury but he has started this year in terrific form, and he underlined his credentials in yesterday’s 28-10 Challenge Cup win at Hull KR.
He previously worked with Steve McNamara when the latter was the England coach.
McNamara, who signed Micky McIlorum from Wigan earlier this year, is trying to change the culture at the Dragons after years of under-achievement.
Wigan face Catalans again in July before the season splits for the Super-8s phase.
Radlinski added: “Nothing lasts forever - and as a club we have to constantly evolve. Players will come and players will go.
“All we ever ask is that players give their all for the badge whilst they are at Wigan. Sam has done that and more - and will continue to do so until he can no longer. Being the competitive and ultimate professional that he is, I have no doubt that Sam will want to go out as a winner this season.
“Discovering, developing and getting the best out of players like Sam Tomkins is what we do here at Wigan. That will never stop.”