WIGAN have lost one of their most promising youngsters to the NRL.
Matt Russell – who made his Super League debut this season – has signed a two-year deal at the Gold Coast Titans.
He was out of contract, but had an option for 2013.
And though Wigan were keen to keep him on board, the chance to play in Australia proved too strong to resist for the 19-year-old.
Titans football manager Scott Clark confirmed the move, and hopes the former Ince Rose Bridge player can be pushing for an NRL spot next season.
“He’s a young talent from England who’s looking for an opportunity over here in Australia,” he said. “He’s still under 20s age (next year), but we’re not sure if he’ll play in the NYC, Queensland Cup or push for a first grade spot.
“He’s a young, talented kid looking for an opportunity, and we can provide that for him.
“He’s got (Sam) Tomkins in front of him at Wigan and knows he’s not going to get much of an opportunity there. With English blokes coming over, and proving themselves, he wants to be part of that.”
The impact made by English players Gareth Ellis, Sam Burgess and James Graham in the NRL has prompted Australian outfits to look overseas for recruits.
Several Super League clubs, including Hull KR and London, had inquired about a loan in 2013 – and Wigan were thought to be receptive to the idea of a spell elsewhere to try and accelerate his development.
He made a two-try debut for Wigan earlier this season, and further enhanced his credentials during a loan stint at Hull FC. The ex-England academy international has scored three tries in eight Super League appearances – the majority of those from full-back. But he has recently been playing on the wing in the Under-20s – and Wane preferred Jack Murphy for last Friday’s play-off match against Leeds after Tomkins was injured.
Russell is a livewire with the ball and scored a stunning try in his last match – a semi-final loss for the U20s at Leeds.