Former South Sydney captain Greg Inglis is set to become the biggest recruit by an English Super League club in more than 15 years after deciding to come out of retirement to join Warrington.
Inglis will ensure added exposure for the game in the northern hemisphere when he joins Toronto Wolfpack superstar Sonny Bill Williams and Catalans dual international Israel Folau in the Super League next season.
The move was confirmed by Inglis’s management company, Rich Digital, which was founded recently by Brent Richardson, the son of former Souths CEO and GM of football Shane Richardson.
"I'm delighted to announce I'll be joining the Warrington Wolves in season 2021. I cannot wait to get over there and meet all you passionate Warrington fans," he said in the club's announcement.
The one-year deal is a massive coup for Warrington and the biggest signing by an English club since Andrew Johns enjoyed a three-match cameo with the Wolves at the end of the 2005 season.
Inglis's name was among the five highest trending topics on Twitter in England for at least an hour immediately after his signing was announced.
"I can’t wait to get over there and play for a club that has so much rich heritage. I’ve seen the success the team have had in the Challenge Cup and I want to help the team to deliver more glory," he said on the Warrington website.
GI will be loved in England
"I’ve played over in England many times in representative footy and love how passionate and vocal the supporters are.
"To get the opportunity to live in the UK, to play for such a powerhouse club that I believe is on the rise is something I’m looking forward to and hopefully I can add value to the team."
Inglis will reunite with ex-St George Illawarra captain Gareth Widdop after the pair played alongside each other at Melbourne, as well as ex-Rabbitohs teammate Jason Clark for the Steve Price-coached Wolves next season.
The former Test superstar is expected to move to England at the end of the year if COVID-19 travel restrictions have been eased and will play his first match in almost two years at the start of 2021.
The 33-year-old retired in April 2019 after losing his passion for playing following ongoing struggles with knee and shoulder injuries. Inglis forfeited the remaining 18 months of his contract with Souths.
However, he was never medically retired as his injuries weren't considered career ending but Inglis felt he could no longer perform to his own standards.
He has been working in a coaching and mentoring role with the Rabbitohs.
During his glittering career, Inglis played 39 Tests, 32 State of Origins for Queensland and 263 NRL matches for Melbourne and Souths.
He was a key member of the Rabbitohs team which ended a 43-year premiership drought in 2014 and won the Clive Churchill Medal as player of the grand final with the Storm in 2007.
He captained the Maroons in the 2018 series and was named skipper of the Australian team to play New Zealand and Tonga at the end of the season but was stood down after a drink-driving charge.
Inglis only played two more games before retiring in April 2019.
Since then has founded his own apparel company, Brand GI, and is set to launch The Goanna Academy, which focuses on youth and promoting health and wellbeing.
I can’t wait to get over there and play for a club that has so much rich heritage.Greg Inglis
Brent Richardson said Rich Digital would continue to work closely with Inglis, Brand GI and The Goanna Academy, along with other marketing opportunities, while he is in England.
His former Rabbitohs teammate Damien Cook told The Big Sports Breakfast on Wednesday that Inglis looked like he had the hunger to excel again on the playing field.
"His body didn't hold up at the end there, obviously the body is feeling good now. The knees are going good," he said.
"Greg is a natural athlete and from what I saw at training filling in here and there, he has still got all the skills and I think he will do great over there."
Souths CEO Blake Solly issued a statement on Wednesday morning to say the club fully supported Inglis's decision and indicated he would remain at Redfern until the end of the year in his role as development coach.
"Greg has made a wonderful contribution to this club, both on and off the field, and following our discussions with him, we believe it is in his best interests for him to resume his playing career with Warrington next year," he said.
Wolves CEO Karl Fitzpatrick said the signing was "a gift to every one of our fantastic members and partners who are currently experiencing difficult times".
"We wanted to give everyone something to look forward to and to say thank you for their extraordinary loyalty. With this in mind we were extra motivated to get this deal completed.
"Greg is considered to be one of the greatest rugby league players of the modern era. To see him pull on the primrose and blue will be a historical moment in Warrington Wolves and Super League’s timeline."
Price described Inglis as a world-class athlete.
"Having had 12 months out of the sport he has had time to refresh both mentally and physically, and he is focused on having a positive influence on Warrington Wolves," the former St George Illawarra mentor said.
"I’m looking forward to working with him on a professional and personal level, and I’m excited to welcome him into our group."