When word got out that the Toronto Wolfpack had secured the services of Kallum Watkins after he was granted his release from Australia’s National Rugby League the news was followed by silence. After two weeks – with no official announcement made – some began to wonder if the move was still going down with others questioning the Wolfpack’s ability to close the deal due to salary cap restraints. Those concerns were put to rest this weekend when the team confirmed to wolfpackcity.com that Watkins’ signing is imminent.
“We are very, very close on that,” said Wolfpack CEO Bob Hunter on a late Saturday call. “We worked on that most of this week and we hope to wrap up early next week.”
Watkins was a star for the Leeds Rhino’s in the last decade, playing 13 years with the club and winning 4 Grand Finals with current Wolfpack head coach Brian McDermott. He played just 8 games in the NRL for the Gold Coast Titans due mostly to injury. Legitimate questions surround Watkins’ ability to return to form but he should have another chance to star in Super League if he can stay healthy.
The Wolfpack will also need to be creative with their roster to accommodate Watkins. The team has juggled all season with star players in and out of the line up as they struggled to last place in the standings. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit they had just started to get healthy – and had won their first game of the season in round five of the Challenge Cup – but any momentum from those positives have been lost in the corona virus outbreak. Watkins represents a player that can help Toronto regain some of that roll and breathe some fresh air into their 2020 campaign should it resume. Both sides appear ready to go.
“Certainly from the player’s standpoint and from his agent’s standpoint, we have an agreement and an arrangement going forward that both sides are happy with,” Hunter explained. “It is really just a matter of the documentation that the RFL rightly needs as it relates to his contract.”
Salary-cap concerns have swirled around the club all year but the Wolfpack have been creative in adding talent to help turn around their season. They eventually parted ways with day-one veteran Gary Wheeler to make room for full back Tony Gigot who was brought in on a trialist contract mid-February. Quinn Ngawati was brought back in March and does not count against the salary cap as a Canadian. They also brought in Wigan players Ben Kilner and Matty Russell on loan and the team will likely have to shuffle things again to make the Watkins deal work.
For now the Wolfpack will wait out the process with the understanding that player acquisitions and movement are not a priority for Super League officials at the moment. As top brass focuses on finding ways to re-start the season processes like this may take longer than usual but make no mistake – Watkins is coming to Toronto.
“Honestly, its almost like a COVID issue,” said Hunter. “The paperwork has just gone slower than we had planned.”