Sold-out signs and the sight of the world’s best player gunning for revenge are set to make it a World Club Challenge to remember when Wigan pit their wits against triple NRL defending champions Penrith Panthers at the DW Stadium on Saturday.

The Warriors will join the Sydney Roosters as five-time winners of the prestigious, if inconsistently contested, pinnacle of the global club game if they deal a further blow to a side still smarting from their golden-point defeat to St Helens a year ago.

For all their acclaim as one of the greatest sides to grace Australia’s high-profile and lucrative NRL, Penrith are still yet to lift the accolade, having lost all three of their previous finals, including to Wigan in 1991, and it is something their talismanic half-back Nathan Cleary is desperate to put right.

“Losing to Saints last year still hurts, but we’re lucky enough to get the chance of redemption,” said Cleary, who led Australia to World Cup glory on his last visit to the UK in 2022.

“As a club we haven’t won the World Club Challenge so that’s another thing we want to do, get the final trophy in the cabinet.

“I have fond memories of being over here and winning the World Cup, and although I’m back with a different team there’s the same desire and drive. It’s a great challenge but also a great opportunity and the end goal would be special.”

In contrast Wigan boast a stirring history in the competition, their notoriously brutal initial win over Manly at Central Park in 1987, starring the likes of Ellery Hanley, Joe Lydon and Henderson Gill, followed by subsequent triumphs in 1991, 1994 and 2017.

In centre Adam Keighran, whom they signed from Catalans at the end of last year’s Grand Final-winning campaign, they also possess something of an inside-track on what makes their rivals tick, the 26-year-old having spent two years with Penrith’s New South Wales Cup side from 2018.

Keighran told the PA news agency: “I think there are similarities between both clubs. Penrith are a bit isolated out there in the west and they form a very tight-knit group involving the whole community, and I’ve noticed the same thing here.

“I know last year was a very disappointing loss for them and I think it’s something they’re very keen to change. I don’t think their perception of the English game has changed but they’ll be more hungry than they were last year to set things straight.”

After a sporadic start, the World Club Challenge has been played every year, barring Covid, since 2000, although it was not until 2014, when Wigan were swept aside by Sydney Roosters, that the event in its modern iteration was staged outside the UK.

The perceived reluctance of English teams to travel drew scorn from some in Australia who suggested clubs used the event as little more than pre-season preparation, but the nature and magnitude of Saints’ win last year appears to have contributed to a significant shift-change.

While the old days of well over 30,000 packing into the old Central Park to watch the win over Manly have long gone, the sold-out signs at the DW Stadium have been stuck up since January which bears testament to the enthusiasm for a fixture that could steer Wigan to the summit for a fifth time.

“There has been a real anticipation and buzz around the town for months now,” said Wigan captain Liam Farrell, who also played in his side’s defeat to the Roosters at the DW Stadium in 2019.

“The club has got a strong history in the World Club Challenge, so if we can play our small part in that and get a win on Saturday, that would be great for us to be a little piece of that special history.”

Wigan will draft academy product Harvie Hill into their line-up in place of new signing Luke Thompson, who is absent having failed a head injury assessment in the wake of their opening Super League win over Castleford.

Penrith head coach Ivan Cleary also turns to youth, with 20-year-old Jack Cole set to partner Nathan Cleary in the halves in the absence of the injured Jarome Luai.

Jamaica Hurricanes Academy U19s will square off against touring Wigan-Leigh College from England in a groundbreaking rugby league test match at the UWI Mona Bowl on Saturday, February 24. This marks the first time Hurricanes will field an U19 team against international opponents in the 13-a-side version of the game. Kick-off is scheduled for 3:30 pm.

 The Wigan-Leigh College team, currently on a development tour to Jamaica, are from the North of England and linked to English professional club Leigh Leopards, competing in the Super League. During their stay, they have conducted coaching and match official seminars with local personnel and hosted coaching clinics at The Cedar Grove Academy and Campion College. They are the fourth international team to tour the island within the past six months.

 The Hurricanes have already gained a significant milestone from the tour, securing a 12-8 victory over the visitors in the U19 Academy Finals at the New Year 9s on February 17. The historic win marked the first time a domestic Jamaica team earned a win against a team from England in any format of the game. The Hurricanes are comprised of Jamaica’s top High School and Club U19 players, the Academy is an integral part of the domestic development for elite players.

 Looking towards the game, Antonio Baker, Hurricanes Academy Coach, said, “Rugby League Jamaica has dedicated considerable effort to developing rugby league at the grassroots level. The Test will offer a valuable opportunity to assess our progress, facing top-tier opposition from England. I am confident the team will give their best effort, as they all aspire to represent their country admirably.”

 Kieron Purtill, Coach of Wigan-Leigh College, expressed gratitude for the warm hospitality extended by the Jamaican rugby league community, remarking, “The reception we've received in Jamaica from the rugby league community has been outstanding since the day we arrived. Participating in the Nines tournament was a fantastic experience for our team, showcasing a very high standard and significant participation. We eagerly anticipate our test match this Saturday as we prepare to take on a swift and robust Jamaican teamAnt. Rugby league emerges as the ultimate victor, and our partnership between Leigh Leopards, Wigan-Leigh College, in conjunction with Rugby League Jamaica, has provided a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all the young players involved. We hope this tour paves the way for other teams to visit and partake in what we've experienced, further aiding the development of rugby league in Jamaica.”

Penrith head coach Ivan Cleary is eager to see his all-conquering NRL giants belatedly join the roll call of world club champions with victory over Wigan at the DW Stadium on Saturday.

The Panthers fell short against Wigan and Bradford in 1991 and 2004 respectively before suffering an agonising golden point defeat to St Helens on home territory in February last year.

Despite being one of the NRL’s greatest sides by common consensus after three-straight title wins, Cleary knows an asterisk will remain beside his side’s achievements until they have ascended to the global crown.

“It’s the one thing we haven’t been able to do – only 12 teams have managed to win this thing and we’ve had three goes and missed out on it,” said Cleary.

“You look through the list of winners and only the big clubs have done it, so for us to be on that list would be big.

“I’ve watched these games for many years from growing up as a kid and it’s a big game – you don’t play for a world championship every day and I think both teams will show what it means on the night.”

Both sides have been hit by injury setbacks ahead of the fixture with Cleary confirming Penrith will hand 20-year-old Jack Cole only his second senior start at stand-off in place of absent star Jarome Luai.

Wigan meanwhile will draft youngster Harvie Hill into their front row after losing new signing Luke Thompson to concussion in Saturday’s Super League season-opener at Castleford, with another new boy Sam Walters already sidelined.

But Wigan head coach Matt Peet admitted he breathed a huge sigh of relief when half-back Harry Smith escaped a ban following a yellow card for a tip-tackle in the same fixture, meaning he can line up at the sold-out DW Stadium.

Peet admitted he had been concerned but was “chuffed” by the news and added: “I think both teams want to come up against the best of one another.

“We want to see Harry on that stage, particularly because of the journey he’s been on, coming through that pathway.

“Harvie is another home-grown lad which is brilliant and it is an exciting opportunity for him.”

Harry Smith is free to feature in Wigan’s World Club Challenge clash with Penrith after escaping a ban for his tip-tackle on Castleford’s Luke Hooley in Friday night’s Betfred Super League opener.

The 24-year-old was sent to the sin bin following the incident but received a Grade B charge because the RFL’s match review panel found that “the unnatural actions of the tackled player significantly contributed to the outcome of the tackle”.

Grade B charges generally incur a one-match ban, but previous conduct can provide a mitigating circumstance and the half-back, a pivotal figure in Wigan’s hopes of emulating St Helens and claiming the title next Saturday, got away with a £250 fine.

Four red and nine yellow cards were issued in the opening round of Super League fixtures, with three players given Grade E charges and referred to tribunals which could rule them out for between four to six games.

Hull’s Franklin Pele, Castleford’s Liam Watts and Catalans’ Michael McIlorum were all sent off for head contact in their respective matches.

However, RFL chiefs insist the eye-catching number of sanctions were not unduly affected by new tackle rule protocols which came into play ahead of the new campaign.

Robert Hicks, the RFL’s director of operations and legal, said: “Of the 13 cards shown, 10 of the incidents would have led to a card being shown under the framework that applied in 2023.

“It was a highly successful opening round of Betfred Super League fixtures, and it is right that the focus is already turning to the second round of matches, and also the Betfred World Club Challenge.”

Franklin Pele and Ligi Sao were both sent off as Hull FC’s hopes of kicking off the new Betfred Super League season with a win over their derby rivals Hull KR unravelled in spectacular fashion at the MKM Stadium.

New boy Niall Evalds led from the front with two tries as Rovers cruised to a 22-0 win which was helped by their opponents’ indiscipline after debutant Pele was red-carded for a needless swing at debutant Eliot Minchella on the stroke of half-time.

With the game long gone Tony Smith’s men suffered the indignity of finishing the game with 11 players after Sao was also red-carded for retaliation after kicking out following foul play by Matt Parcell.

If it was not as emphatic as the 40-0 thrashing inflicted by Rovers last April, it strongly suggested two sides with contrasting seasons in store, with Willie Peters’ new recruits easily outshining their largely anonymous FC counterparts.

Smith’s men might have feared it was not going to be their night when Liam Sutcliffe withdrew after the warm-up due to illness, then Joe Cator was also forced to limp off early.

But for all their ill luck, the black-and-whites were emphatically also the architects of their own demise, as a series of errors and rushes of blood to the head left them 14 points adrift at the interval.

Evalds needed seven minutes to mark his Rovers debut with the opener as he took a pass from Tom Opacic on the right and stepped inside to put the first points of the season on the board.

Mikey Lewis sent Kelepi Tanginoa through a gap for the second in a move that began with an error from Morgan Smith who needlessly kicked into touch on the full.

Hull responded with an overdue spell of pressure, Jack Walker’s high kick forcing an error from Rovers full-back Peta Hiku, who was perhaps the only visiting new boy not to excel.

But errors from Jayden Okunbor and Jack Ashworth sapped most of the momentum the home side could build, and the Hull defence stood off again as the superb Lewis skipped through again to take Rovers’ lead to 12.

Hiku nailed his first and only conversion of the night before the first period ended on a desperate note for the hosts, as Pele followed up a tackle on Minchella with a needless swing towards his opponent on the ground, prompting a mass confrontation and a red card.

Cam Scott spurned a chance to reduce the deficit for Hull early in the second half after another spill from Hiku, before Rovers camped on the hosts’ try-line and after Jai Whitbread and Ryan Hall were both held up, Parcell found the inevitable gap on the last to nail Rovers’ fourth try.

Tension boiled over in the last 10 minutes as Parcell was sin-binned for elbowing Sao in the ruck, only for Sao to see red after retaliating with a kick to the head.

Evalds completed the scoring in the final minute as he raced over on the right flank to the delight of the estimated 8,000 Rovers fans in the 20,014 opening night crowd.

Elliot Minchella is determined to build on the memory of last season’s near-misses and steer Hull KR to silverware starting with Thursday night’s Betfred Super League derby opener at the MKM Stadium.

Minchella kicks off his fifth season at Craven Park and his first as captain having played a pivotal role in Rovers’ re-emergence last season, when they reached the play-off semi-finals and suffered an agonising Challenge Cup final defeat to Leigh.

But despite the plaudits directed at both himself and his team, the 28-year-old insists he was far from satisfied and wants to see his side take the next step and bring a first major trophy to club in almost 40 years.

“We came up short last year,” admitted Minchella. “It was a great experience to play at Wembley and in a Super League semi-final, but we came home with nothing and the trophy cabinet got nothing added into it.

“That’s massive motivation for me. When you get so close to success it’s an addictive feeling and you want to go one better and get over the line.

“We’ve made a few semi-finals in the last few years but I’m not happy with that. When I finish playing I’m not going to look back and think that was really good. I want to have a medal around my neck and to win trophies for Hull KR.”

Minchella assumes the captaincy from Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who has retired to take up a place on the coaching staff, and is one of a number of high-profile departures in the off-season, including the less-than-serene exits of Jordan Abdull and assistant coach Danny McGuire.

But head coach Willie Peters looks to have recruited well, with Tyrone May their high-profile addition from Catalans, while NRL back Peta Hiku and rugged ex-Wakefield prop Jai Whitbread both look set to boost their hopes of another impressive season.

Hiku and May are both set to start for Rovers in one of the most eagerly-anticipated openers of recent times, while hosts Hull are without influential home-grown prop Brad Fash, for whom the derby means more than most.

Hull head coach Tony Smith, who is also acutely aware of the passions that swirl around the Hull derby having first tasted it at KR before his controversial cross-city switch, is also keen to use to kick-start a more promising campaign after last year’s poor 10th place finish.

“I think it’s great that the new season is kicking off with a Hull derby,” said Smith.

“We can sit here and say it’s just another game but when you live in the city you see how passionate people get about their teams, they have to live next door to rival neighbours and it’s a big deal for a lot of people.

“It’s also very important for us because in the previous few years we probably don’t have a good record against KR at our home stadium, so it’s important for us to get rid of that and give our supporters something to cheer.”

Fa’amanu Brown has fought through the kind of adversity that makes the prospect of a long-awaited Super League debut amid the red-hot atmosphere of a Hull derby on Thursday night the easy bit.

One of nine siblings, Brown endured childhood poverty in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he shared a bedroom in a state housing complex with four brothers.

Packed off alone to chase his rugby league dream in Australia at the age of 17, Brown struggled with mental health and homesickness, then in 2019 sustained a foot injury and was told by surgeons he would never run again.

“I went through a lot of trauma in my life,” Hull FC star Brown told the PA news agency.

“I remember lining up to go to the Salvation Army because we didn’t have any clothes on our back. I know what it’s like to live in a car and come from nothing.

“All that stuff growing up, it made me and my siblings understand and appreciate life. Our parents worked in factories and we were determined to break the cycle. A lot of people take this game for granted, but for me, I’m just trying to make the most of it.”

Having successfully landed NFL deals with first Cronulla Sharks then Canterbury Bulldogs, Brown sustained a foot injury playing for the latter in 2019 that required three operations and led to his devastating diagnosis.

“I’d had a big build-up about the kind of player I was going to be in the future, and those injuries just knocked me down,” added Brown.

“I broke a bone in my foot and had limited blood supply, and the surgeon said I would never run again. I was 24 years old and I hadn’t even reached my peak.

“When I was told the news I just broke down and cried but I knew in myself that with my journey and where I’d come from, it wasn’t going to stop me doing what I love.”

Released by Canterbury that same year, Brown’s road to redemption began in the unlikely surroundings of Featherstone, with whom he spent an impressive 2021 campaign, culminating in a play-off defeat to Toulouse.

Brown spent the next two years back in Australia but did not have to be asked twice to pack his bags again when Hull FC head coach Tony Smith identified him as the player he wanted to form part of his crucial half-back pairing this season.

Despite snow slapping the windows of the Aviva Studios in Manchester during last week’s Super League season launch, Brown is thrilled to get the chance to finally feature in the English top-flight.

“I’ve always wanted to play Super League and here I am now,” Brown continued.

“My season at Featherstone obviously made me appreciate the weather more in Australia, but it made me more mentally tough and resilient being away from my family.

“I can’t wait to start with a Hull derby. A lot of people are talking about it and putting on a lot of pressure, but it’s nothing new. I’ve played in big games before and I’ll treat this game the same way.

“Now that I’ve finally made it to Super League, I’m just trying to make the most of it.”

The 14th season of the Intercollegiate Rugby League kicked off on Saturday with five of the six registered institutions for the 9-a-side Championship participating. Present were the University of the West Indies Pelicans, University of Technology Knights, Mico University College Crocs, Excelsior Community College Eagles, and Caribbean Maritime University Spartans.

Debutants Browns Town Community College were unable to participate due to logistical challenges that arose late. For the second consecutive year, there will not be a 13-a-side Championship as institutions continue to rebuild their sports programs post-COVID.

The competition format involves institutions playing each other once in a round-robin format before the top four teams face off in semi-final matches to determine the finalists. The Eagles are defending champions. Saturday’s matches were hosted by MICO, marking a historic first for the prestigious university. The competition will culminate on Saturday, March 9, at the Mona Bowl.

In the matches played, Eagles and Pelicans secured identical 12-4 wins over Spartans and Knights, respectively. In the third match, Spartans overcame Crocs with a score of 20-4. Following that, Eagles prevailed over Pelicans with a score of 16-4, and Knights claimed a 12-0 victory over Crocs. The day concluded with an 8-all draw between Pelicans and Spartans. The teams will compete in their remaining round-robin games on March 9.

INTERCOL Rugby League Chair Romeo Monteith remarked, “Rugby league continues its strong revival post-COVID. Last year, only UWI, EXED, and CMU participated. Now, we have six teams, with both UTECH and MICO restarting their programs and Browns Town joining the competition. This is great news for the competition and for the national team, as INTERCOL athletes traditionally contributes around half of the team's makeup."

Daryl Clark is under no illusions about the size of the boots he has to fill as he prepares to pull on St Helens’ famous number nine shirt for the first time in Betfred Super League action this week.

The 31-year-old hooker ended his decade-long stay with Warrington at the end of last season to step into the role vacated by James Roby, who retired after 19 trophy-laden years, with 551 appearances to his name.

Having assumed a role on the coaching staff, Roby’s presence continues to loom large at the Totally Wicked Stadium, but Clark is convinced his best route to emulating even a fraction of his predecessor’s success lies in making the position his own.

Clark told the PA news agency: “I knew the challenge when I signed up for it.

“I know I’m not going to be at this club as long and I’m not going to achieve as much as Robes has done at this club, but hopefully I’ll be part of some success and write my own little part of history.

“I have already spoken to Robes and I’m sure he will be there to give me some tips and advice going forward. But it is important that I am judged by my own performances and not against his.”

Clark’s ambition was echoed by Saints head coach Paul Wellens, who ear-marked him as the man to replace Roby as soon as the stalwart confirmed the 2023 season would be his last, but insisted he had never envisaged a like-for-like replacement.

“If Daryl goes out there to be the best version of himself, he will improve our team,” insisted Wellens.

“I need to be clear on this – it would be absolutely ridiculous of Daryl to go out there and try to be James Roby.

“In James Roby, he’s got someone there to have a chat or give guidance and that’s absolutely fine.

“But he’s also an experienced player in his own right, who knows what the game looks like at the highest level, so I told him to ‘just go out there and be you’ and that’s what I think the players and certainly I will respect.”

Having come through the ranks with his home-town club Castleford, Clark experienced five straight final losses – three in the Challenge Cup and twice in Grand Finals – before finally striking it sixth time lucky, ironically against Saints, at Wembley in 2019.

A recipient of the prestigious Super League Man of Steel in his final season Wheldon Road, he is relishing the task of helping Saints reclaim the trophy-winning status they lost to Lancashire rivals Wigan at the end of last season.

“The general feeling is that we’d been champions for so long and to get knocked off last year put us back chasing – and I think that could be a good thing,” he added.

“The main reason I came to Saints at this point in my career is because I wanted to be involved in the big games and win some silverware and that is what I have every intention of doing in the future.”

In a momentous celebration of two decades of rugby league growth in Jamaica, Rugby League Jamaica (RLJ) has proudly revealed its comprehensive 2024 domestic calendar. With an impressive lineup of over eight competitions, RLJ is set to embark on its most extensive domestic season yet, promising thrills for fans and participants alike.

As part of the commemorative year, RLJ has refreshed its competition logo branding to reflect the vibrant and enduring spirit of its fan base. The iconic Doctor Bird branding, rooted in the organization's early years, serves as a symbol guiding them into a future filled with excitement and possibilities.

The kickoff for the domestic season is set for Saturday, February 10th, with the eagerly awaited Intercollegiate 9s Championship. This inaugural event will see institutions such as the University of The West Indies, University of Technology, Mico University College, Caribbean Maritime University, Excelsior Community College, and Browns Town Community College vying for supremacy at the Mico University campus, starting at 11 am.

Throughout the year, rugby league enthusiasts can look forward to a series of exhilarating events, including four Community Club 9-a-side tournaments. The "New Year's 9s" on February 17th at the UWI Mona Bowl will feature local clubs alongside the Wigan-Leigh College U18s from England. Wigan-Leigh College will also face off against Jamaica Hurricanes U19s on February 24th at the same venue, promising an international flair to the competition.

The action-packed first half of the year includes the launch of the High School U14 and U16 Championships on February 23rd, the Easter 9s on April 7th, the inaugural U23 Club Championship on April 23rd, and the Women’s National Club Championship (WNCC) on April 27th. The Men’s National Club Championship (NCC) and U19 Championships kick off on May 4th and July 20th, respectively.

As the calendar progresses into the latter half of the year, rugby enthusiasts can anticipate the return of the National Knock-Out Cup on September 14th, the commencement of the High School Boys and Girls U19 Championships on October 17th, the start of the Men’s Division 2 Championship on November 23rd, and the grand culmination with the Christmas 9s on December 21st.

Additionally, RLJ's National and Representative teams are gearing up for exciting matches, with specific details about opponents and dates to be unveiled in due course.

Romeo Monteith, Director of Rugby, expressed his anticipation for 2024, stating, "It’s an exciting period; we have never before planned such an array of activities in a single year. This is particularly gratifying as we celebrate our 20th anniversary."

Despite challenges, including the absence of a dedicated rugby league field in the country, RLJ remains steadfast in its commitment to innovation and robust offerings, underscoring the unwavering growth of rugby league in Jamaica. As the organization looks forward to an unparalleled year of rugby festivities, fans can expect 2024 to etch its place in the annals of the sport's history in the Caribbean.

Jonny Lomax says St Helens will draw on relative adversity and relish their unfamiliar role as underdogs when they kick off the new Betfred Super League season next week.

Saints saw their four-year reign end in a play-off semi-final defeat to Catalans Dragons in October, and will lose their status as world club champions to either Wigan or Penrith.

The 33-year-old Lomax, who was confirmed as his club’s new captain earlier this month, will also be leading Saints into something of the unknown this year following the retirement of talismanic hooker James Roby after 551 appearances.

But Lomax, the obvious choice to step into Roby’s shoes, believes the unusual situation will bring out the best in a club that had grown accustomed to both starting and finishing the season on top of the pile.

“Last season still hurts but having had the pressure of chasing more titles released in some ways, there’s a new excitement and a hunger to go out and chase it again,” Lomax told the PA news agency.

“It’s a nice tag being champions, but now someone else has to wear that and take the added pressure and scrutiny that comes with it.

“When you are winning all the time we are never satisfied. If we’d won the title last season we’d have wanted number six then number seven. When you’re chasing something, it really makes you appreciate the ups and downs that get you there.”

Lomax is better placed than most to acknowledge the difficulties of sustaining a career at the pinnacle of the sport.

He overcame a life-threatening head injury as a teenager, after which doctors told him he would never play again, plus three serious ACL surgeries that left him contemplating retirement.

Lomax admits that none of those setbacks were far from his mind when he was asked to replace Roby as captain by head coach Paul Wellens last month.

“I was a little bit taken aback and emotional when I was given the task,” he admitted.

“The good is never without the bad. We see the bad as something we want to push away, but the reality is that that’s where you learn the most – the good habits, the good practice, the resilience and desire to keep showing up.

“It’s probably more about the down moments. They make the highs feel sweeter, and they have probably shaped me into the person who others see as having the right mindset to lead by example.”

There were few higher points for Lomax than their stunning world club win over Penrith in Sydney a year ago, when half-back partner Lewis Dodd converted a golden point drop goal.

And the pain of seeing that title slip from their grasp – potentially into the hands of their Lancashire rivals – at the DW Stadium later this month, is evident for a player who signed for Saints as a 14-year-old in 2005.

But he believes the way in which Penrith responded to the crushing disappointment of their loss to Saints by going on to retain their NRL title last season provides a blueprint for a similar revival.

“To see Penrith go on and win it (the NRL) after that, and to see how that disappointment really drove them on, is a lesson for us,” added Lomax, who is anticipating Wigan’s crack at the Australian champions with mixed emotions.

“In some ways I hope they (Wigan) win,” he smiled. “The NRL is the pinnacle competition, certainly from a financial perspective, but at the same time I think we are guilty of downplaying our own competition a bit.

“We should be proud of the competition and the players we’ve got here. There are players who are certainly good enough to go to the NRL but for whatever reason they might not want to. I think we should champion ourselves a bit more.”

Huddersfield have signed England international and former NRL winner Tom Burgess on a three-year deal from the start of the 2025 campaign.

The 31-year-old forward has made more than 200 appearances for South Sydney Rabbitohs since 2013, winning the title and featuring in his side’s World Club Challenge triumph over St Helens in 2015.

Burgess has also made 33 appearances for England, and played in their 2017 World Cup final defeat against Australia.

Burgess, who started his career with Bradford, told Huddersfield’s official website: “There is no mistake in what I want to do over in England, I want to come over there and win silverware.

“I’m not coming back to make up numbers or finish my career. I never got there with Bradford, we had a good side back in those early days, but we never pushed through into the play-offs and made a go of it.

“So that’s one thing I look for in a club, I want to get there, I want to get to those finals and bring silverware back to where it should be, the birthplace of rugby league”.

Burgess follows his brother Sam, whose role as assistant coach at South Sydney was terminated last year and subsequently took on his first head coach role at Super League rivals Warrington.

Huddersfield struggled in last season’s Super League, finishing ninth, and Burgess’ impending arrival will be seen as a significant and long-term statement of intent.

The Giants have already made seven new signings for the 2024 season, which begins later this month, including three players – Adam Clune, Jack Murchie and Thomas Deakin – from Australia.

Huddersfield head coach Ian Watson said: “This is a huge transfer, not just for the Giants, but for Super League and the game in general.

“With the stature of Thomas and what he’s achieved in his career to be consistently one of the best front-rowers within the game, we’re absolutely delighted for him to become a Giant in 2025.”

Live Super League games will be shown on the BBC for the first time as part of a three-year deal struck between the broadcaster and Rugby League Commercial.

The BBC will show a total of 15 live games during the 2024 campaign – starting with Wigan’s trip to Castleford on February 17 – and the World Club Challenge between Wigan and Penrith the following week, both of which will be on BBC Two.

RL Commercial’s managing director Rhodri Jones said: “This is a landmark agreement for Rugby League. Securing live free-to-air coverage on the BBC for the Super League competition as part of this reimagined partnership, means there will be more visibility than ever before.”

The BBC will also continue to broadcast at least one Challenge Cup match from each round, culminating in the Wembley final on June 8, along with games in the women’s and wheelchair competitions.

The deal effectively replaces the previous two-year deal with Channel 4, which expired at the end of last season.

Sky Sports extended and expanded its own deal with Super League in October, which will see every match covered live via a combination of Sky Sports channels and the company’s new streaming platform, Super League Plus.

 Rugby League Jamaica successfully concluded its ninth National Division II competition on at the UWI Mona Bowl. Once more, the eight-team competition saw cross-town rivals Duhaney Park Firestorm and Washington Boulevard Bulls battle for supremacy after previously getting past Liguanea Dragons and Mona Pelicans, respectively, in the semi-finals the week before.

The Firestorm emerged champions with a narrow 16-10 win. The final was a defensive battle throughout as both teams found it difficult to score. With a minute to go and the score locked at 10-all, it took a massive defensive stop by the Firestorm to secure victory.

Bulls was in possession and threatening to score. However, Oshane Edie was bundled into touch. At the restart, Javian Bryan broke free for the Firestorm and sprinted 80 metres to score under the posts to seal the win for the champs.

Other try scorers for the Firestorm were Akel Johnson and Akeem Murray, while Kemoy Whyte kicked two goals. For the Bulls, tries came from Racheed Pencle and Shawayne Collins, while Shamoy Stewart kicked a goal.

Commenting on the competition Director of Rugby Romeo Monteith said, “It was a great competition, one of the most competitive to date with very close scores in most of the games. The Firestorm have proven their resilience one more and congrats to them. One of the highlights for us is the high number of players aged between 18-23 that participated. This is really our target audience for this Division, and we see some fantastic athletes coming through.”

The player of the match in the men’s Super League Grand Final will be presented with the Rob Burrow Award from this year onwards.

The new prize will replace the Harry Sunderland Trophy, which had been presented to the most influential player in all 26 Grand Finals since 1998 and was previously used in Championship and Premiership finals.

The change was announced on Wednesday by the game’s commercial management board, Rugby League Commercial, and the award’s organisers, the Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters Association.

Former Leeds, England and Great Britain scrum-half Burrow won eight Super League titles and was the first player in the summer era to win the Harry Sunderland Trophy twice, in 2007 and 2011.

He is now a passionate campaigner and fundraiser for people with motor neurone disease – a condition with which he was diagnosed in 2019 – and was awarded a CBE in the New Year Honours list.

RLWBA chair Trevor Hunt, who is also serving as the vice-president of the Rugby Football League, said: “After long and serious consideration, we believe that now is the right time to make a change that brings the award recognition into the new era.

“I am certain that rugby league players and supporters will agree that the name of Rob Burrow is a fitting one to recognise.”

Two other two-time winners of the previous trophy, Burrow’s former Leeds team-mates Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire, have been invited to present the new award at this year’s Grand Final at Old Trafford on October 14.

The 2024 Betfred Super League season begins on Thursday, February 15 with a derby between Hull and Hull KR.

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