'Six-figure sum' helps Leeds end Ellis saga

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The Independent Online

The long, drawn-out saga of the game's biggest close-season transfer has come to an end with Gareth Ellis joining Leeds for a hefty but undisclosed fee.

The Great Britain forward is leaving Wakefield with a year of his contract still to run. Leeds were the early favourites to sign him, but, like Warrington, Hull and Bradford, initially pulled out after negotiations.

The Rhinos came back into the reckoning after Ellis's proposed move to Bradford collapsed before Christmas.

"We are building something special here and to sign a Test player who has already played 100 games in Super League and is only 23 is great for us," said the Leeds' chief executive, Gary Hetherington.

The club's coach, Tony Smith, said: "As much as Gareth has achieved, he has so much left to fulfil."

Ellis, who played for Great Britain in the Tri-Nations tournament last autumn, is the Super League champions' one new signing for 2005. "It's a great move for me," he said. "Leeds is such a big club and I can't wait to get started."

Wakefield's chief executive, Diane Rogerson, said the club was happy with "a six-figure amount" for a player they would have lost on a free transfer at the end of the season. "The plan is to use it to strengthen the squad," she said.

Hull have released the forward, Richard Fletcher, with two years left on his contract. Fletcher, who has been affected by injury for the last two seasons, has been linked with neighbouring Hull KR.