Rugby League: Wakefield capture Leeds' Kemp

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The Independent Online
WAKEFIELD TRINITY, the Super League newcomers, have made their biggest signing yet in preparation for the challenge ahead by enlisting Leeds' New Zealand Test stand-off, Tony Kemp.

Kemp, just turned 31, played 16 times for the Rhinos last season, but the difficult decision was made to save money on a tight budget by releasing him. Trinity, rebuilding completely as they try to put together a competitive side for the coming season, moved for the Kiwi international, capped 15 times, signing him on a two-year deal.

"As soon as we were alerted that he might be surplus, our chief executive, Steve Ferres, worked very hard to bring him to Wakefield," said the Trinity coach, Andrew Kelly. "We feel we've been recruiting on the right lines but we needed an on-field leader. He has the profile and the pedigree."

Kemp was Leeds' first choice stand-off last season, but he has had three years interrupted by a variety of injuries. "We have had discussions about that and he feels that he is as fit as he has been for several seasons," Kelly said. "We have shown with this signing that we mean business. I am still keeping my eyes open, because I would like to bring in another back and another forward."

Leeds' decision to release Kemp, formerly with Doncaster and the Newcastle Knights, is a mark of their confidence in two young players, Karl Pratt and Kevin Sinfield, who could both stake a claim for the stand-off role this year. They also have the veteran, Daryl Powell, and the current Great Britain stand-off, Iestyn Harris, who played most of his club rugby last season at full-back.

The other new club in Super League next season, Gateshead Thunder, have reacted with caution to suggestions that they might bring Va'aiga Tuigamala back into rugby league this season, but they are to give a chance to a player they describe as "the new Inga".

The financial problems at Newcastle Falcons mean that Tuigamala may be available on loan this summer, but Gateshead's founder, Kath Hetherington, said: "He would have to take a big pay cut to play for us. If he was available at the right cost, we would love to have him, but it's entirely up to Newcastle."

Wigan, where Tuigamala eventually became a success in rugby league, have ruled themselves out of any move to bring him "home" - although they are still owed the bulk of the transfer fee. Humble Whitehaven, however, have already made him an offer to play for them in the First Division on a match-by-match basis. Whitehaven's new coach, Kevin Tamati, is a friend of Tuigamala's and has had talks with him, without the ambitious plan being rejected.

Meanwhile, Epi Taione, a fellow Tongan introduced to Gateshead by Tuigamala will play part of the Thunder's friendly at Castleford on Friday night. "He has been playing local rugby union, but he is even bigger than Inga and has to be worth a look," said Hetherington of the 18-stone winger.

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