Halifax Panthers are delighted to announce the signing of Gareth Widdop on a one year deal ahead of the 2024 Betfred Championship season. The former Great Britain and England international half back returns to his hometown club with a wealth of top level experience, having spent the majority of his career in the NRL.
The 34 year emigrated to Australia at the age of 12, coming through the academy at Melbourne Storm where he would go on to win a premiership title before joining St George Illawarra.
He returned to England following a glittering career down under, representing Warrington Wolves and Castleford Tigers in Super League. But now the time has come for Widdop to return to his roots, and he admitted it was always a dream to finish his playing career at The Shay.
“It’s pretty surreal, to be honest”, said Widdop. “As a little boy growing up in Halifax, being able to live out a dream in Australia for 15/16 years, I never thought this day would come. I’m absolutely buzzing, I’m sure a lot of my family and friends are super proud and happy for that little boy back then growing up to pull on this jersey. I’ve been very fortunate in my career to do wonderful things, play in Australia for a number of years, represent my country so to finish off and pull on this jersey is great.”
“The club have given me an opportunity to come home and hopefully with my experience within the game, I can come here, play some good rugby league and help as much as I can. It was always something in the back of my mind to be able to finish off at Halifax, obviously growing up here, that’s all I ever wanted to play for. I’m looking forward to next year now, I’m still fit and healthy and ready to go.”
Head Coach Liam Finn was happy to add another quality experienced player to his roster for 2024.
“We’re really excited to get Gareth on board and it’s a signing that the people of Halifax should be excited about. It’s no secret he’s a Halifax lad and been successful around the world and playing in the NRL for a long time, and he was a superstar in the NRL for a period as well. He’s up for it and just wants to do well for the team and for the town and it’ll be important that we get him in, enjoying his rugby and get the best out of him. If we can get a smile back on his face and get some quality out of him on the field, everybody wins.”
Panthers CEO Damian Clayton added: “I’m thrilled to announce the signing of Gareth Widdop, a true icon of rugby league. Gareth’s illustrious career, spanning over 13 years, which has seen him shine as a premiership winner and a distinguished player for both Melbourne Storm and St George Illawarra Dragons to international stardom, is a source of immense pride for our community.”
“Gareth’s homecoming is a monumental moment for the club. His vast experience, both in the NRL and in international arenas, brings invaluable knowledge and leadership. His return is a major boost for the Halifax Panthers, signalling an exciting chapter ahead. For our young players and the wider rugby league community here, Gareth epitomises the mantra of achieving greatness through hard work and perseverance.”
“His transition from a local Halifax youth to a rugby league icon embodies a narrative that deeply resonates with us. We are not just gaining a player; we are welcoming back a hometown hero, whose influence will extend beyond the field. Welcome home, Gareth!”