Leigh Centurions playmaker Ata Hingano has signed for a new UK club.
25-year-old Hingano had agreed a loan deal with the York City Knights for the remainder of the current campaign, bolstering the York ranks as the North Yorkshire side approaches the end-of-season play-offs.
Hingano has formerly represented both New Zealand Warriors and Canberra Raiders in the NRL, linking up with Knights half-back Brendan O’Hagan at the latter in 2018.
He has also made eight appearances to date for the Tongan national team, including a 2017 Rugby League World Cup Semi-Final against England.
The half-back, who can also play at hooker, first arrived in the UK towards the end of last season when he signed for Betfred Super League club Salford and, after making five appearances for the Red Devils, joined Leigh ahead of 2022.
On the new signing, Head Coach James Ford said: “I’m very pleased to be able to bring Ata to the Knights. He is a player with outstanding individual ability and somebody that I feel will fit into our systems and enhance our level of play.
“He is a left-footed half with good evasive skills and someone with a real creative mind. Ata is a strong defender as well – when he hits people, they stay hit! He ticks all the boxes for me as a half-back. I’m really looking forward to working with him, helping him get up to speed with our calls and get him settled in to help him play to the very top of his game as that’s what he is here for.
“He’s a quality player and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to get him playing to the very best of his ability.
“I’d like to thank Leigh Centurions, Craig Harrison and Clint Goodchild for getting it done as swiftly as we have. It’s a testament to the professionalism of all involved. I’d like to thank our supporters and sponsors who have been with us through thick and thin in the last few years. Without their support, we wouldn’t be in a position to bring players of this calibre to York.
After signing his loan deal, Hingano said: “I’m really happy to have joined the Knights. I’ve learned to love and find my groove again for the game of rugby league and to be able to continue that on with a great club that’s moving in the right direction towards the top really excites me.
“I had a conversation with Clint and the fact it’s a family club appeals to me. The support for the players, their families and the work in the community is reassuring to hear. That’s a really big thing for me, obviously my immediate family is back in New Zealand and I’ve made good friends over here but that really appealed to me.”
Tongan international Hingano will be keen to utilise his spell with the Knights to get regular game-time ahead of this year’s Rugby League World Cup.
“It’s big for me. I’ve come from a team where it’s pretty stacked across the board and it was hard to break into that team at times. Fair play to the boys at Leigh, they are playing really great footy.
“I know that I will still have to work hard to get my way into the team at York. I can’t just show up and take a spot, I will have to earn it, but regular time will definitely help. Every player knows that you need that game fitness. It’s a lot different to running behind the scenes, you need that game speed and all the up down tackles.