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Reports: Leigh Leopards release star and bring in powerhouse forward

Leigh Leopards Aaron Pene

It broke overnight that Melbourne Storm had released forward Aaron Pene to allow him an immediate opportunity with an unnamed club in Super League, and that team has now been revealed as Leigh Leopards.

Per reports from The League Scene Pod Pene will join Leigh Leopards to add depth to their pack and also seemingly serve as one of the major replacements for the likes of NRL-bound Tom Amone and Kai O’Donnell for 2025.

Melbourne confirmed that Pene had been released to pursue an opportunity with a Super League side after failing to make an appearance for the Storm so far in 2024.

Instead, he’s been playing in the Queensland Cup for Sunshine Coast which has made his release more simple with Director of Football Frank Ponissi confirming his exit.

“While reluctant to release Aaron at this stage of the season, this was too good an opportunity for him to pass up.

“We know Aaron will add great value to his new club and wish him all the best for the future.”

It now seems that it’s the Leigh Leopards that Pene will be joining, per reports.

How Leigh Leopards can swoop for Aaron Pene?

Aaron Pene Super League

Credit: Imago Images

Leigh Leopards look set to be in for a tough 2025 with the number of confirmed and reported exits from the club, however, it’s not been a brilliant 2024 either. Adrian Lam’s side have struggled massively with injury and that’s led them to a difficult start.

The Leopards sit ninth, three points behind Huddersfield Giants who they face tonight, but with current injury issues, it’s expected to be another tough game for Lam’s side. That is why the immediate arrival of someone like Pene could be invaluable.

There is, however, just one problem. Leigh don’t have a quota spot.

That means the club are currently unable to bring in Pene without sacrificing one of their current seven overseas players and per League Scene Pod, it’s Fijian forward Ben Nakubuwai who will be released.

The 28-year-old is out of contract at the end of the year and hasn’t played for the Leopards in Super League since Round Seven making him a somewhat obvious candidate to cut. There were also strong reports that he would be exiting the club earlier this year, with Leigh once again in a dilemma about having to cut a quota player if their pursuit of David Armstrong was successful.

Alas, the chase for Armstrong wasn’t successful but it now seems that the same scenario is happening again with Nakubuwai seemingly the sacrificial lamb for the club to help bring Pene in.

The League Scene Pod posted on X: “Melbourne forward Aaron Pene is set to join the Leigh Leopards filling one of the quota spots left vacant by the departures of Tom Amone and Kyle O’Donnell.”

That would imply Pene will arrive on a minimum 18-month deal to ensure he remains around for 2025 when both O’Donnell and Amone will head down under, but they clarified further that Pene will be an immediate addition adding: “We also understand Ben Nakubuwai has been released”.

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