Catalans Dragons have confirmed the signing of Leeds hooker Paul Aiton on a three-year contract from next season.
The move, confirmed on Wednesday, had been widely expected after the Rhinos announced earlier this week that the 30-year-old would be leaving Headingley at the end of the 2015 campaign.
News of his Catalans signing came hours after it was revealed that star back-rower Zeb Taia would be leaving the Perpignan club for NRL outfit Gold Coast Titans.
Aiton invoked a clause to terminate his Leeds contract 12 months early, and rejected the offer of a new deal from the Super League leaders, to take up the Dragons’ offer.
The Papua New Guinea international said, “I am looking forward to the challenge of joining Catalans and a new lifestyle in Perpignan.
“I will always be honoured to have played for Leeds Rhinos but the opportunity to move to France from next season and be part of the Dragons was something that excited me at this stage in my career.
“Now that my future is sorted, my sole focus is on finishing this season in the best possible fashion and hopefully helping the Rhinos make more history.”
Aiton will be a direct replacement for Ian Henderson, who is also leaving the French club at the end of the season for Sydney Roosters. He is the club’s second signing of the week after the capture of former Australia Test prop Dave Taylor.
Dragons coach Laurent Frayssinous said, “I’m delighted that Paul has chosen to join us from next season. He will bring his experience, his qualities in attack and his attitude in defence.
“With a player like Ian Henderson leaving the club at the end of the season, it was important for us to replace him by a player of Paul’s calibre. He has become one of the players in Super League that sets the benchmark in his position.”
Taia, 30, has spent three seasons at Catalans after moving from Newcastle Knights and has become one of the most consistent forwards in Super League.
He said, “We have enjoyed our stay here and my goal here was to be one of the influential players in the team. In my first two seasons we made the finals which has been rewarding.
“But I have never lost the desire to play in the NRL again and this is too good an opportunity to pass up.”