Tony Puletua to join St Helens in 2009 - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Tony Puletua to join St Helens in 2009

By Liam FitzGibbon 23/04/2008 04:45:20 PM Comments (0)

Penrith veteran Tony Puletua said he was looking forward to a "new start" after securing a lucrative move to English club St Helens next season.

Puletua, 28, will join the English giants on a three-year deal believed to be worth almost $1.25 million after the Panthers confirmed on Wednesday they would release him from his contract a year early.

The New Zealand backrower, who will play for Western Samoa at this year's World Cup, said he was sad to leave the club where his NRL career started 11 years ago.

But he said the decision was made with his wife and three sons in mind.

"There comes a time you've got to make the best decision for yourself and your family, I feel this is the one for me," said Puletua, who also attracted interest from Hull and Huddersfield.

"It was a great opportunity for my family and it's a new start and new opportunity for me, I'm looking forward to it."

Puletua, a member of the Panthers' 2003 premiership-winning side, has played 195 games for the club since making his first grade debut in 1997.

In that time he played 18 Tests for the Kiwis.

"Everything started here and I've only been with this club," Puletua said.

"They've been great to me and they've helped me out for so many years, so it's going to be sad.

"It hasn't really sunk in or anything like that yet but, I suppose it won't click until it gets closer to the time."

Puletua has struggled in recent seasons to regain the form he showed in helping the Panthers to the 2003 title.

He was dropped from first grade several times by coach Matt Elliott last season despite starting the year as co-captain.

But he has been one of the Panthers' best players in their 3-3 win-loss start to 2008, something he wanted to continue until the end of the year.

"It's always good when everything's settled and done," Puletua said of his future.

"Now I can just make the most of this year and play my best footy for the remainder of my time here at the club.

"I've been really enjoying my football lately and things are going well for us."

Puletua will link up at St Helens with former St George fullback Mick Potter, who was on Wednesday announced as the club's coach for the 2009 and 2010 seasons, taking over from Daniel Anderson.

Panthers chief executive Michael Leary said the club would lose a great ambassador, while Puletua said he would most miss the friendships he made at the club.

"All the friendships, those will last a lifetime," Puletua said.

"There's so many memories but I think the ultimate one would have to be the 2003 season."

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