England’s Watkins quits NRL after father contracts coronavirus

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA (AFP) – England centre Kallum Watkins has quit Australian rugby league side Gold Coast Titans to return home to be with his father who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The former Leeds Rhinos captain joined the Titans in mid-2019 and played eight games in Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL).

Recovery from knee reconstruction hampered the 29-year-old’s performances last year but the Titans said he had enjoyed a “terrific pre-season”.

The 2020 NRL campaign was suspended last month after just two rounds of matches because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Titans said Watkins had been granted immediate release from his contract on compassionate grounds due to “serious family health concerns.”

Watkins’ manager, Chris Orr, said the player’s father had been diagnosed with coronavirus.

“Kallum came to the NRL to prove a point and to test himself and felt confident about 2020,” he told the Sunday Mail.

“We will now look at all of his options back in the Super League.”

Titans head coach Justin Holbrook said Watkins’ departure represented a “big loss” for the club.

“For him to have to walk away now just as he was getting back to his best is devastating for him, and for us as his friends,” Holbrook said.

“But family always comes first, and we would never stand in Kallum’s way of doing what is best for his family in a very difficult time.”

Watkins joined Leeds as a teenager in 2007, playing more than 250 Super League games, and helped the Rhinos to win six Premierships, two Challenge Cups and the World Club Challenge. He has 25 England Test caps.