Featherstone miss out on Nielson and Hampshire

Davide Longo: "We are absolutely gutted."
Davide Longo: "We are absolutely gutted."

FEATHERSTONE Rovers have been thwarted in their attempts to sign former State of Origin star Dane Nielsen and Leigh Centurion half-back Ryan Hampshire ahead of the Qualifiers.

Visa legislation has foiled their bid to snap up three-quarter Nielsen, who recently departed South Sydney Rabbitohs and had agreed in principal to join Featherstone until at least the end of this season.

Talks to land the signature of Hampshire have broken down in recent days.

Featherstone will, however, be able to make use of dual-registered Leeds Rhinos Jordan Baldwinson, Jack Ormondroyd and Josh Walters on a casual basis during the Qualifiers.

The trio have all made more than eight Featherstone appearances in 2017, making this possible.

But other Rhinos players would require a season-long loan agreement in order for them to play for Rovers in the Super 8s.

Despite working closely with Rugby Football League officials, visa legislation has prevented Nielson, who featured for Bradford Bulls in the 2015 Million Pound Game, from completing his move to Featherstone.

Nielsen, formally of New Zealand Warriors, Cronulla Sharks, Melbourne Storm and St George Illawarra Dragons, has not made the required amount of first-grade appearances over the past 24 months in order to qualify for clearance on a return to the UK.

Rovers general manager Davide longo said: “We are absolutely gutted to have missed out on Dane to Featherstone, as we feel he would have been a real coup for us and added a great deal,” said Longo.

“The rules are the rules but it leaves us extremely frustrated, as a club looking to achieve big things this year.

“We are talking about a top-line NRL player, who has played for Queensland in addition to making close to 150 league appearances down under.

“We are in the business of putting bums on seats but this legislation makes matters difficult.

“He was plying his trade with Bradford less than two years ago and it is disheartening to be prevented from bringing a star name to the Qualifiers and, more importantly, to this great club.

“We will be working hard for the remainder of today in order to add to John Duffy’s squad, though I believe what we have in place is more than good enough to challenge.

“We certainly will not sign players for the sake of it. They would need to add something at the very least.

“With Dane, it was a case of a big-name player becoming available at short notice. Our staff here did everything possible to get the move over the line but it wasn’t to be.”

Longo revealed how talks to bring Hampshire to LD Nutrition Stadium had broken down.

“We spoke with Leigh regarding Ryan’s availability around a month ago and it is fair to say there was an opportunity for both parties to move forward,” he added.

“Ryan was made what we believe was a hugely-competitive offer to consider, though expressed a desire to remain in Super League. We wish him the very best going forward.

“John Duffy’s appointment has brought a great deal of excitement to the playing squad this week but we have been frustrated in our on-field recruitment efforts, which remain ongoing.

“We have added to the squad in recent weeks, though, with the additions of Daniel Igbinedion and Sam Brooks, two players who will add an extra dimension. Where possible, we will continue to do so.”