NRL: Penrith are back in the top eight, after going back to back for just the second time this season, as South Sydney’s finals hopes took another massive hit.
Rabbitohs halfback Luke Keary held secret talks with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika and had made up his mind to walk out on the NRL and play rugby union.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that if not for the ARU dragging out the contract negotiations earlier this year, Keary might have been playing for the Wallabies next year.
As a result of the ARU delaying a decision to offer Keary a contract, he instead last week signed with the Sydney Roosters to remain in the NRL.
Keary had made up his mind to switch codes, and was weighing up between joining the Waratahs, Brumbies or Western Force before opting to sign a two-year deal with the Roosters. Cheika was in the middle of preparing the Wallabies for their three-Test series against England, which culminated at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
Keary also brushed interest from Japanese rugby to commit to league.
The Roosters caught St George Illawarra unawares, with the Dragons believing they would secure Keary as Benji Marshall’s replacement for next season, despite Keary never officially agreeing to join the club.
Instead, Keary signed with the Roosters after being wooed by coach Trent Robinson, and will form a scrumbase combination with Mitchell Pearce.
“I met the coach,” Keary said of his late dealings with Robinson.
“He seemed like a good fella and someone that I got along with. I feel like I can buy into what he is trying to do over there. It was nothing in particular just general conversation.
“I’m glad to have it done. I just want to move on with this year. I don’t know any of the players over there. It’ll be a good chance to meet a few different people.”
Keary has had a turbulent year, highlighted by a pre-season bust up with Rabbitohs owner Russell Crowe while there have been suggestions he has a frosty relationship with coach Michael Maguire.
NRL: Hear the best of what the coaches had to say following the Round 16 clash between Penrith and South Sydney.
The 2014 premiership winner knew his time at the Rabbitohs was coming to an end.
“It all kind of transpired during the last couple of months,” Keary said. “They had to do what they had to do. We had to do what we had to do in the end.
“It’s all part of the game and rugby league. Once you win a premiership it’s hard to keep a side together. We’ve lost a fair chunk of that team from 2014.
“I wouldn’t say it’s disappointing. It’s part of it. I’m excited but also excited to finish the year with these fellas. It’ll be good. A change is as good as anything for some people. It’ll be good to have a change of scenery, people and coaches.”
The 24-year-old has bounced around starting in the halves and playing the interchange bench this season. With halves competition Cody Walker re-signing for two more years, Keary could again be relegated to the interchange bench when Adam Reynolds returns from a neck injury as soon as next Sunday.
“You really want to finish the year on a positive,” Keary said. “You don’t want to be leaving on a bad note or missing the semis.”