Saffy jumps codes to Rebels - and he won't be the last
JOSH RAKICApril 18, 2010
DRAGONS enforcer Jarrod Saffy has turned his back on the NRL and become the first league player to link with Super 15 rugby franchise the Melbourne Rebels.
In a massive coup for the Brian Waldron-led club, which has made clear its intentions to poach NRL players, 25-year-old Saffy will join Melbourne on a three-year deal in October worth considerably more than his St George Illawarra contract.
South African-born Saffy has been a mainstay of the Dragons pack since joining the club last year. His decision to leave follows the departure of fellow prop Justin Poore last season, and Luke Priddis is expected to retire at season's end.
Injured and not expected to return until round 10, Saffy is in Western Australia visiting family, and he and the Dragons club have been sworn to secrecy until coach Wayne Bennett has an opportunity to talk to the former Wests Tiger. It is believed Bennett wants reassurance from Saffy that he is committed to the Dragons' premiership charge.
''I'm not going to lie to you - he's coming,'' said Rebels CEO Waldron, who jumped ship from the NRL after five years as Melbourne Storm CEO.
''We sounded him out. We've had genuine interest in him and he's a player of great potential.
''He's a player with a solid rugby background and someone who we think will be great asset to the Rebels on and off the field.
''We've always said we were interested in NRL players with strong rugby backgrounds and he's a former junior representative.
''I think he's spoken with Wayne and he knows it's just a matter of working out a few things for him internally.''
Saffy was reluctant to discuss the move, which is sure to cause an uproar in the rugby league community; Melbourne insiders warn there will be more signings in coming months.
''We're going to have to get some league players - there's no doubt about it,'' the source said. ''Look at the talent pool in Australian rugby and what is already signed - you're going to have to look elsewhere. Don't be surprised to see a few jump ship.''
Saffy becomes the first forward since Brisbane Broncos' Peter Ryan (2000) and Brad Thorn (2001) to switch to rugby union. Both of them later won Super premierships.
The hard-working back-rower represented the Australian Sevens team in Hong Kong, where he played alongside Super 14 stars Adam Ashley-Cooper, Richard Brown, Ben Mowen and Peter Hewat. He is expected to play No.7 or No.8 for the Rebels.
The Australian Rugby Union has publicly baulked at signing rugby league converts following the acrimonious departures of Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri, Mat Rogers and Timana Tahu, but agreed to allow Saffy's signing given his rich rugby past. However, he hasn't be granted an ARU top-up contract.
Saffy joins former Broncos five-eighth Berrick Barnes and former Melbourne Storm flyer Will Chambers in rugby.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald