TORONTO — In a surprise move, captain Craig Hall has left the Toronto Wolfpack for Leigh Centurions.
The transatlantic rugby league team said the 29-year-old English centre, named player of the year in the Kingstone Press League 1 in 2017, has been granted an early release from his Toronto contract.
"Craig has asked for a release for family reasons and we will always listen to our players in that situation," Wolfpack coach Paul Rowley said in a statement.
"This will be a challenging season for us in 2018 and we need a squad fully committed to the cause so, although disappointing to lose Craig in these circumstances, we will move on with our fantastic squad of players."
Hall wasted little time finding a new home, signing a two-year deal with Leigh, which will host Toronto in its season opener Feb. 4 in the second-tier Championship.
"We're delighted to have secured Craig's services for the next two years. Craig comes with a wealth of experience and leadership qualities," Centurions coach Neil Jukes said in a release.
Hall was voted League One Player of the Year after amassing 442 points from 25 tries and 171 goals as Toronto won the title.
Hall helped sell the game in North America, a stylish runner with a near-automatic boot. The six-foot-four centre led the Wolfpack to a 20-1-1 record in securing automatic promotion to the second-tier Championship while attracting more than 6,000 people to each home game at Lamport Stadium.
The former Hull F.C., Hull Kingston Rover and Wakefield Trinity player led the third-tier Kingstone Press League 1 with 420 points and was tied with teammate Jonny Pownall for second in tries (24) behind Toronto's Liam Kay (25). He also led the league with 162 goals.
Hall scored in all 25 Wolfpack games this season, including the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
His desire to return home comes despite the fact that the Wolfpack will play their first 11 games next season on the other side of the Atlantic due to renovations to Lamport Stadium. Toronto does not play at home until April 28.
Hall lived with his family in their Yorkshire home, located an hour from the team's training base, when the Wolfpack played games in England.
Prior to the team's first game in Toronto last season, he said he signed on because he had bought into the vision of the Wolfpack front office.
"Never been to Canada," he said in March. "That's something else that obviously was a pull towards signing (with Toronto) — seeing some of the world."
Hall is the son of David Hall, a former Hull Kingston Rover and Great Britain international centre.
The skipper is the sixth Wolfpack player to depart in the off-season.
Steve Crossley, Tom Dempsey, Shaun Pick, Rhys Jacks and Sean Penkywicz were released last month with Penkywicz subsequently retiring.
Toronto has already signed seven new players in preparation for next year: Australians Dave Taylor and Josh McCrone, Albanian-born Olsi Krasniqi, Fiji international Ashton Sims and England's Joe Westerman, Tom Armstrong and Andy Ackers.
Toronto won the third-tier championship with a small — albeit fully professional — roster of 22-23 players. Rowley estimated he needed eight or nine more players for life in the second-tier Championship.
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