WAKEFIELD Trinity Wildcats have hit out at Super League rivals Hull FC over the “illegal” approach for prop Paul Johnson.
The 24-year-old is set to be announced as an Airlie Birds player for 2013 with his two-year contract at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium coming to an end.
But the approach has angered Wildcats, who had offered Johnson a new deal and who say the KC Stadium Club spoke to the player before they were allowed to under Rugby Football League (RFL) rules.
“Paul Johnson’s signed for Hull and they didn’t tell us, so that’s illegal,” said Wakefield chief executive James Elston.
“We offered him a deal. Paul’s been good value for us, he fits in well, we’ve looked after him, we’ve given him his opportunity, he’s a nice lad as well, so that’s something that’s happened without our knowledge.”
Under RFL rules Super League clubs are not allowed to discuss deals with potential new players coming to the end of their contracts until September 1, unless given permission by the player’s current club.
But Elston revealed Hull had approached Johnson, who was Players’ Player of the Year and Coaches’ Player of the Year in 2011 after signing from St Helens, long before that.
“They approached him before that deadline,” he said.
“It was done about four weeks before September.”
Wakefield are hoping talks to sign Richie Mathers and Paul Sykes for 2013 go smoother.
The duo have impressed while on-loan this season from Castleford Tigers and Bradford Bulls respectively. And although the deals may take some time to be finalised, Elston is hoping both will be pulling on the red, white and blue again next term.
“It’s difficult with Bradford because there’s a lot of upheaval over there at the moment, but we’d hope that Paul could be one that we’d retain, he’s been great for us,” he said.
“Richie is a leader, he’s a good person to have around the group, so if we could bring him in from Castleford we’d like to.”
The Cats chief executive also said he “doesn’t know anything” about rumours linking hooker Andy Ellis to Featherstone Rovers but admits the club’s high number of hookers could see some move elsewhere in search of regular first-team action.
See this week’s Wakefield Express for all the latest Wakefield Trinity Wildcats news.