Leigh Leopards move step closer to Aaron Pene arrival after quota forward's exit

Leigh Leopards are on the verge of confirming the signing of Aaron Pene after freeing up a quota spot to facilitate his move to the club. The club has confirmed that Fijian prop Ben Nakubuwai has joined Featherstone Rovers on a season-long, paving the way for the arrival of the Melbourne Storm prop.

A loan departure does ensure that a quota spot is vacated and Nakubuwai's departure ensures that's the case for Leigh, who are now expected to announce the signing of Pene imminently.

Pene has played 32 times in the NRL during two stints at Storm, which were either side of a spell with New Zealand Warriors. He played eight games for Melbourne and has been featuring in the Queensland Cup for Sunshine Coast this year. It was unsure whether Pene would be able to receive a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) had an application been put in later this year due to the number of games he would have played in the NRL once the time window changed in the summer. However, Leigh have moved to overcome any potential obstacles by securing him now.

As for Nakubuwai, it would appear to mark a premature end to his time at the club, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.

Leigh's Head of Rugby Chris Chester said: “Ben is at a point in his career where he needs to be playing regularly and right now that is something we can’t provide here. So we have taken the option to loan Ben to Featherstone to allow him to get some vital first-team minutes.”

Nakubuwai was a member of Leigh's Challenge Cup winning side last year and had played regularly earlier this season. However, Pene has now arrived as a direct replacement at a time when plenty of changes are coming at LSV. The likes of Tom Amone, Kai O'Donnell, John Asiata and Zak Hardaker are all set to depart, paving the way for a significant recruitment drive.

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