Controversial former England forward Gareth Hock is to kick start his career with Leigh Centurions in the Kingstone Press Championship.
The 31-year-old Hock has signed a contract with the Centurions to the end of 2016 – with an option in the club’s favour for a third season – three days after being released by Super League side Salford Red Devils following heart-to-heart talks with owner Marwan Koukash.
Hock, who had almost three years left on his deal with the Red Devils, says he had offers to stay in First Utility Super League from at least two clubs but wants to help the Centurions gain promotion from the Championship.
“It’s a family-run club, with a lot of passion,” Hock told a press conference at Leigh Sports Village. “It’s a rugby town like Wigan. I can’t wait to get started.”
The former Wigan favourite is the Centurions’ second high-profile recruit following their capture of former New Zealand prop Fuifui Moimoi.
He will, however, have to wait until Easter Monday to make his Centurions debut as he starts a six-match ban for deliberate use of his knees during Salford’s 52-6 home defeat by St Helens in their last match a fortnight ago.
That was the latest in a series of suspensions that forced Hock to miss three years’ worth of rugby throughout his career.
He was given a two-year ban in 2009 after testing positive for cocaine and missed the last seven matches of last season after being found guilty of making deliberate contact with a referee.
Hock spent the 2013 season with Widnes Vikings after falling out with his hometown club Wigan Warriors and was thrown out of the England squad on the eve of the 2013 World Cup for a breach a discipline.
Despite his previous record, Leigh coach Paul Rowley insists the signing is not a gamble.
“I’m not concerned,” he said. “We will be supportive and provide a stable environment.
“I am sure Gareth will fit in perfectly well. He’s here as a rugby league player. The important thing is that he wants to be here.
“One thing you cannot doubt is that he is a fantastic rugby player. He’s an imposing figure who will bring skill and aggression.
“He’s a winner and we want winners at the club.”
Hock said: “I play the game with aggression and passion and sometimes things don’t go my way but I’m working on it very hard on my behaviour. I’ve got six matches off and I will work with Paul and the team.”
Meanwhile, Leigh say Moimoi will play in Sunday’s home game against London Broncos despite a family tragedy.
The 22-year-old nephew of the former Parramatta forward was this week found dead after an apparent shooting in the United States.
“We are staying close with Fuifui,” Rowley said. “We will support him in what he wants to do.
“We’ll get Sunday’s game out of the way and if he wants to go to the funeral he will go with our blessing.”