Right from the moment that Gary Hetherington announced that Chev Walker would be leaving at the end of the 2006 season (now almost certainly bound for Bath Rugby Union) this rumour gained a great deal more strength. Various news stories over the past couple of weeks seem to have confirmed that twenty-six year old Toopi would be wearing the Blue & Amber next season, but there has been no confirmation from either the Rhinos, Warriors or the player...until now!|
Toopi comes to the Rhinos with an excellent playing and personal reputation. The 15st 8lb and 6ft 3in centre has a career record of 57 tries in 128 appearances alongside eighteen caps for his country. He starred in last years tri-nations having scored a hat-trick in the New Zealand win over Australia in the opening game, and picking up another two against GB at Loftus Road.
Born on a date which only occurs once every four years, February 29th, Toopi has only officially had six birthdays since 1980. He started his career playing full back in the amateur game, but has now become established as one of the best centres in the world.
The Rhinos beat off stiff competition from elsewhere in Superleague and Vodaphone Warriors CEO Wayne Scurrah is quoted as saying that Leeds made Toopi a 'substantial offer'. Toopi is quoted as being delighted at the prospect of playing for the Rhinos and the new challenges ahead.
There is no doubt that this is an excellent signing. Toopi has a reputation beyond that of Walker (who is two years his junior) and the thought of a mobile, bulky and lofty centre joining Keith Senior in the Rhinos line is one to relish. With the 2005 exodus and the list of players likely to leave at the end of Superleague XI, lets hope that this is the start of a Hetherington spending spree which will strengthen the side for next years campaign.