KEIGHLEY Cougars are today delighted to announce the signing of Brenden Santi.

The forward, who is the captain of the Italian national team, joins the club from fellow Betfred League One side Newcastle Thunder, signing a one-year deal with the Cougars.

Santi’s arrival to Cougar Park sees both size and NRL experience added to the forward pack, and Head Coach Rhys Lovegrove is delighted to secure the services of another of his top targets.

“Brenden signing adds top level experience to the squad having played in the NRL,” said Lovegrove.

“He has already shown that top level experience in the last couple of years playing with Toulouse and Newcastle.

“I’m really excited about the leadership qualities he will bring to the club both on and off the field, and also excited to see him progress now in the next stage of his career with us at Keighley.”

Chairman Mick O’Neill added: “It’s great to have another international player at the club with Brenden.

“He will be representing Italy in the World Cup at the end of the year and it shows how well we are doing as a club that we’re making a mark by continuing to move forward and signing top players such as Brenden.

“The club have gratefully accepted the assistance of director Mick Loughtman in the signing of Brenden, as a club we much appreciate the part that Mick has played in securing this signing.

“I’m looking forward to now meeting Brenden and the other new signings we have made this off-season.

“I hope that when we get the green light to play again, we will see big crowds at Cougar Park as the squad that Rhys has assembled is one worth seeing.

“I also hope that the fans are happy with the progress we are making both on and off the field moving forward into 2021 and I’m confident that players will contribute and play their part when they’re allowed to get back out and play.”

After playing his junior Rugby League in Australia for the Chester Hill Hornets, Brenden was signed by the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs before moving onto the Wests Tigers.

During his time in the Tigers youth system, Santi would establish himself as one of the top young players in the game and his form was rewarded throughout his initial stay in Balmain.

In 2011, Brenden was bestowed with one of the sports greatest honours as he captained the Australian Schoolboys side for their tour of New Zealand.

On the back of the successful tour, 2012 would bring more honours for the young forward as he was a key player in the Wests Tigers side that would win the NRL Under 20’s competition and winning the Player’s Player award for New South Wales in the youth Origin series.

Santi’s Italian heritage would see him selected for Italy ahead of their historic 2013 Rugby League World Cup campaign, with Brenden playing all three of Italy’s games in the tournament on the back of featuring in their shock friendly victory over England prior to the tournament.

He would then move onto the Parramatta Eels ahead of the 2014 season, but would re-join the Wests Tigers halfway through that year and make 11 appearances for the club over the next 18 months before not being re-signed following the conclusion of the 2015 campaign.

Brenden would spend the next three years playing in the Queensland and New South Wales Cup competitions for the Townsville Blackhawks and Wyong Roos but would again feature on the global stage for Italy in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Ahead of the 2019 season, the forward made the decision to head to France and join Toulouse Olympique in the Championship.

He helped the French outfit make the play-offs, where they were defeated in the semi-finals by Featherstone, before moving across the channel to join up with the Newcastle Thunder for the COVID-19 impacted 2020 season.

Making his debut in the Thunder’s Challenge Cup win over the Cougars in February, Santi would be an ever-present prior to lockdown and has now made the decision to make the move to Cougar Park for the 2021 campaign.

Santi said: “I’m really happy to be on board with the Keighley Cougars.

“I’m excited by the vision of the club and what the vision is for the future and I’m looking forward to being a part of that and looking forward to the season ahead.

“The club have recruited really well for the coming year and I think we’ll be a real threat in the up and coming season.”

By Joshua Chapman