KEIGHLEY Cougars are this evening delighted to announce the signing of Constantine Mika for the remainder of the 2021 season.

The Samoa international forward has signed a deal at Cougar Park until the end of the current campaign following a six-year spell across both codes in France and now his isolation period is complete, he could debut this Friday away at the Coventry Bears.

And the coup of Mika is one that excites Head Coach Rhys Lovegrove as he adds size and experience to a forward pack that is beginning to recover from injuries sustained over the season to date.

“Con is someone I know pretty well and played with during my own career,” admitted Lovegrove.

“It is a pretty common theme with the sort of people that I want to bring into this organisation, especially at the level of player that Con is, that they have to have a fundamental understanding of who I am as a person and how I coach.

“Obviously Con does having played with me at Hull Kingston Rovers and from a performance perspective on the field, he offers a level of tempo and ability that is rare in League One.

“But he also gives a level of controlled aggression, the ability to run over blokes and stop people defensively in terms of big collisions, that again is rare in terms of our competition.

“And that is the aspect that I’m looking forward to the most is having Con and his physicality on the field to both nurture and add to the culture we are building and developing at this club.

“The systems we have implemented as a coaching team and the culture that the players have brought together means that it is really difficult to recruit players and the right characters to bring into the group.

“And it is hard in terms of people who are determined to get better, work hard, and bond with the group we already have so for a player of Con’s ability to become available and come into the club is really huge.

“So hats off to Mick O’Neill, Ryan O’Neill, and Jake Webster for pulling this signing off.”

Born in Auckland, Con would begin his career in New Zealand’s domestic competition where he played for Otahuhu and the Tamaki Titans before being signed by the New Zealand Warriors for their junior section.

Despite featuring for the Warriors in the NRL’s youth competition, he would not break into the first team set-up and made the decision to move to Australia and sign with the Newcastle Knights.

Following three seasons with the Knights, in which he made 14 appearances and made his international debut in 2010 for Samoa, Mika made the decision to move to the northern hemisphere and sign with Hull Kingston Rovers on a two-year deal ahead of the 2012 Super League season.

The forward would be a near ever present during his two-years in East Hull, making 52 appearances and scoring 10 tries for the Robins, helping the Rovers to the 2013 Super League play-offs and playing against England for the Exiles during the 2012 campaign.

Con would then return to Australia with first the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Queensland Cup before signing with the Wave Tigers in the Bundaberg Rugby League competition.

In the summer of 2015, Mika would make the move to France and switch codes to sign with the Provence Rugby Union club in Marseille following their promotion to the second division.

After one season with Provence, he would switch back to Rugby League and sign with Toulouse Olympique midway through the 2016 campaign in which he went straight into the side and helped the French outfit earn promotion as the League One play-off winners.

In in his four and half season with Olympique, Con would make 95 appearances for the club as they cemented themselves as regulars within the top four of the Championship and played his part as the club played in successive Qualifiers during the Super Eights era.

However, following the cancellation of the Championship season as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mika made the decision to leave the club and sign with the Villeneuve Leopards for the 2020-21 French Elite Championship season.

Upon the completion of the season this past spring, he was announced as the marquee signing for the Brooklyn Kings for the NARL launch season, but the effects of the pandemic would continue to be felt as the competition never got off the ground leaving him as a free agent.

With the Samoa international available once more both Lovegrove and Jake Webster worked quickly on behalf of the club to secure his services.

And when asked for comment, Chairman Mick O’Neill MBE could not hide his delight at bringing Con to the club.

“I’m absolutely delighted to secure the services of Con,” said O’Neill.

“He is a great player that brings size, power, and NRL experience into our side and pack. Con will also provide another much-needed boost on the back of Sunday’s win as we head towards the run-in and play-offs in the second half of the season.

“I have no doubt he will excite our supporters when he takes to the field and will find Keighley and the surrounding area very welcoming for both himself and his family.

“As I said last week, the Keighley Cougars are a club going places and to reach these places we need to be an attractive prospect to talented players and the signing of Con shows we can be that attractive prospect.

“I would like to thank Head Coach Rhys Lovegrove and Jake Webster for all their hard work assisting myself and Ryan in the negotiations to make sure we got this signature over the line.

“I would also like to thank our General Manager Lisa Gill and Head of Media & Administration Joshua Chapman for their hard work behind the scenes with our legal team, the RFL, and the Home Office, to make sure we secured the visa required to complete this deal.”

Constantine has been allocated the number 35 jersey for the 2021 season and Con will be sponsored by Bernadette and Marilyn.

By Joshua Chapman