KEIGHLEY Cougars are this evening delighted to announce the signing of Wellington Albert for the 2021 season.
The Papua New Guinea international joins the club on a one-year deal following his departure from Coral Challenge Cup winners, Leeds Rhinos.
One of Head Coach Rhys Lovegrove’s top targets in his recruitment process ahead of 2021, the dynamic prop adds a combination of experience, size, and strength to the pack.
And Wellington is looking forward to getting started in his new home at Cougar Park, especially in a Rugby League World Cup year.
“I’m really looking forward to a new opportunity with Keighley,” said Albert.
“I can’t wait to meet up with the boys now, it has been 7 or 8 months since I last got to meet up with teammates and train, and it is really exciting for me.
“There are some really good players at the club already, so I’m looking forward to getting into training and help build some confidence and then win some games once we get into the new season.
“I didn’t really know much about Keighley, but last year before lockdown I met a few of the boys when I played against them in a couple of training matches with Featherstone.
“But my agent called me around a month ago to inform me of Keighley’s interest and ask me what I thought about joining the club.
“I am just looking forward now to getting back out and playing some footy, and I’m really looking forward to doing that with Keighley and helping the club move up the divisions into the Championship.”
A product of the Lae Tigers club in his homeland, Wellington’s performances caught the eye as he was selected for the Papua New Guinea squad at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup in England, scoring a try in his only appearance at the tournament against New Zealand at Headingley.
This would allow him to go on a make history in 2014 as he became the first Papua New Guinean player to be signed by an NRL club without having played junior rugby league in Australia when he signed a deal with the Penrith Panthers.
Albert played 5 games for the Panthers NYC team before suffering a season ending shoulder injury, however, he recovered and was promoted to Penrith’s 2015 New South Wales Cup side.
The 26-year old would depart Sydney and return home to sign with the PNG Hunters for the 2017 season and was one of many standout performers for the Hunters as they would stun the Rugby League world by becoming Queensland Cup premiers.
Wellington would once again be selected by his nation for that autumn’s World Cup, featuring in games against Wales and Ireland, scoring in the Kumuls thrashing of Wales in the group stages.
Continuing to stand out for both club and country, the forward would arrive on these shores ahead of the 2018 Super League season, signing a deal with the Widnes Vikings.
Despite being unable to help prevent the Vikings from relegation to the Championship, Albert would sign a new two-year deal but financial issues in early 2019 would see him depart Cheshire and sign with the Rhinos following a successful trial.
After initially featuring regularly for Leeds, most of his time with the club would be spent on loan at the Rhinos partner club, Featherstone Rovers.
And it would be his coach at the Rovers in 2020, James Webster, who made Rhys Lovegrove aware of Wellington’s availability and the Cougars acted swiftly to secure his services for the coming year.
Lovegrove said: “I’m really excited about having a player such as Wellington at the club.
“His athleticism is going to really add something unique to not just the forward pack, but the squad as a whole.
“With the team we have and the systems that I want to play moving forward, Wellington will definitely add something different.
“I’m just really excited now to see him in Cougar colours in 2021.”
Chairman Mick O’Neill added: “It is a great coup for the club that a player of the calibre of Wellington has signed with us.
“I was very pleased to be involved in the negotiations to sign Wellington and am absolutely delighted to be able to welcome him to Keighley.
“He is a giant that will add something new and different to our forwards next season, and I just can’t wait to see Wellington now both in training and playing once the season begins.
“The reputation that Wellington has back home in Papua New Guinea will put is in good stead for the future when it comes to signing targets amongst his fellow countrymen, who we hope will look to come once we’re in the Championship.”
By Joshua Chapman