Featherstone swoop for Australian Hitchcox

Andy Hay: "Jy was out of contract and he has been on our radar."
Andy Hay: "Jy was out of contract and he has been on our radar."

Featherstone have signed Australian three-quarter Jy Hitchcox from NRL club West Tigers on a two-year contract.

The 25-year-old made four NRL appearances for the Tigers last season and scored a try on his debut against Sydney Roosters. He previously had spells with Gold Coast Titans, Melbourne Storm and Manly Marlins RUFC.

He represented Australia at under 18 level as an RL tourist and played in three Tests against England and France.

Subject to visa clearance, he will join fellow Aussies Sam Irwin and Ryan Verlinden at the Big Stadium Fellas Stadium next season.

“Jy was out of contract and he has been on our radar,” said Rovers coach Andy Hay.

“We’ve looked at a lot of players here and overseas and Jy fits the bill.

“Like everyone else, he will be getting a job as well when he comes here and get stuck into work. He will be a part-time player and he’s happy to come here to do that. He knows what we expect from him and I think he will be a good fit for us.

“Just watching him, he reminds me a lot of Nick Youngquest the way he plays and the way Nick played when I was at Castleford with him. If he can be as good as that, I think we’ll have found a good player.

“Jy can play all the positions in the outside backs at wing, full-back and centre so he’s a good addition for us.

“We lost quite a few players in those positions, with Etu Uaisele, Sam Smeaton and Greg Worthington leaving so we’ve replaced them now with several signings. I think Jy will be the last outside back we take on for next season.

“He is very quick, he’s got great footwork, he’s very strong and he’s got some good skill as well.

“He has played all over the field and he even filled in at hooker at one point last season for the Tigers at New South Wales Cup level so he’s a pretty tough player.

“I think he will add plenty of speed on the outside and he has good ball skills so he will be an asset to us.

“Even now, we can think about moving players around in positions and getting the best out of them, like we did last year with Will Sharp.

“We want players to be able to move around and fit what we need to do. We need to have a squad who are not in fixed positions but can move around as best suits us.

“We are waiting for Jy’s visa clearance so it will be January before he gets here.”

Rovers are also still awaiting the arrival of Aussie prop Verlinden.

“We are still waiting for Verlinden’s Irish passport to arrive which is taking longer than expected,” added Hay.

“It’s frustrating at the moment for both parties. Obviously, he’s frustrated that he can’t get over here and start working with us and we are frustrated that we are waiting for a player who is stuck overseas. Hopefully, he will get the passport soon.

“Our pursuit of an unnamed Cook Island prop has unfortunately come to an end as our application for a discretionary visa was declined.”

Hay says that Fiji international Ryan Millard could still join Rovers.

Featherstone signed the 27-year-old half-back on a two-year contract from Rochdale Hornets but the Australian-born player has now decided to stay “Down Under” to be closer to his ill father.

“We’ve kept in contact with Ryan regarding the circumstances with his father not being very well,” said Hay.

“The deal is not dead. We still have his contract and we still hold his registration so if there was an upturn in his father’s condition and he sees that he can be away from him then we are ready to accept him. If not, we are resigned to start the season without him.”

Hay said there was “positive” news on the condition of Featherstone’s newly-extended pitch.

Rovers switched their pre-season game against Castleford Tigers on December 28 from the Big Fellas Stadium to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle because the pitch, which has been partly relaid, will not be ready in time to stage the game. Rovers are also scheduled to host Batley Bulldogs and Salford Red Devils in pre-season matches in January.

Hay said: “The pitch has improved over the last two weeks, although it still wouldn’t have been playable for Christmas.

“The pitch specialists were down at the ground on Monday and they need to come back in January to have another look. The grass is taking now.

“They are hoping to make an early decision the first week in January on the rest of the friendlies. I think it’s looking more positive than it was. We just need the weather to dry up a little bit.”