Widnes Vikings have beaten off competition from Super League and NRL clubs to sign forward Chris Houston from Newcastle Knights.
Houston, 30, has played 176 games in the NRL for the Knights and St George-Illawarra Dragons and moves to the UK on a two-year deal.
The former Country Origin representative has secured a release from the last year of his contract at the Knights and has already met his new team-mates at the Select Security Stadium.
During the negotiations, Houston flew over to the UK last week to get a feel for the environment at the Club, meet staff and players and see the facilities first hand, including watching his new team-mates train on the iPitch. He also spent time with Denis Betts and the coaching staff, and worked with new Head of Strength & Conditioning Chris Baron to get a tailored programme for his pre-season preparations.
He said: “I’ve loved my time in the NRL but I wanted a new challenge. I’ve been speaking to James (Rule) and Denis (Betts) for the past few weeks and last week I came over to the UK to meet all the people involved with the Club.
“I wanted to come and meet Denis and the boys and get a feel for the Club before I committed my future to the Vikings. In the end it wasn’t a hard decision to sign here after learning about the Club’s culture and values and seeing the fantastic facilities at the Club.
“I’m coming here to do a job. Super League is always something I have wanted to experience.
“It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. There have been quite a few coaches at the Knights in recent years, so it’s been a bit of a transition each year. I’m really looking forward to coming over here and refreshing my game. That’s one good thing about playing under Denis, being an ex-back rower there is plenty to learn off from him. It’ll be hard and it’ll be challenging, but I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’ve built my game around work rate and in my first six or so years of first grade as a back-rower I played 80 minutes in the majority of the games. I like running lines off the half backs and I’m looking forward to playing with the half-backs here, they both look like quality players.
“This is a secure club with great facilities and a great future and I am glad to be part of the squad for the next few years. I am looking forward to moving my family over and getting stuck into the season ahead. I’ll be doing everything I can to help us make the top eight.”
In the 2012 season, Houston made 992 tackles, an average of 41 tackles per game, the most of any player in the NRL.
Houston has come across a number of current Vikings during his time in the NRL – and played a lot of his junior rugby league with Rhys Hanbury. He is also good friends with former Widnes and Newcastle prop forward Ben Cross.
Vikings Head Coach Denis Betts said: “Chris has got a fantastic pedigree, he’s a quality player and will bring great leadership skills. We’re really looking forward to bringing him over and having him as part of the squad in our pursuit of success.
“People will think that because we’ve signed a back-rower, he is here to replace Danny Galea, but we were already pursuing Chris before Danny’s spot became available.
“We’re always looking at players and trying to improve the squad. It never stops, it’s a 24/7 thing, whether that be developing existing players or recruiting new ones. We will do what we can to make the squad and team better.”
Vikings Quid’s In, better known as VIQI is delighted to be supporting the Vikings newest recruit Chris Houston. The independent initiative was set up to make a difference and with recent support to help bring in Corey Thompson in addition to the announcement of Houston, it is doing exactly that.
Supporters contributions to VIQI help support growth of the squad and these two signings do that with experience, speed and size being key attributes that will further enhance the group.
Speaking on behalf of VIQI, Jason Shaw commented: “It is great to see the squad evolving and our back line looking stronger and now with additional size being added we find ourselves in a stronger position than probably ever before, however if we are to continue the great work done to date we must ALL pull together to maintain our Super League position.
“This can be done in many ways such as signing up for the Stronghold membership, Dream Ticket or joining VIQI all great ways to help make a real difference to our great club.
“VIQI has contributed a significant amount of money to facilitate this latest deal and that is an achievement each and every VIQI member should be VERY PROUD of.”
Why not join VIQI today and sign up to a scheme that has demonstrated its ability to deliver year on year and one that is fully supported by all at the Widnes Vikings.
The more income VIQI can help the Club generate, the more sustainable the Vikings can be. Supporters can join VIQI by clicking here.
VIQI would like to formally thank Danny Galea, another player whose capture was made possible thanks to supporters contribution, for his hard work, commitment and professionalism whilst he has been at the Vikings and wish him well for the future.
Jason and Joanne Shaw would personally like to thank all of the VIQI members for their continued support and achievements to date.
Chris’s contract is subject to securing RFL governing body approval and obtaining a VISA.