RHINOS CONFIRM DEPARTURES

Leeds Rhinos have today confirmed that Chev Walker, 23, and Richard Mathers, 22, have both declined new offers at the club.

Leeds Rhinos have today confirmed that Chev Walker, 23, and Richard Mathers, 22, have both declined new offers at the club in order to pursue opportunities to play in the Australian NRL from next season. Richard Mathers has agreed a two year contract with new side Gold Coast Titans, who will make their debut in the NRL in 2007. Chev Walker, who made his debut for the Rhinos in 1999, is also keen to pursue an opportunity Down Under. Commenting on the announcement, Walker, who has played six times for Great Britain, said, "Leeds Rhinos have been a big part of my life and it’s a big decision to leave. The Rhinos offer was a good one and I’ve no interest in playing for another Super League club but I am keen to play in the NRL and for that reason I wanted to keep my options open." Mathers, who last week was ruled out for the remainder of this season with a knee injury, added, "It has been without doubt the biggest decision I have ever had to make. The Rhinos is a special place and it will be a big wrench to leave the club but it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and my partner to sample a new lifestyle and challenge. I’m only 22 and I would like to think it may not be the end of my time at the Rhinos." Whilst Head Coach Tony Smith, who is preparing his side to face local rivals Bradford Bulls this Friday at Odsal, is disappointed to be losing both players he fully understands their reasons. He added, "I’ve enjoyed coaching Chev and he has a big part to play in our quest for honours until the end of the season when he will leave with our best wishes. I understand Richard’s decision to challenge himself and the NRL will certainly be a good test. He has been a pleasure to coach." Chief Executive Gary Hetherington will now focus on recruiting players to replace those departing for next season. He commented, "It is important for the club that we had a decision from both Richard and Chev and we are naturally disappointed to be losing two players who have graduated through our system to play key roles. We will now turn our attention to finding suitable replacements." Chev Walker has made 168 appearances for the Rhinos and scored 82 tries in the process. He featured in the Challenge Cup Finals in 2003 and 2005, winning the Grand Final in 2004 and the Carnegie World Club Challenge in 2005. He made his debut whilst still only 16 and made his Test debut in the 2004 Tri Nations. Richard Mathers has made 95 appearances for the Rhinos scoring 30 tries. He made his debut in 2002 against St Helens at Headingley Carnegie after a successful loan spell at Warrington. He made his debut for England last Autumn against France at Headingley Carnegie.