St.Helens R.F.C. are thrilled to confirm talented back-row Matt Whitley joins the Club on a two-year contract from the 2024 season!
The Billinge-born forward was a Saints supporter growing up in Newton-le-Willows and worked with the Club’s service area programme which trained and worked with young players ahead of club scholarship systems commencing around the age of fourteen.
Whitley joins the World Club Champions after a five-year spell with Catalans Dragons where he has proved himself to be one of the best back-rowers in the Betfred Super League. With 103 appearances for the French club, Whitley has been part of the side that secured the Dragons’ first-ever League Leaders’ Shield, as well as two Grand Final appearances in 2021 and 2023, scoring 35 times in the process.
Speaking about returning home to England and the local area, as well as joining the Club he grew up idolising, a delighted Matt Whitley told saintsrlfc.com: “I’m over the moon! I’ve been looking forward to this since I was a little lad and for it to be finally happening it is something I’m really excited about.
“It feels like a full circle moment, I spent a lot of my younger playing days at Saints but had to go elsewhere at 16, so to come back again now, a more established player I’m really looking forward to it.”
Both Whitley and Saints are hungry to return to Old Trafford in 2024 and secure the Club’s eleventh Super League championship, as the forward discusses.
“Saints know what it takes to win the big games and always are fighting for silverware, I hopefully can add to that and we can go one step further than this year and I can get that Super League winners ring I’ve been looking for.
“I’ve made it to two Grand Finals now but lost both, it’s not a feeling I want to keep having – I want to get that win. It adds to the experience and the hunger, and I’ll be working as hard as ever to get that next year.”
Having experienced the atmosphere at the Totally Wicked Stadium as an opposition player, Whitley is eagerly anticipating that first run out in the famous Red V strip.
“I’ve played quite a few times at Saints, there’s always a lot of fans who support and the fans love nothing more than their rugby team. I know that from a personal level too. To have them shouting for me will be a lot better than getting jeered when I’ve been there previously!”
Head Coach Paul Wellens welcomed Matt Whitley to the Club and said: “We are very happy to have acquired the services of Matt, not only is he a great player but having met him he is a really nice bloke too, that is something we look for when we bring in players into the Club.
“He has shown at the back end of the year with Catalans that he is comfortable competing in high-intensity games and that is what we are all about here. It’s great to have him on board, he adds competition for places as well which is really healthy for a team that wants to grow and improve.
“It’s going to be a headache to try and pick our best seventeen next year, particularly if everyone is fit but as we have seen throughout the course of 2023 and 2022, through the year you miss players for various reasons at times. The key to any successful team is having not just a strong team, but a strong squad as well, and that’s what we’ve looked to assemble for next year.”
Whitley began his professional career by coming through the academy ranks at Widnes Vikings, making his Super League bow in 2015 and then agreeing full-time terms with the club shortly after. Over his four seasons with the Vikings, Whitley racked up a century of match appearances (100), scoring on 20 occasions, as well as being nominated for 2016’s Super League Young Player of the Year.
A move to the South of France followed, where the Billinge native has thrived in a period of success for the Dragons.
The 27-year-old is also an England Knights international, playing in the touring squad that faced Papua New Guinea, and will be looking to break into the senior national squad.