YORK City Knights have nipped in to sign Josh Nathaniel following his release from arch-rivals Hunslet.
The 22-year-old threequarter has been training at Huntington Stadium since the Christmas break and has agreed terms on a one-year pay-as-you-play deal – with boss Gary Thornton believing he could prove a hit in the club’s bid for promotion from Championship One, despite rustiness after several months on the sidelines.
Nathaniel is set to put pen to paper tonight and could make his bow on Sunday when the Knights kick off their pre-season programme away to new partner club Castleford (1pm), where his professional career had begun prior to his move to the Hawks.
Nathaniel scored seven tries in 20 outings for Hunslet in 2012 after joining from the Tigers’ academy – where he was coached for two years by Thornton – but he had a big falling out with Hawks boss Barry Eaton part way through last season which effectively put paid to his time at the club after only two more appearances.
He has not played elsewhere since then, with the south Leeds outfit – who were relegated from the Championship alongside York but will begin this coming season as favourites to bounce straight back up – holding onto his registration.
But he was keen to reunite with his former mentor at the turn of the year.
Said Thornton of the former Milford Marlins junior: “He came through at Cas but went to Hunslet after the (Super League) academies switched from 21 to 20. Cas had been hoping to keep him but he had to find another club.
“He’s a lad with a lot of potential. He’s a big, strong-running centre or winger and a really good try-scorer. He did all right in his first season at Hunslet but in his second season he got a couple of injuries and struggled to hold down a place.”
Asked if he anticipated any disciplinary issues with Nathaniel at York following the controversy at Hunslet, Thornton said: “He knows our policies and principles and what we expect.
“He also knows he’s a bit behind everyone else because of what they’ve been doing in November and December. He will be ring-rusty but he’s come with a view to earning a first-team spot.
“When he’s fit and playing well, he will be a great asset, but he knows it won’t be easy to get in the team.
“From a playing point of view, he’s got all the attributes to be a very good outside back in Championship One.
“He had a bit of a disagreement with Barry Eaton, but I can’t comment on that. Whatever happened there is between Barry, Josh and Hunslet. I can only speak about my own experiences with him and he was no bother to me at Cas. He’s a young lad but as these guys get older they realise what things are about.
“He wants to play rugby at the highest level he can, which is why he contacted me, and I’m willing to give people a chance.”
Nathaniel had been a regular in the Tigers’ senior academy side that qualified for the play-offs in 2011 although he never broke into the first-team picture at Wheldon Road.