The iSelect Titans have agreed to release backs Albert Kelly and Maurice Blair to take up the opportunity to play together as halves in the English Super League.
The two players, who had a year remaining on their Titans contracts, have signed two-year deals with the English club to replace Australian halves of 2014 who were recently released, Travis Burns and Kris Keating.
Kelly, 23, played 10 matches for the Titans in 2014 and Blair, who turned 30 on Thursday, 15 games.
“They were given a rare opportunity to play together as halves by Hull KR who were looking to fill their halfback and five-eighth positions and they get the security of two-year deals,” said Titans head coach Neil Henry.
“We feel we have good depth in the halves here so we agreed to allow Albert to take this opportunity in the Super League, and at 30 Maurice has the chance to extend his career which we are also happy to accommodate. We wish them both great success over there.
“It also gives us more flexibility in our salary cap management and provides the opportunity to go into the market should suitable players become available.
“The Holden Cup player of the year, halfback Kane Elgey, has been handed an opportunity with an NRL contract and Christian Hazard, who’s only 19, showed great promise in his first season with the club in under-20s, although he missed several games with injury.
“And 20-year-old Jamal Fogarty, like Kane an Australian Schoolboy representative, showed his potential for Tweed Seagulls this year. We also have Aidan Sezer and Daniel Mortimer, so we have five players vying for two positions in the halves.”
Agent for Kelly and Blair, Warrick Wright, said the pair, who are close mates, were grateful for the opportunity to play together as starting halves and the chance to taste English Super League together.
“Albert is excited about testing himself in Super League for two seasons while still young enough to return to the NRL, and also get a chance to play alongside ‘Bobby’ in the halves and share a great experience together before Maurice ends his career,” Wright said. “We’re thankful for the Titans to allow them the opportunity and hopefully it will be exciting new start for them.”
Albert Kelly said: “Firstly I would like to thank the Titans for the opportunity to resurrect my career. Thank you to the Titans members, legion of fans and the staff for all their support. It’s a bittersweet feeling as I’ve made some great friends on the Gold Coast and love the club. I’d like to thank Hull KR for the opportunity to test myself in a new brand of footy and I can’t wait to be part of such a great club.”
Added Maurice Blair: “Thank you to the Gold Coast Titans, their fans, members and all the coaching staff for my short but very enjoyable time on the Gold Coast.
“I’d also like to thank the Penrith Panthers and Melbourne Storm for their support and lifelong memories created over the years. I am grateful to Hull KR for the opportunity and am very excited to be part of the club’s future.”