Sheffield Eagles lose loanee Jonah Cunningham but will cash in on dual-registration deal with St Helens next season
Former Sheffield Eagles loanee Jonah Cunningham won't be returning to the club next season after penning a deal with Leigh Centurions.
Cunningham was one of three players to join Mark Aston’s side on loan from St Helens for last season’s Championship Shield, with a view to having a look at them as possibilities for dual-registration in 2018.
But Cunningham has signed for fellow Championship outfit Leigh in a loan deal, which will see him link up with his father Keiron, the Centurions’ head of rugby.
The 19-year-old has signed a year-long loan with the club, and has been joined by team mate Ricky Bailey, 20, who has also penned a one-year loan switch.
Aston has met with officials from Saints to discuss options for next season, as the Eagles prepare for their first full season as the Super League club’s dual-registration partners.
“We have a relationship with St Helens which will be a good one for us,” Aston told The Star.
“We will get up to four players every week with our dual-registration relationship, and they will be quality players. We have seen some of them already last season. They will have players in mind that will be good for us. Then there is Garry Lo, if he isn’t playing at Castleford, then he will be back playing for us. We are keeping that link close which is good as well.
“It will be dual-reg, rather than season long loans with Saints. That’s what it is. The big thing is dual-reg, and it is a chance for Saints to get their better players, preparing themselves week in, week out in case they get pulled into their first team.”
One player that Aston would love to see back at the club is centre Jake Spedding, who was one of six youngsters, including Cunningham and ex-Eagles loanee Liam Cooper, to sign new one year deals with the Lancashire club.
Meanwhile, Jack Owens, who starred for the Eagles last season before becoming one of 10 players to depart, has also penned a deal with the Centurions.
Aston had hoped to persuade Owens to remain at the club, but acknowledged that he expected the versatile operator to move back to the full-time game.
The former Saints and Widnes full-back has agreed a one-year contract, as Leigh coach Neil Jukes continues to assemble a squad for their return to the second tier.