Penrith Panthers are pleased to announce the signing of French back-rower Ben Garcia until the end of the 2017 season.
Garcia will join the Panthers next season from English Super League club Catalans Dragons, where he has plied his trade for the last two years.
The 22-year-old previously played for the Brisbane Broncos’ NYC side and returns to Australia as a French international, having made his international debut at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
Panthers Executive General Manager rugby league Phil Gould AM said he was delighted to have secured the services of such an exciting talent.
“Benjamin’s form has been outstanding for the Catalans Dragons and he attracted tremendous attention from a number of Super League clubs looking for his signature,” Mr Gould said.
“He has a burning desire to make it in the NRL and we are extremely happy he has chosen Panthers as the place to pursue that opportunity. This kid can play.”
Garcia is one of four new signings the Panthers announced on Wednesday, with boom youngsters Sione Katoa, Viliame (Bill) Kikau and Zach Dockar-Clay to join the Frenchman at Penrith for the next two seasons.
A hard-hitting hooker and local junior, Katoa, 20, has made appearances for both the Panthers NYC and NSW Cup sides this season. He previously had a short stint with the Sydney Roosters NYC team and has been a member of the Junior Kiwis side for the last two years.
“I thought Sione was the best player on the field against the Junior Kangaroos this year and he has been wonderful in our development grades over the past two seasons. I have no doubt he will be playing NRL in the very near future,” Mr Gould said.
Kikau grew up playing rugby union but later transitioned to rugby league and has been with the North Queensland Cowboys’ NYC side since last season. The 20-year-old prop, who stands almost two metres tall, made his international debut for Fiji earlier this year.
“Viliame is an outstanding prospect and one of the most dominant players in the NYC competition at the present time. We are very excited to have him joining our club in 2016,” Mr Gould said.
Capable at both halfback and hooker, 20-year-old Dockar-Clay was a member of the Junior Kiwis in 2013 & 2014, and captained the side against the Junior Kangaroos last month. He currently plays for the Parramatta Eels’ NYC side and previously represented NSW at under-16s and under-18s level.
“We have been watching Zach’s development for a number of seasons,” Mr Gould said.
“He has indicated a desire to concentrate on developing his NRL prospects as a hooker and I honestly believe this young man is a long-term NRL player.”
Mr Gould said the signing of the four youngsters was designed to complement the outstanding talent the Panthers have coming through the club’s development system.
“Our NSW Cup team is leading the competition despite the fact that our club, at the NRL level, has had to endure a crippling injury toll. Our NYC team is also leading their competition and have a number of players who are still able to play in that age group again next season,” Mr Gould said.
“The long-term prospects for the Panthers have never looked better.”