Twitter ran hot on Wednesday night with the rumours that Catalans Dragons winger Damien Blanch may be headed to the Roosters after receiving a release from his contract to return to Australia.
Who? This guy:
26 Rounds was first alerted to the rumoured signing by Sam Anderson (@ando4285):
…and both Rugby League News and The Grill team tweeted he’d signed with the Chooks:
However, neither link to a site that confirms the 30-year-old Irish International has officially signed with the Roosters — although there is a connection to the club, as Blanch spent 2011-12 under current Roosters coach Trent Robinson and is the Catalans teammate of Roosters’ official Dragons signing, French prop Remy Casty.
Here is the link to the official statement on the Catalans website referenced in the Grill Team tweet (you’ll need to either speak French or cheat and use Google Translate to read it) but it does not confirm the signing, nor does this article on the BBC:
Blanch, 30, joined the Dragons from Wakefield in 2011, and went on to score 42 tries in 70 Super League games for the Perpignan club.
“I left Australia in 2005, it’s a long time far from home,” Blanch said.
“After a such long time of travelling, I feel it’s the right time to get back to Australia.”
His time in England took him to Castleford Tigers, Widnes Vikings and Wakefield before the switch to the south of France, and earned him a place in the Ireland squad at the 2008 World Cup.
Catalans, who finished seventh in this year’s Super League competition, were knocked out of the play-offs by Hull FC last Friday.
In addition to Blanch’s exit, veteran second-row Steve Menzies is retiring and France international prop Remi Casty is also departing to join former coach Trent Robinson at NRL minor premiers Sydney Roosters.
The last sentence is poorly, POORLY worded and could have created confusion, and the fact the Catalans statement is in French doesn’t help — but that didn’t stop the rumour spreading like herpes across the Roosters Twitterverse.
Nothing has been announced on the Roosters website about Blanch but several fans are adamant he’s signed with the Roosters for next season, and the link with Robbo and Casty is a curious one.
Not much is much known about the winger regardless, so let’s look into it a little bit here.
He’s six feet flat and 95 kilos, and has not played in the NRL before. However, he has played three games for Ireland and scored five tries, helping the Irish squad to a 34-16 Rugby League World Cup win over Samoa in 2008 — albeit a game in which he didn’t cross the line.
According to stats on the Rugby League Project, Blanch scored 82 tries in 128 Super League and Challenge Cup games since joining Castleford Tigers in 2006. He also played for Widnes, Wakefield and, of course, Catalans during his time in Europe.
He also has some highlights thanks to the wonderful folks over at Youtube: