SAINTS have agreed to transfer Luke Thompson to NRL club Canterbury Bulldogs for an undisclosed sum with immediate effect, the club has confirmed.

Thompson had been due to depart Saints at the end of this season but after the Bulldogs made a move to entice the player Down Under sooner, an agreement has been reached.

The NRL season is back underway while Super League in the UK remains suspended.

It is understood Saints are bitterly disappointed about the way the situation has played out.

They wanted to keep the Great Britain prop at the club until the end of 2020 to spearheard their defence of the Super League title when the season eventually resumes.

Saints said today that Thompson had not taken part in a club-wide pay cut which has been put in place because of the coronavirus crisis.

The Star understands Saints reluctantly reached a transfer fee with the NRL side as they felt Thompson's head had been turned and having an unhappy player on the books would not be worth it.

The other players, who are on leave while the season is suspended, were informed last night.

St Helens Star: Eamonn McManus

Eamonn McManus

In a statement, chairman Eamonn McManus said: “St Helens had been placed in a difficult position as Luke Thompson had opted not to participate in our club wide squad and staff pay reduction arrangement for the 2020 season, this being necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic and its significant commercial consequences.

“It was therefore agreed to be in everyone’s best interests for the transfer to take place now rather than at the end of the season as originally planned.”

Thompson, 25, spent 13 years at the Saints, having progressed through the club's successful academy system to make his debut in 2013.

A club statement added: "The club wish Luke all the best in the next stage of his career."

The Bulldogs said the front-rower will fly into Australia this week in readiness to undergoing the mandatory 14-day isolation period, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He had originally signed a three-year deal, starting in the 2021 season after the Bulldogs chair Lynne Anderson and chief executive Andrew Hill flew to the UK to agree to terms earlier this year.

St Helens Star: Luke Thompson - belongs in the team

Thompson had come through the ranks at Saints

In a statement on the Bulldogs website, Thompson said: "Getting the chance to join the Bulldogs and be a part of a club with so much history and with such passionate fans is very exciting.

"Having spoken to many people at the club and listened to their plans for the future, I know that they are building for success and I'm looking forward to being part of that.”

Bulldogs chair Anderson said: “We are thrilled Luke will join us this year. It’s a huge boost to our young team, and provides further experience to support our senior leadership group.

"We have worked really hard to get him here early, and it’s fantastic to see it come to fruition."

Hill added: “To have an International forward, seen by many as one the best front rowers in the game, arrive early is tremendous news for all of our members and fans and a great boost for our squad for the rest of this season.

"I must thank St Helens for enabling this to happen and Luke for showing great character in arriving early and being prepared to sit through his isolation phase before joining us.

"We are hopeful that Luke will be out on the field representing the Bulldogs within the next month.”