Leeds believe their capture of Australian Test forward Trent Merrin is further proof of their determination to return to their glory days.
The 29-year-old prop secured a release from the last two years of his contract with Penrith Panthers to sign a four-year deal with the Rhinos as their second marquee recruit for 2019.
Leeds, who had to fight for their Super League lives after finishing in the bottom four in 2018, say they fended off competition from a number of NRL clubs for the signature of Merrin.
Director of rugby Kevin Sinfield said: “We are delighted to have signed Trent. He has an outstanding reputation in Australia for his leadership within a group and is someone who has played for a decade at the highest level of the game.
“He will complement our current group of forwards and is another indication of the ambition of the club to move forward into a new exciting era.”
New Leeds coach David Furner spoke of his desire to add Merrin to his roster on his arrival in the country a week ago.
The New South Wales forward has played over 200 games in the NRL for the Panthers and St George Illawarra and won the last of his seven caps against New Zealand in 2017.
Merrin said: “I have done everything I possibly could in the NRL and this is a great opportunity for me to come to a great club with a fantastic culture and hopefully achieve some goals together.
“It is good to have clarity about my future, I am looking forward to coming to a new country, stepping outside of my comfort zone and being part of something special with Leeds.
“There is a lot I still want to achieve. I want to put my best foot forward and, when I eventually come back home, I want to be able to look back on a special period in my life.
“I have spent time with Dave Furner in camp before and enjoyed the experience. He is obviously well respected at Leeds from his time there as a player and has built an impressive coaching career in the NRL since then.”
Merrin becomes the Rhinos’ fifth new face for 2019, following the addition of centre Konrad Hurrell, their first marquee signing, half-backs Tui Lolohea and Callum McLelland and prop Dom Crosby.
Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington commented: “This is hugely significant for not just Leeds Rhinos but the Super League competition and shows the ambition of our club to compete at the very top of the game.
“Trent was Dave Furner’s number one target and it has come as a major boost to have secured a player of his quality on a long-term contract.”