RICHARD Lepori, believed to be a target for Rochdale Hornets, has returned “home” to Oldham instead.
Currently playing rugby union for Sedgley Tigers, he will tie up the loose ends there; spend a couple of weeks on a mini pre-season programme with the Roughyeds; and be available to Scott Naylor by the beginning of March.
“I’m back,” said the 25-year-old Italy international. “. . . Back to where I was always going to be if I returned to rugby league. There was interest from other clubs, but I was never going to go anywhere else.”
The full-back left Oldham, and rugby league, at the end of last season to do a masters degree in the sociology of sport and exercise. He is still on with that, in a part-time capacity, but he has moved home from Chorley to city-centre Manchester and has taken up a new post as a sports lecturer at Tameside College.
His new contract at Oldham runs to November.
He added: “I’m ready to get back into rugby league now and I’m looking forward to picking up the pieces again at Oldham. I’ve always been happy there; always played my best rugby there,
“I’ve been with Scott, ‘Spanner’ and Peter (head coach Scott Naylor and his assistants Lee Spencer and Peter Carey) since I was a youngster at Salford. They always get the best out of me. They’re like father figures.
“It will be a big achievement if we can finish higher in the Championship than we did last year, but we’ve signed some good new players and I think we’ll go well, especially when we get some of the injured lads back in the side.”
He helped Italy to qualify for the World Cup, to be held later this year in Australia and New Zealand, and he is hoping to have a big season at Oldham to enhance his chances of a trip Down Under, playing with and against some of the biggest names in the sport.
In his two previous spells at Oldham, going back to 2013, he has scored a total of 19 tries in 53 games.
Said Naylor: “We told ‘Lippy’ at the end of last season that if he ever wanted to come back we would welcome him with open arms.
“We found out last week that he was willing to talk about things again and Chris (club chairman Chris Hamilton) moved very quickly to get the deal done.
“We are delighted. He’s a quality player and a quality lad, who will make our back line so much stronger.
“We like to start each season by leaving room in the squad for quality additions, and we did look a bit light in the friendlies when we picked up a few injuries.
“But with Richard back; Keiran Gill and Tuoyo Egodo having joined us on loan from Castleford; and some of the injured lads getting ready to return we look a lot stronger.
“Everything is positive as we look forward to Sunday’s first league game against Sheffield at Bower Fold.”