Former NRL outside back Kevin Naiqama is set to return to Australia, ending his time in the English Super League with the St Helens Saints at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old outside back moved to England ahead of the 2019 season where he took up a contract with the Saint Helens Saints.

He has played 68 Super League games, having relative success with 35 tries, two Super League championships and a Challenge Cup victory. Naiqama has made the decision to leave England though, and while his NRL days appeared numbers, his form abroad suggests he could be on the radar of some clubs.

He made the decision to leave England early in a bid to return home and spend time with his family.

Alongside brother Wes, the pair forged a path as likeable characters throughout their career in the NRL.

In his 113 NRL games, Naiqama scored 49 tries, having made his debut for the Knights in 2010, before spending a single season with the Panthers in 2014, and finally moving to the Tigers up until his departure to England.

He has also scored six international tries during his 19 appearances for the Fiji national team.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 19: Kevin Naiqama of the Tigers runs with the ball during the round 11 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Wests Tigers at Suncorp Stadium on May 19, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Naiqama, who has played under former Tongan coach Kristian Woolf during his time at St Helens, said he had enjoyed his time at St Helens, but had struggled with the impacts of the pandemic.

“Firstly, I want to thank Eamonn McManus, Mike Rush, Justin Holbrook and Kristian Woolf who all played a part in giving me the chance to play for this historic Club," Naiqama said.

“Woolfie and my teammates have all been great with me since I arrived and I couldn’t have wished to spend my time here with a better group of players.

“Winning back-to-back Super League titles is something I never thought I would experience over here and to top it off with the Challenge Cup was unreal.

“Off the field times have been tough for everyone. On a personal note, my wife Lily gave birth to our first born recently. I had to experience the birth of my daughter through FaceTime – in a hospital car park. It’s been the hardest years we have faced as a couple, especially with my wife having to go through that on her own and it naturally caused a lot of traumas for the both of us."

Coach Woolf acknowledged that others would have asked to go home immediately, instead of staying until season's end.

“I am really proud of Kev and Lily for the way they have handled themselves through some real challenging circumstances. Everyone can understand how difficult it must have been for them over here and having to go through that by themselves," Woolf said.

“Most people in their position would have most likely knocked on my door and asked to go home early, but I am really proud of the fact they have shown that commitment and toughness as a couple to get through it and see out the rest of the year with us at St Helens. I am also really proud of the Club and the playing group in how they have supported Kev and Lily."

St Helens currently sit second on the Super League table through 13 games of the season and will next take on the Catalans Dragons on Saturday afternoon (BST).


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