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Thompson leaving St Helens to beef up Bulldogs pack

Highly-rated English prop Luke Thompson will be heading to the NRL in 2021 to beef up the Canterbury pack on a three-year deal.

The Bulldogs confirmed the star signing on Tuesday morning, having trumped several NRL suitors including the Warriors and Titans as well as St Helens themselves to secure the 24-year-old.

He will see out the final year of his contract with the Super League club before moving to Australia next season.

Thompson, who has played 157 matches for St Helens and was man of the match in last year's grand final, highlighted Canterbury's famed winning culture as a key factor in luring him to Belmore.

"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," Thompson said.

"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.

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"When you join a club like the Bulldogs you know about the players and the culture that has gone before you and the fact that second best isn't good enough and that was something that was important to me."

Thompson's signature is a coup for the Dogs given their recent years of salary cap hardships.

The Bulldogs have farewelled representative props David Klemmer, James Graham and Aaron Woods in recent years as it reshaped a roster hamstrung by back-ended contracts.

They are building for success and I’m looking forward to being part of that

Luke Thompson on the Bulldogs

Dumped English coach Wayne Bennett is also a fan after handing him his Test debut in 2018 and had eyed him off for South Sydney before securing Jai Arrow for next season.

New Titans mentor Justin Holbrook had also pursued Thompson having coached him at St Helens as recently as last year's Super League premiership-winning campaign.

It has been suggested Canterbury could secure Thompson for 2020 by paying a transfer fee which would not come under their salary cap for the coming season.

But it's understood the Bulldogs do not have the salary cap space to fit Thompson in this year, and St Helens appear loath to release a key player as they bid to defend their Super League title.

Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill lauded Thompson's commitment to the club as he becomes the latest English forward to try his hand at the NRL.

"Even though Luke is at the start of his career, we have been really impressed by his on-field leadership qualities and his desire to be the best," Hill said.

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"He is an excellent player who has become a star of the Super League and has shown what he is capable of at international level and we are looking forward to him getting the chance to show everyone in the NRL what he is capable of.

"We feel as though we are creating a really strong squad moving forward and to have someone of Luke's calibre want to be part of that and to buy into what we are building here is a big vote of confidence in the club and the future."

St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus confirmed his club’s "bitter disappointment" at losing Thompson in an earlier statement.