Sam Tomkins: Wigan star joins NZ Warriors for world-record fee

Sam Tomkins will leave Wigan at the end of the Super League season to join NRL side New Zealand Warriors.

They have paid a world-record fee for Tomkins, eclipsing the £450,000 that Wigan spent on Stuart Fielden in 2006.

A switch to rugby union had been a possibility for the full-back, who is England's all-time leading try scorer.

Sam's Super League story

Sam Tomkins

2008: Scores five tries on Wigan Warriors debut in Challenge Cup tie against Whitehaven.

2009: Named in Super League's Dream Team for the first time. Scores three tries on international debut for England against Wales.

2010: Scores in Grand Final win against St Helens as Wigan claim their first title since 1998. Equals England record for tries in a single Test match, crossing four times against France.

2011: Plays in Wigan's Challenge Cup win over Leeds Rhinos at Wembley. Signs new five-year contract on the same day his older brother Joel swaps codes to join Saracens. Makes first rugby union appearance, playing on the wing for Barbarians against Australia at Twickenham.

2012: Wins League Leaders' Shield with Wigan. Ends season with 36 tries and is voted Super League's Man of Steel for the first time. Becomes England's all-time leading try scorer.

2013: Equals club record by scoring in 11 consecutive matches for Wigan. Scores last-minute try in Wigan's Challenge Cup final win against Hull FC at Wembley. Named in Super League's Dream Team for fifth year in succession.

But Tomkins, who was voted Man of Steel in 2012, has agreed a three-year deal with a club that finished 11th of 16 teams in Australia's domestic league. 

The 24-year-old's move has been confirmed ahead of the upcoming World Cup, at which Tomkins will be crucial to England's chances of success on home soil, and Wigan's play-off semi-final against Leeds Rhinos at the DW Stadium on Friday.

Wigan, who have also announced that full-back Matt Bowen, 31, has joined from North Queensland Cowboys as a direct replacement, will have first refusal to sign Tomkins if he chooses to return to Super League in the future.

"This has been a very difficult decision to make but it is now perfect timing for me to make the switch to the NRL," said Tomkins. "It is something in my career I have always wanted to do and this agreement with the Warriors also allows me to return back to Wigan in the future.

"I head to New Zealand with some great memories of Grand Final and Challenge Cup success and some very special times.

"Going to Auckland is a huge step for me and my rugby league career but one I am really looking forward to. I want to end my time with further success with Wigan as we aim for Grand Final glory, and then with England as we focus on winning the World Cup on home soil."

Wigan head coach Shaun Wane said he was excited for Tomkins, describing the full-back as a "great kid".

"For all his plus points, the main one is that he's competitive," Wane told BBC Radio 5 live. "The Warriors will get someone who wants to win and he'll be very vociferous in the changing room.

"He's one of my leaders. They'll get a competitive player who will challenge the coaching staff because he wants to get better. They have a fantastic player in Sam Tomkins."

Tomkins's best moments of 2012

Writing in his column for a local newspaper in June 2012, Tomkins had said a move to the NRL later in his career was something he would "give serious consideration" to, while he refused to clarify his future in an interview with BBC Sport immediately after Wigan's Challenge Cup victory over Hull FC in August.

Tomkins, who has scored 144 tries in 150 appearances  for the Cherry and Whites, had three years of his contract at the DW Stadium to run.

England-born players moving to NRL clubs has become an increasingly common occurrence in recent years and the number is set to grow further in 2014, with Wigan prop Lee Mossop and Warrington forward Mike Cooper, as well as Leeds Rhinos teenagers Jordan Baldwinson and Mason Tonks, among those heading to Australia.

But there is expected to be huge interest in how Tomkins fares in the southern hemisphere, given his status as one of the star attractions in world rugby.

He burst onto the scene in 2008 when, as a 19-year-old, he became the first player in the sport's history to score five tries on their first-team debut in a Challenge Cup tie against Whitehaven.

Tomkins, who has played alongside brothers Joel and Logan during his time with the Warriors, has been a regular in the Wigan side since his Super League debut in 2009 and has been included in the division's Dream Team in each of the past five seasons.

Among his domestic honours are two Challenge Cup final victories (2011 and 2013) and a Super League Grand Final win (2010), while he is also England's all-time leading try scorer with 16 in 15 appearances.