Keegan Hirst reverses retirement and rejoins Batley - but cannot play until next season

Keegan Hirst
Keegan Hirst played in Super League for Wakefield

Keegan Hirst's bid to boost LGBT representation in rugby league by coming out of retirement must wait until next season after it emerged he is not eligible for new club Batley Bulldogs this term.

Hirst, the first British professional rugby league player to come out as gay, reversed a retirement decision to re-sign for his home town club.

But the 34-year-old prop forward cannot play until next season because of a Rugby Football League (RFL) registration ruling.

The cut-off for signing players was 22 July, with exceptions made only for those who have not been at a club for three years.

Hirst, though, last featured in October 2020 - less than two years ago.

The former Halifax player has been training with Batley since last month and was named in the 21-man squad to face Sheffield Eagles on Wednesday, but upon closer inspection from the RFL will now have to be withdrawn.

"I did not realise the stipulation about the registration ruling," Batley boss Craig Lingard told BBC Sport. "I could register myself or anyone off the street, so I am not sure why it is three years, why not one, two or four?

"We are going to have to abide by it, there is nothing we can do about it. The chairman is in dialogue with the RFL, but it doesn't look like it will change.

"We hope he will carry on training with us this season and be ready for next season."

Prop forward Hirst had agreed to re-sign for Batley in 2020, but opted to retire in October of that year.

He said the decision to continue his career was to "help with visibility and inclusion" in rugby league.

Last week, seven NRL players boycotted a match over their team's pride jersey.

The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles became the first team in the competition to don a kit which promotes LGBT+ inclusivity in the sport.

But players were not consulted and some objected to the move on religious and cultural grounds.

In a statement released by Sky Sports,external-link Hirst said: "Covid added to my own personal circumstances which made me lose touch with some of the things that I hold dearest to me; friends and rugby league.

"After the recent thinly-veiled homophobia over a rainbow shirt, I thought how can I help with visibility and inclusion?

"By lacing up my boots, putting on a playing shirt and getting back out there, that's how I help with visibility and inclusion.

"I still have plenty of games in me and I'm looking forward to helping Batley continue their incredible season."

The Bulldogs are having a stellar season in the second-tier Championship and are well set to claim a play-off place, lying fourth in the table.

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