Leeds Very Keen On

Super League leaders Leeds Rhinos have admitted they declared an interest in Australian Test winger Nathan Blacklock, who is set to return to rugby league after a season with Super 12 team the NSW Waratahs.

Blacklock, who has secured an early release from his contract with the New South Wales rugby union, says he turned down a lucrative offer from a British club in order to return to St George Illawarra.

The 27-year-old, who played against Great Britain in the 2001 Ashes Series, did not name the club but Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington said he expressed a huge interest in the player.

Hetherington said: "I expect we will be the club he is referring to because we were asked if we were interested and I said we probably would be.

"We never had time to discuss it as a club and his agent rang us back the next day to say he had he changed his mind so basically there were no further discussions."

Blacklock, the NRL's leading try-scorer for three successive years before his shock departure to rugby union, became a free agent on Monday and is set re-sign for St George.

A major obstacle to another major influx of Antipodean talent is an agreement by Super League clubs to reduce the overseas quota from five to four next year and to three in 2005.