Keegan Hirst may not be able to return to Rugby League with the Batley Bulldogs this season due to an RFL registration rule.
Hirst, the first Rugby League player to come out publicly as gay while playing in the England game, announced on Monday he was coming out of retirement and returning to Batley.
The 34-year-old striker has been training with the club for the past few weeks, initially with a view to returning next season before deciding to play earlier.
Hirst wasn’t signed up by this season’s deadline, but Batley believed they would still be able to because of the time since he last played, for the Halifax Panthers in beginning of 2020.
However, when they placed him in their 21-man squad to face Sheffield Eagles on Wednesday, they discovered that RFL rules state that a player must not have played for any other club in the previous three years. .
The Bulldogs are trying to find a way around the rule, but it seems likely that Hirst will have to wait until the 2023 season to play again.
“We thought if you didn’t play for anyone last season you could still sign up. But for some reason it’s three years,” Batley head coach Craig Lingard said.
“I don’t understand the reasoning. I could sign up and play. I could sign Joe Bloggs down the street to play. But I cannot register a player who has not played for two and a half years.
“We could have signed him up before that deadline if we knew that was the rule, but we had no intention of signing him up because he had expressed an interest in coming back next season. We didn’t think he would be ready to play this year.
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