Kevin Naiqama: St Helens centre to leave at end of the season and return to Australia for family reasons
Fiji international Kevin Naiqama cites difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, including having to witness the birth of his first child through FaceTime, as reason for his decision to leave Super League champions St Helens
Last Updated: 05/08/21 6:22pm
Kevin Naiqama will leave the St Helens at the end of the season and return to Australia for family reasons.
The Fiji captain has won back-to-back Super League titles and the Challenge Cup since joining Saints on a three-year deal from NRL club Wests Tigers ahead of the 2019 season.
Naiqama, 32, said difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and, in particular, having to witness the birth of his first child through FaceTime led to his decision.
In a statement issued by the club, the centre said: "Off the field, times have been tough for everyone. On a personal note, my wife Lily gave birth to our firstborn recently.
"I had to experience the birth of my daughter through FaceTime - in a hospital car park.
"It's been the hardest years we have faced as a couple, especially with my wife having to go through that on her own and it naturally caused a lot of traumas for the both of us.
"On the back of that, both myself and my wife's mental health were affected, but I want to thank the club welfare team of Paul Johnson and Dave Kirk for helping us through it.
"I also want to personally thank my wife for her strength in getting through it, without our family to support us.
"I can't thank her enough for the sacrifices she has made which has enabled me to dream and continue to play professional rugby league and finish off the season here at St Helens."
Naiqama, who has scored 35 tries in 68 appearances, said the success he has achieved since his move to Saints is something "I never thought I would experience over here."
"Woolfie [coach Kristian Woolf] and my team-mates have all been great with me since I arrived and I couldn't have wished to spend my time here with a better group of players," he added.
Woolf said: "Most people in their position would have most likely knocked on my door and asked to go home early but I am really proud of the fact they have shown that commitment and toughness as a couple to get through it and see out the rest of the year with us at St Helens.
"I am really happy that Kev is going to be with us for the rest of the year. He is a big game player for us, as his performances in the last few weeks have shown.
"He is also a real respected member of the team and is a leader. We really enjoy having him around and we would have loved to have him for longer.
"What we do want to do is ensure we make the most of him being a part of our team for the rest of the season and make sure that he returns home with more memories of St Helens."