The St Helens fitness chief and former player Apollo Perelini is to leave the club after Saturday's Super League Grand Final to head the Elite sporting academy in Dubai. Perelini made 193 rugby league appearances for Saints after joining them in 1994 from New Zealand rugby union club North Harbour. After a brief stint back in union with Sale, he returned as the head of Strength and Conditioning five years ago and has been credited with much of their success in recent times.
"I am really sad to be leaving St Helens and the most successful club in Super League," he said. "I have made the decision for the future of my family as chances like this do not come around often. I look forward to taking the chance with both hands." Sponsored by Air Miles, the Elite Sporting Academy is set to give aspiring young athletes the opportunity to pursue their dream of achieving sporting success. It will provide places to 240 sporting heroes and will be based at the Repton School at Nad Al Sheda - and Apollo will head the Academy's coaching department.
Perelini will be on the bench for the Wembley clash with Leeds, and said: "It is sad for me to know that come the Grand Final, that will be my last involvement with the club. "I always said that I am a one club man. I would only play for Saints in rugby league and I would only work for them in the back room. I am proud at what I have achieved at the club in terms of playing and in Strength and Conditioning and I am looking forward to the challenge in Dubai."
Eamonn McManus, the Saints' chairman, added: "Although we are all saddened that a genuine St Helens icon such as Apollo is leaving the club, we are also excited for him as this move represents a unique opportunity for him and his family. "I am sure I speak on behalf of the supporters and all associated with the club in wishing him every success and happiness in his new life. We would also like to thank him for his massive contribution to the club during it's most successful ever era.
"I'm sure Apollo will keep in close touch and I would expect to see him regularly at games during his trips back." The Air Miles chief executive, Dave Battison, is delighted by the appointment. "We are over the moon that Apollo has agreed to come to Dubai to establish the Elite Sporting Academy. He was our first choice by a mile and his long distinguished career speaks for itself - on what he achieved on the field plus what he achieved off the field with the accelerated development of younger players.
"Apollo was successful at St Helens, and we know he will be just as successful here." firstname.lastname@example.org