Five Super League signings that attracted worldwide coverage

When Super League sides make a signing, there are sometimes eyebrows raised.

But, some transfers attract more than just a raised eyebrow – they attract worldwide coverage.

Here are five Super League signings that did just that.

Dwain Chambers – Castleford Tigers

If a struggling Castleford side needed a spark in 2009 then trying to find it in banned Olympic sprinter Dwain Chambers was a decision way out of left-field. He played one reserve game for the Tigers in a specially scheduled reserves game against the York – there was clearly an interest in seeing the Great Britain field representative as over 3,000 spectators turned up. However, Chambers played just half the match and left the Jungle after a month’s trial. Whether it was a publicity stunt by the Tigers or not, it certainly put the former mining town on the map.

Willie Mason – Hull KR

Australian international Mason joined Hull KR amidst a blaze of publicity in September 2011, penning a three-year deal. For a player that had been at the top of his game for Canterbury, Sydney and North Queensland, a move to East Hull was a head-scratcher to say the least. It didn’t end well either – just six months into his contract and after just six appearances, Mason was deregistered as the club chose to sign Michael Dobson instead. The rampaging forward disappeared under a cloud as it was revealed he had met with French rugby officials at Toulon whilst still under contract with the Robins.

Gareth Thomas – Crusaders RL

A household name in rugby union, Gareth Thomas appeared in the 13-a-side game after spending all of his career in the 15-man code, turning up for the Crusaders in 2010 and 2011. To be fair to the three-quarter, Thomas showed up well, scoring seven tries in 31 appearances, but approaching the ripe-old age of 40 must have taken its toll on the Welsh international and he retired after two seasons.

Sonny Bill Williams – Toronto Wolfpack

For a player that had traipsed the lengths of breadths of both rugby league and rugby union, to be signed by the newly-promoted Toronto Wolfpack ahead of the 2020 Super League season was a sign of the Canadian club’s ambition. Unfortunately, the dream didn’t last long for either player or club and Williams left after five games to rejoin the Sydney Roosters back in the NRL. It was a case of ‘what might have been’, but the pandemic and Toronto’s subsequent exit from the top-flight ensured that the fireworks lit upon the Kiwi’s arrival went up in a puff of smoke.

Israel Folau – Catalans Dragons

Israel Folau had spent his career at the top of both the NRL and Rugby Australia. Yet, having been dismissed by the latter for homophobic comments, the rangy centre was signed by French side Catalans in early 2020. Much was made of his arrival – including a proposed Pride game organised by Wigan to protest against the signature as the rest of the world sat back and talked about the move. His stay hasn’t lasted long though as Folau remained Down Under as the new Super League kicked off, prompting rumours of a move back to the NRL amidst yet another barrage of coverage.

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