With a number of notable names currently without a club, columnist JACK CONLON takes a look at who’s available and the clubs that could potentially take a punt on them.
After his release from Castleford, Roberts is one of the highest-profile free agents on the market. A versatile playmaker, the 33-year-old has tormented Super League defences since he joined the Tigers in 2015, with his impressive footwork and handling skills building him a reputation as one of the competition’s most unpredictable players. There’s no doubt he would prove a handy pickup for most UK teams.
Possible destinations: London Broncos, Salford Red Devils, Toronto Wolfpack, Featherstone Rovers
Caton-Brown’s free agency is a strange one. After signing with Toronto midway through last season, he was expected to be one of their key players as they pushed of promotion in 2019. However, when the Wolfpack announced their squad numbers in January, Caton-Brown’s name was missing. Even now, there’s still been no official statement from the club about his departure. He is believed to be aiming for a move to rugby union to play for the England Sevens World Cup side, but could be tempted back to league if an offer arises.
Possible destinations: Wakefield Trinity, Castleford Tigers
Former Hull KR centre Minns is set for a return to rugby league this year when his drugs ban expires in mid-July. A former fans’ favourite at KCOM Craven Park, the Leeds Rhinos academy product was given a 16-month ban after testing positive for cocaine in March 2018. He’s still only 24 and has always been a prolific strike weapon out wide, racking up 49 tries in his 92-game career, so would be a lucrative buy for most Super League and Championship sides.
Possible destinations: London Broncos, Castleford Tigers, Wakefield Trinity, Featherstone Rovers, Toronto Wolfpack
Like Inu, Albert was also one of the victims of Widnes’ situation. The PNG prop was somewhat of a cult hero, with his size and strength providing the Vikings with some real bulk up front. At 24-years-of-age, he’s still yet to reach his potential and would be a decent buy for a number of sides. He’s recently been given a trial by Leeds, but the Rhinos have insisted he is still on the market.
Possible destinations: Leeds Rhinos, Toronto Wolfpack, Hull KR, Bradford Bulls
Tangata was the third and final player to be released from his Widnes contract. After suffering a serious injury in the Vikings’ Round 3 defeat to Toronto, the Cook Islands international has struggled to find a club interested in his services, even putting out a personal advertisement on Twitter appealing to clubs to give him a chance. His former club Halifax have agreed to assist him with his rehabilitation, so hopefully it won’t be too long until he’s back on the field.
Possible destinations: Halifax RLFC, York City Knights, Bradford Bulls, London Broncos, Leigh Centurions
After leaving Widnes on the back of their relegation last season, Hanbury has gone somewhat off the radar. Despite moving back to his native Australia, the 33-year-old is yet to sign for a club in 2019 despite offers from lower league Aussie sides. It would be a big ask for a club to bring him back to the UK, but it’s not completely implausible.
Possible destinations: Hull KR, Bradford Bulls, Featherstone Rovers, Toulouse Olympique
Like Minns, infamous halfback Chase is set to return to rugby league later this year once his drugs ban expires. The 32-year-old was given a two-year suspension from the sport in 2017 after testing positive for cocaine. A former Man of Steel, Chase has been working hard on his fitness in the past few months and while he is unlikely to have any Super League suitors, would be a prize acquisition for a number of lower league sides.
Potential destinations: Doncaster RLFC, Leigh Centurions, Castleford Lock Lane, Normanton Knights
This is a slightly left-field option, but could bear fruit for a number of clubs. Clavering isn’t a particularly well-known name to anyone outside of Hull, having come through the academy at FC before joining KR in 2017. He never made a first team appearance for the Robins due to injury but did have dual-registration spells with York, Hemel and Coventry. A versatile man mountain of a forward, Clavering is still only 20 and, with the right guidance, could have a bright future.
Possible destinations: York City Knights, Dewsbury Rams, Doncaster RLFC
An experienced outside back, Brown was released by Warrington at the end of 2018 despite an impressive spell with Steve Price’s side. He deputised at fullback, wing and centre at times last year and spoke about wanting to remain in the UK for 2019. He did, however, suffer a serious knee injury towards the end of the season which has stunted his attempts to stay in the game. There’s no doubt it would be a risk for any club to sign him, but on his day Brown has the capabilities to be a Super League quality player.
Possible destinations: Leigh Centurions, Bradford Bulls, Rochdale Hornets
Tansey’s been unlucky in the past couple of years, having made two unsuccessful attempts at reigniting his career in the Championship. Trials at Sheffield Eagles and Featherstone Rovers have both come to nothing, with an eight-game spell at Workington being his only professional action of late. While he may no longer be up to Super League standard, he still has the skill to do a job playing lower league rugby.
Possible destinations: Workington Town, Dewsbury Rams, Hunslet RLFC, Doncaster RLFC
Bailey was once touted as one of St Helens’ brightest young talents, making his senior debut at the tender age of 17 back in 2015. Fast forward to now, however, and he’s without a club despite an impressive season with Leigh last year. A Telford native, he’s most recently returned to his rugby union roots with Newport (Salop) for some game time, but is keen to find a league club.
Possible destinations: Coventry Bears, Rochdale Hornets, Oldham RLFC, North Wales Crusaders
Son of St Helens legend Keiron, Cunningham is in a similar situation to Bailey after being released from his most recent spell with Leigh. He too came through Saints’ academy system before spending time with the Centurions ad Rochdale Hornets. Like his father, the 21-year-old is a hard-hitting hooker who can also operate in the back row.
Possible destinations: Rochdale Hornets, North Wales Crusaders, Oldham RLFC
‘JBF’ was one of 2018’s most prolific ‘club-hoppers’, having spells with York, Toronto and Bradford. Before that, he made his UK name at Hull KR, scoring five tries in nine games in 2017. Having come through the junior system at Penrith Panthers, the 27-year-old has plenty of rugby league pedigree and could be tempted back to England despite recently making the move back to Australia.
Possible destinations: York City Knights, Dewsbury Rams, Toulouse Olympique, London Broncos
Other free agents: Connor Williams, James Barraclough, Taylor Prell, James Davies, Josh Barlow, Gabriel Fell, Hayden Hansen, Matt Sarsfield, Jesse Sheriffe, Brad Delaney, James Thornton, Jason Walton.