Very rarely there are transfers that make the rugby league fraternity sit up and think “what just happened?” But when those transfers do happen, they take the news by storm. Here are ten.
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.
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.
Adrian Morley – Bradford Bulls
Morley’s CV boasts some impressive spells at some impressive clubs: Leeds, Sydney and Warrington come to mind. But, most of the rugby league fraternity have forgotten that Morley also played six games for Bradford whilst still contracted to the Roosters at the end of 2005. In fact, the tough enforcer helped the Bulls lift the Grand Final trophy against former side Leeds that year.
Gavin Henson – West Wales Raiders
At the age of 39, Welsh rugby union hero Gavin Henson has made a shock code switch to join League 1 side West Wales Raiders. The former Wales international fly-half left the pizzazz of the Principality Stadium in Cardiff behind for Llanelli’s Stebonheath Park as he teams up with Rangi Chase in a halfback partnership that nobody in rugby league saw coming.
Gareth Thomas – Crusaders RL
If Henson’s move to rugby league is weird than Gareth Thomas’ surely deserves a spot too. For a rugby union man that had played all of his career in the 15-a-side game, turning up for the Crusaders in 2010 and 2011 must have been pure shock. To be fair to the three-quarter, Thomas showed up well, scoring seven tries in 31 appearances.
Sione Faumuina – Hull FC
The New Zealand international had big things expected of him in the NRL when he joined Hull at the end of the 2005 season. But, he made just three appearances for the club and started in the halves as FC were thumped 71-0 by Bradford Bulls in the play-offs. A later spell at Castleford in the Super League didn’t do much for his reputation either.
Ben Galea – Hull FC
Another signing for Hull that raised a few eyebrows was that of Ben Galea in 2013. It wouldn’t have been bizarre at all had he not retired after playing five seasons for arch-rivals Hull KR. Instead, the second-rower reversed his retirement decision to play just one more season for Peter Gentle’s FC.
Joe Vickery – Leeds Rhinos
He signed for reigning Super League champions Leeds following a successful trial spell at the back end of 2012. A one-year deal was cut short, however, when Vickery injured his ankle in May 2013. The 23-year-old was released by mutual consent in August after scoring just one try in ten games.
Ratu Naulago – Hull FC
The Fijian flyer joined Hull FC on a permanent basis in 2019 after passing a successful trial period at the club. After having a past in the British Army and Rugby 7s, the physical and mental side of things had always been there for Naulago, it was whether or not he could adapt to rugby league. Of course, the winger showed he could do just that and impressed before leaving for rugby union at the end of last season.
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.