As we reach the business end of the Rugby League World Cup, Super League clubs are stepping up their preparation for next season as players slowly return to pre-season training.
For many teams, there is still a lot of work to do as they build their squads for 2023, with the hierarchy at a number of clubs still working on new recruits as they put the finishing touches to their rosters.
With this in mind, and as a bit of fun, we have decided to look in-depth at each team and pick out one player every Super League club could realistically look to sign before the start of the next campaign.
Castleford Tigers: Jacques O’Neill
The Love Island star has said he is open to a return to Super League after being granted a release from the Tigers to appear on the reality TV show. Castleford do have first choice should the hooker decide to return, and it would come at a good time, with Cain Robb still developing and Paul McShane being Lee Radford’s only first-team hooker.
Catalans Dragons: Daejarn Asi
Having lost both of last year’s starting centres, Dean Whare and Samisoni Langi, the Dragons are in need of a centre. The emergence of Mathieu Laguerre should earn him a starting spot and they have also brought in Tom Johnstone for cover in the outside backs, but if they are to challenge for the top four, they need to bring someone in. Daejarn Asi has been in and around the New Zealand Warriors side for the past year and is a free agent going into 2023. The Dragons could get a real coup if they sign the 22-year-old.
Huddersfield Giants: George Roby
Okay, this one isn’t a ‘signing’ per say, but the young hooker was on loan for all of last year with Swinton Lions. The 20-year-old scooped up the League One Young Player of the Year award for his performances, and with the unexpected departure of Danny Levi, he could have earned his chance for a shot in Super League.
Hull KR: Ryan Hampshire
As good as Lachlan Coote is when he is on the field, it is his injury concerns that are a problem. The Robins could do with an experienced backup to come in as a rotation player. Hampshire is that man. A well-travelled performer, Hampshire can also come in as a replacement half. If the Robins are to compete for the playoffs, they need to have healthy squad depth, which they lack in the backs.
Hull FC: Matty Russell
The Black and Whites have two quality wingers in Adam Swift and Darnell McIntosh, however, both are quite injury-prone. Bringing in the experience of Matty Russell would help with squad depth. The Scottish international was also one of Toulouse’s top performers last season.
Leeds Rhinos: Nene MacDonald
MacDonald is still under contract with the Leigh Leopards, however, there have been major reports that he will join the Rhinos. MacDonald worked under Leeds head coach Rohan Smith at Norths Devils in 2021, but it would require Leigh to release him a year early if he was to make Headingley his new home. The Leopards seem keen on keeping McDonald, but the attraction of a big club like Leeds may be tempting.
Leigh Leopards: Sam Eseh
The young Wakefield forward impressed in his performances for Featherstone and Barrow in the Championship last year, and should he find game time hard to come by in 2023, the rebranded Leigh side would do well to bring him in on loan. The Leopards are lacking prop forwards and Eseh would be a niche but quality pickup for Adrian Lam’s side.
Salford Red Devils: Corentin Le Cam
With Salford not having an elite-level academy, it is hard for them to develop their next generation of players. With that, bringing in an off-contract prospect like Corentin Le Cam could be a masterstroke. He could develop under Paul Rowley whilst providing squad depth in the back row. The Red Devils have a knack of improving players, and Le Cam could reach his potential and come into his own at the AJ Bell Stadium.
St Helens: Tony Gigot
Hear me out on this one. Last year we saw the effect that the Lewis Dodd injury had on St Helens. Although they still managed to win the Grand Final, the task was made significantly harder when the youngster suffered a season-ending injury. Saints still haven’t added a backup halfback to their squad despite this, and should Jack Welsby get injured, there is no experienced fullback to deputise. Tony Gigot covers both of these positions and has also worked with Laurent Frayssinous – Saints’ new assistant coach.
Wakefield Trinity: Elijah Taylor
Mark Applegarth still has two quota spots to play with for next season, and one of them could well be used on Elijah Taylor. The former Salford captain is arguably the biggest name still without a club next year and reports have linked him with the Yorkshire side. This seems like a no-brainer for both player and club but we’ll have to wait and see.
Warrington Wolves: Josh Drinkwater
The Wolves left a huge hint when they revealed their 2023 squad numbers, with the number seven jersey being left vacant. Reports heavily suggest that Josh Drinkwater will be the man to take the spot. The Catalans star is still contracted with the Dragons but was dropped at the end of last year due to poor performances. Drinkwater has been told to look for another club and the Halliwell Jones Stadium could be the perfect fit.
Wigan Warriors: Luke Gale
Another very left-field shout, but Wigan currently have just Cade Cust and Harry Smith as halfbacks. Gale would add experience and leadership to a team that has just lost Tommy Leuluai from their playing group. The former Man of Steel could slot nicely into the gap left by the Kiwi international, while also providing strong backup to the current first choice halves. With most teams already completing their business for next season, there aren’t many options available, even more so if no quota spots are free.