The Championship has seen recruitment like never before ahead of the 2023 season with not just the sheer number of signings but also the quality of those signings and it’s primed us for what looks set to be the highest quality campaign in Championship memory.
With plenty of Super League veterans, World Cup stars and stars of the future having joined the Championship ranks ahead of 2023 here’s our 17 man squad built just using new signings for 2023.
The only requirements for the squad are that each one of the 14 Championship sides must be represented with 13 separate sides featuring in the starting line-up.
Full-back: Jack Walker – Bradford Bulls
The difficulty in this task is that sometimes you have to select players tactically to accommodate others but slotting Jack Walker in at full-back for this combined squad was a no-brainer. With the pedigree of 70 Super League appearances including a start in a Grand Final the former Rhinos and Hull FC 23-year-old was a shoe-in for this squad.
Winger: Jake Maizen – Halifax Panthers
The Championship has seen lots of very good wingers sign on for this year, with arguably the best winger signing this season, Ben Crooks, relegated to this ‘all-star’ bench on account of one of of his teammates starting. However the Italian international Maizen is a close second for the best winger signing having impressed at the World Cup where he scored four tries in three games.
Centre: Elliot Kear – Batley Bulldogs
Whilst Kear likely hasn’t been recruited to play centre for Batley, that’s the position he’ll assume in this side. The versatile 34-year-old brings experience at Super League and international level as well with the Welsh captain certainly capable of playing centre, and could have maybe assumed the six shirt in this team as he did for Wales at the World Cup.
Centre: Ethan Natoli – London Broncos
Another World Cup star who has signed for the 2023 Championship campaign having spent his career in the New South Wales Cup to date. The 27-year-old brings will be able to partner his Italian teammate winger Jake Maizen in this squad as well.
Winger: Kieran Dixon – Widnes Vikings
The selection for Widnes was a tough one as when one player shifts position it causes a huge domino effect but the paceman Kieran Dixon will operate on the wing. Having played for many sides he’s best known for his time with Hull KR and London Broncos and has tallied an impressive 62 tries in 104 Super League games so is more than worthy of his spot in this side.
Stand-off: Thomas Lacans – Featherstone Rovers
Lacans was one of the few players who is actually adept at playing this position and therefore also wins the spot by default, however that doesn’t take away from the 22-year-old’s talent. With a chance to now develop under Sean Long, who he has worked with in the French set-up before, Lacans could find himself as one of the stars of the division.
Scrum-half: Luke Gale – Keighley Cougars
Realistically this man was the first name on the team sheet. At what level he remains and with what attitude he’ll take into the Championship is yet to be seen but Gale is simply impossible to ignore. There really doesn’t have to be much of an explanation for his inclusion.
Prop: Robert Tuliatu – Newcastle Thunder
Another one of this squad’s World Cup stars is the prop Tuliatu. Having joined the Chris Thorman led revolution up at Newcastle where there’s been an incredible 15 signings it could have been a case of working out who was most deserving. But with his maiden World Cup campaign with Greece fresh in the memory coupled strong performances at London last season he earns a spot in this squad.
Hooker: Josh Eaves – Swinton Lions
Whilst there was an obvious choice for the other promoted team with the huge signing of Luke Gale for the Cougars it was more a case of which player fit the bill for fellow promotion side Swinton. The man who fills that role is former St Helens youth product Josh Eaves who having committed to Whitehaven made a U-turn to join the promoted Swinton.
Prop: Sitaleki Akauola – Toulouse Olympique
The Championship is absolutely stacked with props this year it seems which makes the position one that is incredibly competitive but the Super League pedigree and one cap for Tonga that Akauola brings earns him a spot in this side. A number eight and ten combination of Tuliatu and Akauola is one to be feared.
Second-row: Ukuma Ta’ai – York City Knights
Whilst prop was a position that was incredibly deep the second-row was a position that hasn’t been heavily recruited but none the less the veteran Tongan who made 181 Super League appearances for Huddersfield Giants is a great addition for the Knights and this team.
Second-row: Daniel Spencer-Tonks – Whitehaven
Whitehaven are a side who openly admitted over the festive period that 2022 was an incredibly difficult year for them and that the club almost went under and as such recruitment hasn’t seen the quality of the likes of other sides. That being said the addition of Salford’s Spencer-Tonks is a brilliant one albeit a late bloomer. Debuting in Super League at age 27 he made an impression in his one game with nine carries for 83 yards and an impressive 27 tackles.
Loose Forward: Greg Burke – Barrow Raiders
Another former Salford Red Devil in this side that has signed up with a Cumbrian team is Greg Burke. The 29-year-old wouldn’t be the first choice number 13, that honour goes to a Featherstone man on the bench who has also arrived from Salford, but Burke is incredibly talented for this level having coming through at Wigan and totalled 132 Super League appearances.
Bench: Aaron Murphy – Sheffield Eagles
The one side not to have a starter in this freshly signed squad but that doesn’t deter from the quality that Murphy brings to Sheffield. The 34-year-old is almost a victim of his versatility and therefore becomes the perfect bench player that can fill in at a number of positions and has a knack for scoring too with 83 tries across his 234 Super League appearances.
Bench: Ben Crooks – Keighley Cougars
Another of promoted Keighley’s hugely impressive signings is Ben Crooks with the former Hull KR still having plenty left in the tank at just 29-years-old.
Bench: Kyle Amor – Widnes Vikings
One player who might have slightly less in the tank is the 35-year-old veteran Kyle Amor with the St Helens’ legend having joined Widnes. On account of the depth of props in the division he only makes the bench but his impact for short stints would be incredible in this side.
Bench: Elijah Taylor – Featherstone Rovers
Unlucky not to make the starting 13 but for the necessity of young Thomas Lacans to start in the halves is former Salford Red Devils captain Elijah Taylor. Rovers promotion push will almost certainly benefit from his presence and were it not for the team requirements outlining one player per team to start then Taylor would have been among the first names in the starting 13.
Head Coach: Sean Long – Featherstone Rovers
It might be cheating a little bit here to add in a third member of the promotion hopefuls Featherstone but the former Man of Steel takes up the coaching role for Rovers this season and finds himself leading this time of new signings.
Championship 2023 Signing All-Star Squad:
1. Brad Walker
2. Jake Maizen
3: Elliot Kear
4: Ethan Natoli
5: Kieran Dixon
6: Thomas Lacans
7: Luke Gales
8: Robert Tuliatu
9: Josh Eaves
10: Sitaleki Akaualo
11: Ukuma Ta’ai
12: Daniel Spencer-Tonks
13: Greg Burke
14: Aaron Murphy
15: Ben Crooks
16: Kyle Amor
17: Elijah Taylor