With the regular season now over, we thought we’d list who we think have been the six best signings this year.
1. Lachlan Coote (St Helens)
Coote had big shoes to fill coming in at the start of this season. He was recruited to replace last year’s Man of Steel Ben Barba and has arguably done a better job altogether. While Barba was a superb support runner who played primarily off instincts, Coote’s approach has fit in much better with Saints’ slick, structured style and he clicked with Jonny Lomax and Theo Fages instantly. As the St Helens faithful love to sing – he’s the reason…
Top stats: 22 try assists, 68 attacking kicks, 95 goals
2. Zak Hardaker (Wigan Warriors)
It’s been a big year for Hardaker. He’s always been a player with immense talent but has seemed to waste it with his off-field exploits. This year, though, he’s been one of catalysts behind Wigan’s successful push for a second-place finish, which is especially impressive given it’s his first season back after a 16-month drugs ban. His elusive running and solid defence have helped the Warriors win 12 of their last 13 games.
Top stats: 147 tackle busts, 414 carries, 3074 metres
3. Ratu Naulago (Hull FC)
A year ago, if you’d have asked any rugby league fan who Ratu Naulago was, they’d have had no idea. Now, though, he’s probably one of Super League’s most dangerous wingers. A mortarman in the British Army, the 28-year-old is still on special leave to play for the Black and Whites. His strength, speed and finishing ability makes him one of the most effective strike weapons in the league and it’s fair to say he’s been the find of the season.
Top stats: 13 tries, 25 clean breaks, 66 tackle busts
4. Luke Yates (London Broncos)
The former Newcastle Knights forward was another virtual unknown when the Broncos signed him back in December. His no-nonsense attitude and tireless work in defence, however, soon made him a firm fan favourite in the capital. Him and stand-off Jordan Abdull have been the club’s best two players in 2019 and are partly the reason for club upsetting the odds in the way they did. Ultimately it just wasn’t enough and Yates isn’t likely to be at the Broncos next season. But whoever snaps him up will be getting one hell of a player.
Top stats: 1211 tackles, 222 marker tackles, 284 carries
5. Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves)
Austin was, perhaps, the most high-profile signing ahead of 2019. The 28-year-old joined Warrington after an impressive career in the NRL, which included being named 2015 Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year. He’s certainly lived up to his billing as a maverick player and has produced several match-winning plays this season. An ankle injury has knocked him back somewhat and has likely cost him the Man of Steel award, and that’s the reason he’s fifth in this list.
Top stats: 18 tries, 115 tackle busts, 29 clean breaks
6. Konrad Hurrell (Leeds Rhinos)
Hurrell has become a cult hero since arriving at Headingley, with his infectious enthusiasm capturing fans’ imaginations since he stepped off the plane. Aside from that, though, the 16 stone centre has had the Rhinos’ faithful in raptures on plenty of occasions for his exploits on the field. Hurrell’s barnstorming runs and sheer power are similar to that of Lesley Vainikolo, while he possesses the soft hands of a Matt Gidley-type player, highlighted by Ash Handley’s impressive try tally. The Tongan international has set Super League alight this year and will hopefully continue to do the same in the future.
Top stats: 2925 metres, 138 tackle busts, 13 tries
Notable mentions: Sam Tomkins (Catalan Dragons), Kevin Naiqama (St Helens), Krisnan Inu (Salford Red Devils), Jordan Abdull (London Broncos), Rob Lui (Leeds Rhinos), Tui Lolohea (Salford Red Devils), Joe Bullock (Wigan Warriors), Rhyse Martin (Leeds Rhinos), Kelepi Tanginoa (Wakefield Trinity)