With the new Super League campaign just weeks away, it’s time to start gearing up towards the start of the campaign. Now is the time to make predictions about who is going to catch the eye in 2021 and who will be the major success stories of 2021. With that in mind, let’s consider every club’s transfer business heading into 2021.
Castleford Tigers: 9/10
In: In: Niall Evalds (Salford Red Devils), Suaia Matagi (loan), Jordan Turner (both Huddersfield Giants), Lewis Bienek (Hull FC), Gareth O’Brien (loan to permanent).
Out: Mike McMeeken (Catalans Dragons), Bailey Hodgson (Newcastle Knights), Lewis Carr (Dewsbury Rams), Dan Fleming (Bradford Bulls), Robbie Storey (Caracassonne), Calum Turner (Newcastle Thunder), Matt Cook (Widnes Vikings), Joe Summers, Jacob Doyle, Junior Moors (Featherstone Rovers), Jack Sanderson (released.
Where Castleford’s business excels is the quality they’ve brought in. Since, the controversial departure of Zak Hardaker, the Tigers have struggled for a settled fullback but in Niall Evalds have drafted in one of Super League’s best number 1s in recent years and a man with major final experience. They’ve added depth in that position by making O’Brien’s deal permanent whilst also adding quality in the shape of Matagi and Turner exploiting the high turn over of players at Huddersfield. They have lost one or two stars including Grand Finalist Mike McMeeken but in general the departures have helped freshen up their squad whilst giving new starts to their former players.
Catalans Dragons: 6/10
In: Gil Dudson (Salford Red Devils), Mike McMeeken (Castleford Tigers), Dean Whare (Penrith Panthers).
Out: Antoni Maria, Sam Moa (Both Lezignan), Lucas Albert, Mickael Simon (Carcassone), Remi Casty (Toulouse Olympique), David Mead (Brisbane Broncos), Gavin Marguerite (Villeneuve), Lewis Tierney (Leigh Centurions).
For a club who have become famous for their high-profile Australian recruits, this off-season has been remarkably quiet. They’ve brought in quality second-rower Mike McMeeken from Super League rivals Castleford and have drafted in major recruit from down under the shape of New Zealand international Dane Whare. However, his arrival is largely down to the impending departure of Israel Folau with the Australian set for a move to the NRL and not awarded a squad number. On the other side of the coin a lot of players have left Catalans many of whom have had superb tenures at the French club and I can’t help but wonder if it’ll leave them light especially in the pack although Gil Dudson has been brought in to address that area.
Huddersfield Giants: 10/10
In: Jack Ashworth (St Helens), James Cunningham (Toronto Wolfpack), Ricky Leutele (Melbourne Storm), George Roby (Warrington Wolves), Jack Cogger (Canterbury Bulldogs), Joe Greenwood (Wigan Warriors), Josh Jones (Hull FC), Luke Yates (Salford Red Devils), Olly Ashall-Bolt (London Broncos).
Out: Suaia Matagi (loan), Jordan Turner, (both Castleford Tigers), Dom Young (Newcastle Knights), Reiss Butterworth (Dewsbury Rams), Adam Walne (Barrow Raiders), Travis Corion (Sheffield Eagles), Ben Tibbs (Halifax Panthers), Brandon Moore (Halifax Panthers, end of loan), Sam Hewitt (Halifax Panthers, loan), Tom Holmes (Featherstone Rovers), Innes Senior (Wakefield Trinity, loan) Akuila Uate (retired), Oliver Roberts (Salford Red Devils), Sebastine Ikahihifo (Salford Red Devils, loan), Aaron Murphy (Bradford Bulls), Ukuma Ta’ai (Newcastle Thunder).
Huddersfield has perhaps had the most exciting off-season in Super League. Many people now see the Giants as 2021’s dark horse for Super League success. Arguably their biggest recruit was coach Ian Watson who has added some exciting players to his squad. The superb Luke Yates – one of 2020’s most underrated forwards – followed him from Salford whilst depth in the halves has been established in Cogger and Cunningham. A class act has been drafted in at centre in the shape of Ricky Leutele who impressed for Toronto last season. Meanwhile Josh Jones has been reunited with his former boss after a difficult stint at Hull with the promise that his coach will again get the best out of him. The size and quality he’ll bring to the back row will be matched by former Wigan man Joe Greenwood. Without a doubt the Giants have given their squad superb depth and quality. Their recruitment will likely see them in the hunt for play-off rugby.
Hull FC: 5/10
In: Josh Reynolds (Wests Tigers).
Out: Ratu Naulago (Bristol Bears RU), Lewis Bienek (Castleford Tigers), Liam Harris (Halifax Panthers), Ryan Johnson (Sheffield Eagles), Kieran Buchanan (Batley Bulldogs), Gareth Ellis (retired), Albert Kelly, Charlie Patterson-Lund (released), Charlie Graham (Keighley Cougars), Josh Jones (Huddersfield Giants).
I was a little disappointed with Hull FC’s recruitment this year. All they’ve done is replace the dynamic Albert Kelly – who has been given a chance at Brisbane Broncos – with Josh Reynolds. Now Reynolds is a class act but I’m concerned he might be a bit too similar to Marc Sneyd. He could still prove to be a very savvy signing however. The Black and Whites have allowed some stars to depart and gain opportunities elsewhere. Thus, Hull will be relying on their 2020 signings and hoping they kick on under a new coach.
Hull KR: 8/10
In: Albert Vete (Melbourne Storm), Ryan Hall (Sydney Roosters), Korbin Sims (St George Illawarra Dragons), Muizz Mustapha (Leeds Rhinos, loan), Luis Johnson (Warrington Wolves), Brad Takairangi (Parramatta Eels).
Out: Jamie Ellis, Matty Gee, Ryan Brierley, Nathaniel Peteru (all Leigh Centurions), Harvey Livett (Warrington Wolves, end of loan), Mitch Garbutt (Toulouse Olympique), Dan Murray, Nick Rawsthorne (Halifax Panthers), Adam Rooks (Bradford Bulls), Will Oakes (Dewsbury Rams), Elliot Wallis (Bradford Bulls, loan), Kyle Trout (Limoux), Weller Hauraki (retired), Robbie Mulhern (Warrington Wolves).
It was a shame to see a class act like Robbie Mulhern leave Hull KR but at Warrington he may evolve into a top class prop. Meanwhile, the Robins themselves have brought in some exciting players especially from Australia with Brad Takairangi and Korbin Sims catching the eye. Also, in Ryan Hall they have one of Super League’s best ever wingers, a proven try scorer and a 6 time grand Final winner. He’ll no doubt be itching to prove himself.
Leeds Rhinos: 7/10
In: Bodene Thompson (loan to permanent), Zane Tetevano (Penrith Panthers), King Vuniyayawa (New Zealand Warriors), Kyle Eastmond (rugby union).
Out: Adam Cuthbertson (York City Knights), Rhys Evans (Bradford Bulls), Wellington Albert (Keighley Cougars), Tyler Dupree (Oldham), Harvey Spence, Loui McConnell (Featherstone Rovers), Brett Ferres, James Harrison (Featherstone Rovers, end of loan), Muizz Mustapha (Hull KR, loan), Stevie Ward, Dom Crosby (both retired), Ava Seumanufagai (released).
Leeds have added some real class to their pack ahead of next season. The permanent signing of Bodene Thompson is a smart bit of business given his form at the end of last season whilst King Vuniyayawa will be looking to take the opportunity Leeds have given him. The headline signing is for sure New Zealand international Zane Tetevano. Having played in the last two NRL Grand Finals, the big prop is a class act who leads teams to success and the Rhinos will be hoping he can do the same at Headingley. However, the loss of Ava Seamanufagai along with other forwards does leave their pack lacking a bit of depth and they will have to rely on youngsters like Tom Holroyd this season. Meanwhile, the Rhinos have also caught the eye by bringing in former Saints star Kyle Eastmond from rugby union. Given his absence from the sport, it’s hard to tell just how good of a signing this is but with the injury concerns over at Headingley, it’s an important signing as it provides depth to key positions.
Leigh Centurions: 7/10
In: Jamie Ellis, Matty Gee, Ryan Brierley, Nathaniel Peteru (all Hull KR), Adam Sidlow, Joe Mellor, Matty Russell, Blake Wallace (all Toronto Wolfpack), Ben Flower, Craig Mullen (both Wigan Warriors), James Bell (Toulouse Olympique), Keanan Brand (Warrington Wolves, loan), Lewis Tierney (Catalans Dragons) Tyrone McCarthy (Salford Red Devils), Brendan Elliot (Manly See Eagles).
Out: Martyn Ridyard, Liam Forsyth, Sam Brooks (all Swinton Lions), Gregg McNally (Whitehaven), Ben Reynolds (Toulouse Olympique), Callum Field (Featherstone Rovers), Ryan Ince (Oldham), Brad Holroyd (Workington Town), Adam Walker (released), Danny Addy (Salford Red Devils), Ryan Shaw (Barrow Raiders), Josh Woods (Wigan Warriors, end of loan) Adam Higson, Andy Thornley (released).
Making the leap back into Super League, it was important that Leigh padded their squad with plenty of players with Super League experience. The Centurions have done that bringing in the likes of Grand Final winner Ben Flower as well Matty Russell and Ryan Brierly along with a whole host of ex-Hull KR and ex-Toronto players. They should have a squad capable of challenging every side next season thanks to their recruitment. They’ve a decent sized pack and players capable of scoring such as Ryan Brierly who in his previous stint at Leigh scored more than a try per game on average.
Salford Red Devils: 7/10
In: Morgan Escare, Joe Burgess, Jack Wells (both Wigan Warriors), Sebastine Ikahihifo, (Huddersfield Giants, loan), Oliver Roberts (Huddersfield Giants) Sam Luckley (Newcastle Thunder), Matty Costello (St Helens), Declan Patton, Harvey Livett (Warrington Wolves), Danny Addy (Leigh Centurions), Elijah Taylor (Wests Tigers), Darcy Lussick (Toronto Wolfpack).
Out: Joey Lussick (Parramatta Eels), Niall Evalds (Castleford Tigers), Gil Dudson (Catalans Dragons), Connor Jones, Kris Welham (both Featherstone Rovers), Luis Roberts (Swinton Lions), Mark Flanagan (retired), Luke Yates (Huddersfield Giants), Ed Chamberlain (London Broncos, loan) Tyrone McCarthy (Leigh Centurions) Olly Ashall-Bolt (London Broncos, end of loan) Tom Gilmore (Halifax Panthers, end of loan) Mark Flanagan (retired).
Sadly, Salford once again saw some of their best players pinched by rivals after a successful season. Following in the footsteps of Josh Jones and Jackson Hastings in 2019, stars like Evalds and Yates have departed. But to Salford’s credit they’ve replaced them with quality players. Morgan Escare is a superb fullback deserving of playing more rugby than he has over the last couple of seasons. Meanwhile Declan Patton resembles the future of their halves when Kevin Brown retires. It should also be said that Darcy Lussick’s arrival lessens the blow of big departures in the middle. However, it is a shame to see Joe Burgess struck by injury so early into his Salford career because he was perhaps their most exciting signing.
St Helens: 8/10
In: Joel Thompson (Manly Sea Eagles), Agnatius Paasi (New Zealand Warriors), Sione Mata’utia (Newcastle Knights), Dan Norman (London Broncos).
Out: Joseph Paulo, Dom Peyroux (both Toulouse Olympique), Jack Ashworth (Huddersfield Giants), Callum Hazzard, Cam Brown (both North Wales Crusaders), James Graham, Zeb Taia (retired), Matty Costello (Salford Red Devils), Joe Sharratt (Barrow Raiders).
St Helens have smartly revamped their back-row following the departures of Zeb Taia and Dom Peyroux. In truth this was the only area Saints needed to look at. They’ve brought in some real quality including Australia’s youngest ever international in the shape of Sione Mata’utia. However, if I were them I’d have brought in another prop to fill the void left by Luke Thompson and James Graham. Instead the Saints have trusted what they already have and a couple less high-profile signings. Not a bad move but will it come off?
Wakefield Trinity: 6/10
In: Mason Lino (Newcastle Knights), Innes Senior (Huddersfield Giants, loan), Eddie Battye (London Broncos).
Out: Ryan Atkins, Ben Jones-Bishop, Danny Kirmond, Daniel Barcoe, Harry Dodd (all York City Knights), Danny Brough (Bradford Bulls), Craig Kopczak (Featherstone Rovers), Connor Bailey (Newcastle Thunder, loan), Tony Gigot (Avignon), Titus Gwaze (London Broncos), Romain Navarrete (Wigan Warriors, end of loan).
Wakefield have seen far more players leave than join over the winter. Not necessarily a bad thing as they try and settle their squad ahead of the 2021 season. The players they’ve brought in are exciting too. I still fancy Innes Senior to be a future England winger whilst Samoan international Mason Lino will add to their attack from the halves. However, I can’t help but wonder if they could’ve bolstered their squad a little more.
Warrington Wolves: 7/10
In: Greg Inglis (free agent), Rob Butler (London Broncos), Robbie Mulhern (Hull KR).
Out: Ben Murdoch-Masila (New Zealand Warriors), Reece Hamlet (Bradford Bulls), Callum Green (Oldham), George Roby (Huddersfield Giants), Anthony Gelling, Leilani Latu (released), Luis Johnson (Hull KR), Harvey Livett, Declan Patton (Salford Red Devils), Samy Kibula (Newcastle Thunder, loan), Keanan Brand (Leigh Centurions, loan), Riley Dean (York City Knights, loan).
Like Wakefield, Warrington have seen a lot of players leave. I’m disappointed to see Ben Murdoch-Masila lost to Australia whilst I expect both Harvey Livett and Declan Patton to realise their potential at Salford. That said, Warrington have made two very exciting signings themselves. You might not believe me when I say this but the signing at Warrington I’m most excited to see is Robbie Mulhern. He’s impressed at Hull KR and at Warrington I expect him to kick on. But of course Greg Inglis will be a super signing for Super League given his superb history in the NRL and for Australia. However, having been retired for so long it’ll be interesting to see just how good he is now.
Wigan Warriors: 7/10
In: John Bateman (Canberra Raiders), Jai Field (Parramatta Eels).
Out: Morgan Escare, Joe Burgess, Jack Wells (Salford Red Devils), Harry Rushton (Canberra Raiders), Craig Mullen, Ben Flower (both Leigh Centurions), Nathan Wilde, Cian Tyrer, Jake Shorrocks, Josh Woods (all Newcastle Thunder), Max Roberts, James Barran, Ben Holcroft (all Oldham), Sean O’Loughlin (retired), Jack Wells (Salford Red Devils), Joe Greenwood (Huddersfield Giants), Chris Hankinson (London Broncos, loan), Romain Navarette (London Broncos), Amir Bourouh (Halifax Panthers, loan), George Burgess (released on medical grounds), Sean O’Loughlin (retired).
Wigan have only signed two players going into 2021 and have let a lot of players depart as they place their faith into young stars. In John Bateman, they’ve brought back one of the best British players around and perhaps the very best back-rower on the planet. He’ll replace what Sean O’Loughlin brought to the Warriors without a doubt. Joining him at Wigan is the exciting Jai Field. He could very well take Super League by storm but is currently unproven. However, the Warriors might rue not bringing in a prop following the departure of George Burgess.