Next is our ‘top five’ series we rank the five biggest transfers to have taken place between two Super League clubs since the competition started in 1996. The list factors in player reputation, publicity, club rivalry and money.
5. Iestyn Harris – Warrington to Leeds (1997)
Leeds brought the Welsh Wizard to Headingley from Warrington for a record fee of £350,000 in 1997. Soon enough Harris was a hero to the Rhinos faithful as he captained the club in his first full season at the age of 21. He was named Man of Steel in 1998 before leading Leeds to Wembley glory in 1999 and the inaugural Grand Final a year earlier. His high-profile exit to rugby union came in 2001 when he joined Cardiff RFC for £1.5m.
4. Paul Sculthorpe – Warrington to St Helens (1997)
In the same season they lost Iestyn Harris to Leeds Rhinos, Warrington also sold future back-to-back Man of Steel winner and Great Britain captain Paul Sculthorpe to St Helens for £375,000. He quickly became a legend at Saints and was the competition’s best player for a sustained period, winning every domestic honour available. The Wolves decision to let Sculthorpe leave is probably one they still regret to this day.
3. Paul Cooke – Hull FC to Hull KR (2007)
This transfer rocked rugby league as two years after guiding Hull to Challenge Cup glory, Paul Cooke walked out of his contract to join his boyhood club on the east side of the city. The story got more complex when the RFL banned him for six games at the start of the 2008 season, finding him guilty of misconduct for approaching Hull KR while still under contract to the Black and Whites. The Hull derbies in 2007 were something to behold and the transfer is still a huge topic of debate in Hull today.
2. Jamie Peacock – Bradford to Leeds (2006)
Having played a huge part in Bradford’s domination of Super League throughout the late nineties and early noughties, Jamie Peacock’s move to arch-rivals Leeds stunned the rugby league world. JP lifted the Super League trophy as captain in his final game for the Bulls, ironically against Leeds, but his transfer across West Yorkshire would mark a huge shift in power. The Rhinos went on to have an unrivalled period of success, with Peacock winning 12 major trophies as he became Super League’s most successful player.
1. Stuart Fielden – Bradford to Wigan (2006)
Fielden’s move to Wigan came at a time when he was rated as one of the world’s best props in a dominant Bradford team. The Warriors were struggling in Super League and flirting with relegation before the Great Britain forward arrived for a world record fee of £450,000. Fielden helped steer them to safety but it was revealed the following season that the big-money transfer sent Wigan over the salary cap, resulting in a four-point deduction in 2007. Incredibly, just four years after his arrival at the club, Wigan were Super League champions by the end of the 2010 season.