Changing clubs is an inevitability in sport, especially in a salary capped sport. At some stage all clubs have to let go of their best players even the Champions.
Going into this season, the player movement was some of the most interesting we’ve seen in recent years with players joining rival clubs, returning to former teams and a halfback merry-go-round to sink our teeth into.
But now that we’re well into the season, we’re looking back at the departures that each club will have regretted the most in 2022.
Castleford Tigers: Michael Shenton
There wasn’t much Castleford could have done to stop this departure. When a career comes to an end it comes to an end, but there can be no denying that the Tigers could do have done with his leadership in 2022 to try and dig them out of their inconsistency. Furthermore, their injuries in the backs would be alleviated by his presence in the side. It also could be said that the Tigers have missed out on his wider impact on the club as he moved to Hull FC. Would his personality and affiliation with the club be best served at the Jungle.
Catalans Dragons: James Maloney
It’s taken Mitchell Pearce time to adjust to life at Catalans and he is really finding his feet becoming the top-class halfback we all knew he would be based on his glittering career down under. Despite that, the Dragons were always going to miss James Maloney. Perhaps their finest ever halfback, he was the reason for their recent success guiding them to their first ever Grand Final in 2021. He left big shoes to fill but Pearce is starting to fill them.
Huddersfield Giants: James Gavet
It’s hard to say that Huddersfield have missed any player who went through the exit door in 2021. They’ve padded out their squad so well and played so brilliantly this season that the players who left are probably the ones with the more regrets. In the end, I’ve gone with James Gavet who was always a useful player for the Giants to call upon given his size. A player like him is always handy.
Hull FC: Marc Sneyd
Hull’s halfbacks have had a tough old year. Neither Josh Reynolds nor Luke Gale have been able to string a number of appearances together not being able to build consistency into their games. So, perhaps they’re regretting allowing Marc Sneyd – a Hull FC legend for winning back-to-back Lance Todd trophies – to leave. Even if they’d have kept him as part of the squad, Hull’s halfback problems would have been less pronounced.
Hull KR: George Lawler
Hull KR’s pack seems to be constantly changing as players pick up the odd injury here and there. It is this which compounds the loss of George Lawler who is a brilliant all-round forward with size, work rate and skill which Castleford are using well to expand their attack.
Leeds Rhinos: Luke Gale
Almost everything has gone wrong for Leeds in 2022. Their attack has mostly been blunt, their halfbacks are yet to settle and one of them has spent a long time out injured. All of this could have been avoided had they kept Luke Gale. A Leeds Rhinos hero for his Challenge Cup heroics in 2020 and a terrific leader, he could have maintained a touch of stability in the spine and given Leeds some sharpness in attack especially following the injury to Aidan Sezer. After all the original plan for Leeds was to run with all three halfbacks in 2022 which could have been very useful given Sezer’s predicament. It has to be said Blake Austin has really stepped up, and maybe Sezer will too upon his return from injury.
Salford Red Devils: Tui Lolohea
The way Tui Lolohea has taken to life at Huddersfield, any team would regret letting him leave. He’s been brilliant at fullback for the Giants guiding them to the Challenge Cup Final with some massive moments scoring and creating tries.
St Helens: Theo Fages
When St Helens let Theo Fages go, you couldn’t blame them the way Lewis Dodd was playing. However, the injury to Dodd and the lack of cover in this area has left Kristian Woolf struggling for a solution as they have to deal without Dodd for the rest of the season. Perhaps keeping Fages or Lachlan Coote would have been smart in alleviating the pressure on the spine when injuries occur.
Toulouse Olympique: Johnathan Ford
This was always going to be a toss up between Mark Kheirallah and Johnathan Ford. In the end I’ve gone with Ford due to how quickly Kheirallah was replaced by the arrival of Olly Ashall-Bott who has been brilliant for the French side. Only now through the arrival of Corey Norman has Ford been properly replaced and Norman arrives at the club with them bottom of the league.
Wakefield Trinity: Joe Westerman
Joe Westerman was outstanding for Wakefield last season and has been again at Castleford this year. He’s given the Tigers an extra dimension in attack and this has been something the struggling Trinity have sorely lacked as they slipped down the table.
Warrington Wolves: Chris Hill
At Huddersfield, Chris Hill has rediscovered his best form leading the Giants pack and making metres galore. Meanwhile, Warrington have struggled in the middle in 2022 even calling upon Kyle Amor on loan. This epitomises how much they’ve missed Hill as they’ve been forced to draft in Amor – a similar player at a similar stage in his career to Hill – to fill the void.
Wigan Warriors: Oliver Gildart
Like the other in form sides this season, Wigan haven’t sorely missed any of the players they allowed to leave last season with their replacements stepping up brilliantly like Cade Cust. However, I’ve gone for Oliver Gildart due to the lack of options Wigan now have at centre following Kai Pearce-Paul’s injury and Zak Hardaker’s departure. Having another top centre would have benefited them greatly.