Once a team gets relegated, the vultures circle – it’s a natural “survival of the fittest” outcome.
From time to time, relegated Super League clubs have unearthed gems that go on to be incredible top-flight stars.
But, just who are the best players ever signed from relegated Super League clubs?
Denny Solomona – London Broncos
The flying winger had joined London ahead of the 2014 Super League season from NRL side Melbourne Storm, having an immediate impact in his first year in the British game. With ten tries in 21 appearances, Solomona had impressed Castleford boss Daryl Powell enough to earn a contract at the Jungle, despite the Broncos’ relegation from the top-flight that year. That proved to be a masterstroke as the New Zealander crossed the line 60 times in 45 games before a controversial departure to rugby union somewhat tarnished Solomona’s image in the 13-a-side code.
Andy Lynch – Castleford Tigers
After debuting for Castleford in 1999, Andy Lynch became one of the Tigers’ most important players at such a young age. Named in the Super League Dream Team in 2003 as well as scooping up the Tigers’ Players’ Players of the Year award, the prop froward earned an England call-up whilst at the Jungle. Following 137 appearances and Castleford’s relegation, Lynch moved to Bradford where he established himself as one of the leading front-rowers in the competition. He won a Super League title with the Bulls in 2005 as well as a World Club Challenge the year after before making the move to Hull FC in 2012 where he was named captain. A renaissance with the Tigers in 2014 saw the prop help guide the West Yorkshire club to Wembley with Lynch hanging up his boots in 2017.
Willie Manu – Castleford Tigers
Another Castleford star to make this list, Willie Manu arrived in England in 2006 after spells in the NRL with Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra. The powerful forward’s impact was hugely significant even though the Tigers endured a second relegation in just three seasons, yet Manu had definitely put his face in the shop window. A move to Hull FC came about after just one season at the Jungle, but the Tongan international went on to make 165 appearances for the Airlie Birds as well as another 43 for St Helens when he left Humberside in 2013.
Luke Gale – Bradford Bulls
The fourth signing to have a link with Castleford, Luke Gale was Bradford’s talisman as they headed into the 2014 season. But, off the field the Bulls were struggling and a six-point deduction for entering administration doomed the West Yorkshire club to relegation. That demise was the Tigers’ gain as Gale was signed by head coach Daryl Powell and from there became one of the greatest halfbacks in Super League. Winning the Man of Steel in 2017 as well as other numerous individual accolades such as the Rugby League Writers’ Player of the Year, Gale’s transformation was incredible. A move to boyhood club Leeds ahead of the 2020 season may have soured his reputation amongst the Castleford faithful, but the halfback proved Powell’s gamble was a calculated one. Gale has since moved on to Hull FC – where the last one in this list made a name for himself.
Albert Kelly – Hull KR
Following an incredible end to the 2016 Super League season – with Hull KR losing in Golden Point to Salford – Albert Kelly swapped East Hull for the West after 23 tries in 43 appearances for Rovers. The elusive halfback settled in superbly at the KC Stadium, helping to guide the Airlie Birds to another Challenge Cup success in 2017. With 40 tries in 67 appearances, Kelly left Hull at the end of 2020 after four seasons at the club, but he was revered greatly amongst the Hull faithful and will forever be remembered for his maverick style of play.