At points throughout the Super League era, owners have splashed the cash in an attempt to gain the ascendancy in the competition.
Sometimes, that has worked but other times it hasn’t. However, whether they have been successful or not, the signings have certainly made other teams sit up and take note.
Here are the ten most expensive signings in the Super League era.
10. Joe Westerman – Warrington to Toronto (2017)
With Toronto Wolfpack making waves ahead of their first season in the Championship in 2018, Joe Westerman was a star signing which set the club back £130,000. Incredibly, less than six months into a three-year deal and the loose-forward was allowed to leave for free in April 2018, having only made four appearances for the club. Westerman returned to Hull FC where he had played the best rugby of his career.
9. Zak Hardaker – Leeds to Castleford (2017)
Hardaker was put on the unwanted list at Headingley due to his action off the pitch. Castleford took a punt on the troubled full-back as they signed him on loan prior to paying a £150,000 fee, a move that looked like great value as the season unfolded. Castleford stormed to their first ever League Leaders’ Shield and looked unstoppable, only for Hardaker to fail a drugs test on the eve of the Grand Final as Castleford ironically lost to Leeds at Old Trafford.
8. Joe Westerman – Hull FC to Warrington (2015)
Another £150,000 splashed out by a Super League side, and yet again it was spent on Joe Westerman, this time by Warrington who secured the services of Yorkshire star from Hull FC. The playmaker had registered 126 appearances for the black-and-whites before he made the move across the Pennines. Unfortunately, the big-money price tag didn’t really help and Westerman left for Toronto after just two seasons at the Halliwell Jones.
7. Ben Murdoch-Masila – Salford to Warrington (2017)
Salford’s Ben Murdoch-Masila had been part of the 2016 side that got to the Challenge Cup semi-finals and played 60 games before Warrington swooped for the Tongan powerhouse in 2017. Signing a three-year deal in a transfer worth £175,000, Murdoch-Masila stayed at Warrington for the entirety of his contract before leaving to join the New Zealand Warriors ahead of the 2021 season.
6. Daryl Clark – Castleford to Warrington (2014)
After winning the Man of Steel for the Tigers in 2014, star man Daryl Clark was sold to Warrington. It was, however, a deal concluded back in 2013 when Castleford were on the brink of administration and then chief executive Steve Gill moved to secure the club’s future. £185,000 later and Clark was a Wolf – and he hasn’t looked back since, playing a key role in Warrington’s Challenge Cup success in 2019.
5. Martin Gleeson – St Helens to Warrington (2005)
After his involvement in the infamous 2004 betting scandal, Saints sold Martin Gleeson to Warrington for £200,000. The Great Britain centre had become Super League’s best centre prior to the move and the transfer underlined the Wolves intent to challenge for honours. Gleeson quickly repaid the club record transfer by scoring 17 tries in his first season, which concluded with his inclusion in the Super League Dream Team.
4. Paul Newlove – Bradford to St Helens (1995)
On the eve of Super League’s inaugural season, Saints secured a record-breaking deal for Paul Newlove. In November 1995, they paid £250,000 to land the Great Britain international and it turned out to be money well spent. The following season Newlove helped defeat his former club at Wembley, with Saints securing the double in a dominant season. He went on to win three more Super League titles with Saints, making the Bulls rue his departure.
3. 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.
2. Paul Sculthorpe – Warrington to St Helens (1997)
In the same season they lost Iestyn Harris, 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.
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.