This season has seen the player transfer mill go into hyperdrive, but there are a select few players set to return to their past and write some of rugby league’s latest feel-good stories.
Benji Marshall, arguably the Wests Tigers’ most memorable player of all time, will don the black and orange of Concord once more in 2018.
After departing at the end of the 2013 season for an ill-fated stint in rugby union, Marshall returns thirteen years after he led the side the club to their maiden premiership, and sets up a series of interesting battles within the club.
Firstly, the battle for a starting five-eighth spot with new recruit Josh Reynolds, with Reynolds the hot favourite to wear the famous six jersey, meaning Marshall will battle it out with Jacob Liddle for a bench spot. He’ll also do battle with Chris Lawrence, both players tied on 76 tries for the club, the most tries scored by a player for the club.
Ryan Hoffman is another famous returnee, signing a one-year contract with Melbourne after spending four seasons across the ditch in New Zealand. The move suits perfectly for Hoffman after the Warriors snared left-edge Storm backrower Tohu Harris on a multi-year deal.
Hoffman featured in 245 NRL games for the Storm, winning three premierships* during his two stints at the Victorian club. Following an exodus of players including Harris, Jordan McLean, Cooper Cronk and Slade Griffin from their premiership-winning side, Hoffman will bring a sense of nostalgia back to Melbourne.
Brenton Lawrence debuted for the Gold Coast Titans at the ripe old age of 26 back in 2011, featuring in 18 games for the Queensland club over a two year period before taking a chance at Manly, becoming a regular starter for the Sea Eagles before injury crept up and saw him slip down the club’s pecking order.
Now, seven years after he debuted for the club, Lawrence will implement himself as a ‘veteran’ on the same field he ran onto as a rookie, though alongside a vastly different squad to that of 2011. Set to begin the 2018 season as a 33-year-old, it’s expected this two-year deal could be Lawrence’s last, ending his career in a form of symmetry.
Jeremy Latimore is a journeyman, so a move to many clubs could be considered a homecoming for the unfashionable prop. Having featured for five clubs in the NRL, Latimore has enjoyed varied levels of success in his 139 game career.
He debuted in 2009 at Parramatta, the year Jarryd Hayne would drag the club from 8th into a grand final. He then enjoyed a two-year stint in New Zealand, featuring for the club in their 2011 NRL Grand Final, before signing a one-year deal with St. George Illawarra in what would become a disappointing season for the Red V.
Four years in Penrith would be Latimore’s longest stint at any club until Latimore departed the foot of the mountains for sunny Cronulla for a single season, and now Jeremy Latimore will return to St George Illawarra, over half a decade since his last game for them.
Even Peta Hiku will have a homecoming of sorts next year, signing with the New Zealand Warriors after spending the entirety of his junior years at the club, before leaving in 2013 to snare a chance at Manly.
Hiku will finally have the opportunity to run out in the NRL for the Warriors in 2018, despite the chance coming six years after his Under 20’s game for the club.
Whether they spent the bulk of their careers at the club, or just a handful of games, a number of stars will be welcomed back to their former clubs in 2018, now sit back and wait for the headlines to write themselves.