The NRL transfer market is in overdrive, with the rumour mill going ballistic in rugby league circles, as some of the game’s biggest stars come off contract.
While names like Latrell Mitchell, David Fifita and Jai Arrow are plastered on national newspaper’s back pages, there’s a host of other players that look set to shift clubs, or are due for a change of scenery. Here’s how the puzzle that is the transfer market can be pieced together, at least for a few stars of the NRL.
Joseph Leilua to the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
This move has been rumoured for a while now, with the Raiders keen to move on the Samoan international, who has struggled with discipline and weight issues throughout his career.
At his best, he’s been named a two time Dally M Centre of the Year, and explosively destructive on that right edge. But on his off days, not too much goes ‘BJ’s’ way. He’s lost his partner in crime Jordan Rapana to Japanese Rugby, and with the Canterbury in dire need of a strike centre, Dean Pay has sounded him out.
Curtis Scott to the Canberra Raiders
News broke last week about Ricky Stuart meeting with the Melbourne Storm star last week, and from all reports Sticky was impressed with the Cronulla junior.
Reports floated around that Craig Bellamy was ready to offload Scott, with a few off field discretions, namely the dreaded ‘car park run in’ leading Bellamy to believe Scott did not fit Melbourne’s culture.
Jack Bird to the Melbourne Storm
This is the least likely part of the puzzle. This is more opinion based than the others, but it makes sense. Bird has been far from his best since joining Brisbane, going from a State of Origin Star and premiership winner at the Sharks, to labels of being ‘overweight’ along with a host of injuries seeing Bird fall far from grace.
Releasing Bird would free up cap space for Brisbane to retain David Fifita, or sign another backline superstar (see below). And if anyone can get the absolute best out of an individual, it’s Craig Bellamy. Having already lost Will Chambers to rugby and likely to lose Scott to Canberra, the Storm need someone to partner Justin Olam in the centres. Bird fits the bill perfectly.
Dane Gagai to the Brisbane Broncos
Gagai started his career at Red Hill before being sacked early on, joining Newcastle, and the rest is history. Arguably Queensland’s best player of the last two series, whilst he plays on the wing in rep footy, Gagai is at home in the centres, where he has been outspoken about playing in club land.
However South Sydney already carrying James Roberts and Braidon Burns, a youngster so highly rated by Bennett it saw him shift Greg Inglis to the right edge, spells a season on the right wing for Gagai. If Brisbane were to release Bird, it would leave them free to recruit Gagai and see him partner Kotoni Staggs in what would be one of the most strike centre pairings in the competition.
Semi Radradra to the South Sydney Rabbitohs
Reports have begun to surface that Semi Radradra is ready to return to the NRL, and has been informing close friends he wants to return via the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
While the club already has money to spend following the retirement of Sam Burgess* (*pending he’s cleared to medically retire) as well as the departure of favourites George Burgess and John Sutton, releasing Gagai to Brisbane would guarantee money under the cap.
This would leave a backline if Semi and Campbell Graham on the wings, Burns and Roberts in the centres and Alex Johnston at fullback, though rumours have swirled of Johnston’s potential departure, which would open the fullback spot for Adam Doueihi.
Regardless, it would be fantastic to see a player of Radradra’s caliber return to the competition, and if reports ring true, then the flying Fijian isn’t far off.
Latrell Mitchell to the Wests Tigers
This is unrelated to the first five parts, but is looking more and more certain for each passing day.
Whilst Mitchell is contracted by the Roosters for 2020, tension between the centre and his club is growing after Roosters’ powerbroker’s reportedly said Mitchell can ‘play at Norths’ if he wants to be difficult.
The Tigers have prepared a four-year deal worth close to $4 million for Mitchell, with the Kangaroo and New South Wales star set to shift to fullback under Michael Maguire, the man who moved Greg Inglis into the number one jersey.
Whether these moves do come true is yet to be seen, however each piece is looking more and more likely with each passing day, and seems certain to bolster each individual club.
It’s a funny game, rugby league.