Most of the talk during the offseason is obviously based on 2015’s NRL kick off, and the makeup of each club’s squad, and run on side.
I get the feeling that there is plenty of action left as far as player signings go. The Sharks still have a mountain of players off talent, whilst some big names are being spoken of as moving on.
Talk of Ben Barba moving to the Sharks won’t seem to go away, while more movement at the Dragons seems almost inevitable.
The Titans have moved on some talent and are clearing the books. The Roosters are still trying to get former Origin star Blake Ferguson registered.
While some clubs have played it safe, signing proven talent and focusing on building what they already have, other clubs have taken big risks by signing players who perhaps have not lived up to their potential yet, hoping they will come good.
The Dragons have taken a huge risk in allowing arguably the world’s best winger in Brett Morris to shift clubs. The Broncos have allowed two rep players to shift clubs to accommodate the signing of a third rep player.
Below are the five player signings that I consider absolute no brainers, and five that I’m not entirely sold on due to the risks involved, or the fact I just didn’t see them coming. As always, feedback is welcome.
The No Brainers
Anthony Milford – Raiders to Broncos
There is absolutely no downside for the Broncos here. Milford has proven himself to be a genuine NRL superstar during his time in the nation’s capital, and will surely only improve under Wayne Bennett.
The only question regarding Milford’s move North is whether he plays fullback, or in the halves. What is for sure is that Milford will be a major player for the new look Broncos in 2014.
Canberra fought incredibly hard to keep Milford, even after he has publicly stated his heart was set on a move to the Broncos. If that doesn’t show how highly the Raiders rated him, nothing will.
Blake Austin – Tigers to Raiders
The Raiders had plenty of money to spend and although they were linked with a list of big name talent, they ultimately missed out on more than they secured However, in signing Blake Austin, they may have discovered a real jewel in the rough.
Austin is a player with huge versatility. He can play in the halves, at fullback, or even at lock or centre if required. His effort against the Sharks in his final game for the Tigers showed the danger he presents with ball in hand.
In Austin, the Raiders have a kid chock full of potential. There is no risk here for the Raiders. Austin would not command huge money, but his upside is huge. Great business.
Jack Bird – Dragons to Sharks
Although he is yet to debut at NRL level, the Dragons Holden Cup standout is amongst the best signings the Sharks have made in many years.
A junior rep at all levels for NSW, and a recent member of the Junior Kangaroos, Bird has starred for his new club’s local rivals. His signing caused much anger within the Red V fanbase as the club failed to secure one of its brightest prospects.
The Sharks have in recent years put their faith in players closer to the end of their careers. In Bird they have shown they are willing to invest in young talent, and judging by his efforts in the Holden Cup, he has plenty of it.
Brett Morris – Dragons to Bulldogs
Of course there is absolutely no downside is signing the world’s best winger. The Bulldogs had the cap space to accommodate Morris knowing full well what they are going to get by signing him.
If he continues to play on the wing he will score plenty of tries for the blue and whites, however if he moves to fullback, he may very well take his game to an all new level.
Arguably the biggest signing for 2015, Morris may very well be the difference between a runners up medal and the premiership for the Bulldogs. Injury aside, this can’t go wrong.
Josh Hoffman – Broncos to Titans
The Titans, who started 2014 on absolute fire, limped to the end of 2015 and were in dire need of some talented reinforcements. Josh Hoffman’s signing is just what the doctor ordered for the Gold Coast club.
Where he will play is anybody’s guess, but whichever position he fills, he will improve for the Titans. Likely to play fullback given that Mortimer and Sezer are likely the first choice halves, my money is on Hoff having a big 2015.
After being shown the door by Wayne Bennett, the Kiwi international has a lot to prove. He has all the talent, and now the opportunity, to do so.
The Head Scratchers
Michael Lichaa – Sharks to Bulldogs
Don’t get me wrong, Michael Lichaa is a supremely talented young number nine with a huge career ahead of him, but the Dogs are taking a huge risk in tapping a man with over 220 NRL games, and seven Origin caps on the shoulder.
Lichaa, who has shown signs of his undoubted talent in his 15 games at NRL level, shocked many within the Sharks ranks by signing away, given that the club has earmarked him as a long term option at number nine.
It would be unfair to expect 21-year-old Lichaa to play at the level of Ennis right off the bat. Given his relative inexperience at NRL level, Lichaa is a work in progress. The rest of the Dogs squad however is primed for a premiership in 2015. Big gamble.
George Rose – Storm to Dragons
The Dragon’s entire recruitment strategy has been a gamble. Releasing superstar Brett Morris to sign journeyman prop George Rose, as well as a host of fringe first grade talent has many within the Dragons fan base scratching their heads.
Rose, who never really settled in Melbourne, is back in Sydney after a disappointing 2014. Some argue that is Craig Bellamy couldn’t get the most out of Rose that Paul McGregor will be up against it.
The popular 31-year-old has the talent, and size, to be a positive light in 2015, however his mind will have to be on the job. Hopefully being closer to home will help the big man focus.
Blake Green – Wigan Warriors to Storm
In re-signing youngster Ben Hampton while allowing Ben Roberts to move on, the Storm showed their hand in who they considered a long term option beside Cooper Cronk.
Blake Green, who to be fair never really set the world on fire during his time in the NRL, returns to the league a better player after a successful stint in England with Hull and Wigan.
Craig Bellamy, who I’m willing to guess has a better eye for talent than yours truly, has taken a gamble in signing Green, who will likely start over the aforementioned Hampton. The ESL is a very different game to the NRL.
Darius Boyd – Knights to Broncos
This isn’t such a gamble in respect to Boyd not living up to expectation, but more so revolves around what the Broncos are giving up in order to bring him back to the club.
Josh Hoffman is gone and Ben Barba is rumoured to be on his way out also. That’s two young star players sacrificed in order to bring in yet another fullback, albeit a talented and proven one.
Boyd did not have a great 2014, but has hopefully found the help he required. He will be a star at the Broncos, but has Wayne Bennett allowed potentially two superstars to walk away to secure one?
Siosaia Vave – Sharks to Sea Eagles
Vave has all the size and power to become a top NRL prop, however during his time at the Sharks, Storm and then again at the Sharks, he failed to nail down a first grade position.
He wouldn’t be commanding a huge salary, so the risk here is not huge, however it certainly is out of left field.
Most expected Vave re-signing at Cronulla and moving between first and reserve grade. I’m not sure where Vave fits in at the Sea Eagles, especially seeing as they have signed Mason. Perhaps a change of clubs is what Vave needs to produce his best football.