Just when you thought the NRL player merry-go-round was coming to an end, it would appear there are more movements yet to be completed.
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With the announcements of 2019’s NRL squads done and dusted, these are my top-five signings of the season.
5. Ryan Matterson – Wests Tigers
The Wests Tigers struggled to find a permanent right-edge back rower in 2018, with the likes of Robbie Rochow and Michael Chee-Kam failing to cement the position. Enter Ryan Matterson, fresh off a premiership victory with the Roosters.
Matterson began the 2018 season as a starting second rower for the Roosters before a serious concussion hampered his progress. Nonetheless, he bounced back to play off the bench in the grand final. New Tigers coach Michael Maguire now has an 80-minute workhorse with plenty of upside at age 24.
4. Ben Barba – North Queensland Cowboys
The reigning English Super League ‘Man of Steel’ finally returns to the NRL with the Cowboys. Lachlan Coote will travel the other way, joining St Helens in a straight swap. At age 29 and with a one-year deal in front of him, Barba will be under pressure to recapture his best form at fullback. He has an opportunity to be a leader for the Cowboys in the post-Johnathan Thurston era.
3. Josh McGuire – North Queensland Cowboys
With Matt Scott approaching retirement, the Cowboys needed some punch in the middle alongside Jordan McLean and Jason Taumalolo. Who better than Josh McGuire? A Queensland and Australian representative forward, McGuire brings over 200 games of experience to the Cowboys pack and has the stamina to play upwards of 60 minutes a game.
2. John Bateman – Canberra Raiders
Who? International league fans will be familiar with John Bateman, a member of the English side which recently defeated New Zealand in a three-Test series. He was named at second row in the Super League dream team for 2018 and came close to winning the ‘Man of Steel’ award, which eventually went to Ben Barba.
At age 25, Bateman is nearing his prime and entering the NRL at an opportune moment. Ricky Stuart has a good headache ahead of him with Bateman, Elliott Whitehead, Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine all vying for back-row positions.
1. Angus Crichton – Sydney Roosters
Imagine winning the premiership and then adding arguably the best edge forward in the game. At age 22, Angus Crichton is just getting started. The prospect of Crichton running adjacent to Cooper Cronk is sure to excite Roosters fans this year.
Easts wasted no time in releasing Ryan Matterson, a promising player in his own right, to leave the No.12 jersey wide open. Nobody knows how Angus fits under the salary cap, with the Roosters’ wizardry continuing to amaze us.