Last season I put together an article trying to pick which new recruits would make the most positive contributions to their new teams.
Due to my self-judged success I have decided to have another go at it this year.
I have stayed away from many of the bigger name signings, as they need to have huge years to guarantee value for money. Of these ommissions, Nicho Hynes and Josh Addo-Carr need to show they can succeed outside of the Storm system, while Adam Reynolds will prove to be a bigger loss for the Rabbitohs than gain for the Broncos.
The Sharks, Bulldogs and Dragons have been three of the biggest movers in the recruitment department, but I have been able to find a place for only one of their newbies in my five. Value for money is also slightly challenging to judge, as contract values aren’t fully disclosed. For this article I will use media suggestions as well as a player’s standing in the game to select five who I see as providing their club more value on the field than is written in their contract.
What a difference a year makes. While it might have seemed like a lot of money for a relative rookie a year ago, $500,000 a year for Matt Burton looks like a steal now. The Dogs pushed to get him early after he started last season in reserve grade, but they must be happy with Penrith’s hard-ball approach now, as he is being sent over as one of the competition’s best centres.
Despite the change in position, Burton will show that he is best suited to the halves and play a leading role in creating points for 2021’s worst attack. Some critics point to him failing to lead his Origin-pillaged side home against the Tigers and Sharks last year, but that view is short-sighted, as he was the one to single-handedly pull his team back into the contest with at least a try in each game.
Manly have been among the least active in the market, with much of their salary cap tied up in four players and not a lot needed after a successful 2021. The one signing they have made seems to be a good one, with highly rated youngster Ethan Bullemor coming across from the Broncos.
Already with 25 games experience at 21, Bullemor has speed and footwork close to the line as his main assets. He should be a lock for a bench spot in the Manly 17 with the ability to play prop, lock and second row. With Queensland having a lack of forward depth, it’s not too much to suggest that Manly may have an Origin player coming off their bench for the back half of the season.
I could have easily gone for Xavier Coates here as he may be regarded as the best winger in the competition after a year with Craig Bellamy in the Storm system. But instead I’m going to go with a player who has always looked to have potential in teams on the wrong side of the table. After three lean years at the Dogs, Meaney will probably be starstruck training with the likes of Cam Munster, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Brandon Smith.
With the loss of Nicho Hynes after his breakout year, Meaney will probably have his eyes on the bench utility role, coming on in the middle of the park when injuries don’t offer him a spot in the starting line-up. Able to play across the backline, it will be interesting to see him running off Jahrome Hughes and Munster if he gets a game at fullback across the season.
From the penthouse to the outhouse, Taylor went from a million-dollar man to $1000 a week on a train-and-trial deal. That trial has proven successful, and he is now part of the Warriors’ top-30 squad on a deal that pales in comparison to what The Titans were paying him. Reduced is not only his salary but also the pressure that comes with it, which will allow Taylor to shine this year.
Taylor is by no means guaranteed a spot in the 17, and he will fight it out with Kodi Nikorima and Chanel Harris-Tavita to partner the returning Shaun Johnson in the halves. While he may start the year in reserve grade, I am tipping he will be wearing the No. 7 by the end of the year, finding a new lease of life away from the Gold Coast.
My final pick is another half who will be successful due to the lack of pressure on him this year allowing him to shine. Hastings returns to the NRL after three and a half successful years at Salford and Wigan that includes a man of steel award. This followed some tumultuous years in the NRL with The Roosters and Manly, with both clubs making suggestions that he had a negative effect on the playing group. Hastings has since acknowledged this to a degree and has matured in the Super League, and he’s hoping to return to success similar to that of Jamie Lyon and Blake Green.
With Luke Brooks continuing to take the heat from the media and Wests Tigers seemingly focussing on 2023 with the recruitment of Api Koroisau and Isaiah Papali’i, expectations will be to make an improvement on last year’s performances. This, combined with Hastings’s determination to prove he is an NRL-quality half, has all the ingredients for a big year.
So are you with me, Roarers, or are these predictions way off the mark?