5 possible NRL signings Brad Arthur could lure to Leeds Rhinos: Parramatta Eels icons, Samoan star..

Mike Meehall Wood

Brad Arthur finally has his feet under the Headingley desk at Leeds Rhinos, back in the blue and yellow tracksuit he sported so well at Parramatta.

Though his contract is to the end of the season and, theoretically at least, no longer, Director of Rugby Ian Blease has suggested that the ten-year veteran NRL coach could be involved in recruitment at the Rhinos.

In his old gig, he was able to craft a team in his own image after a decade of making the big calls and ended up with a side that, though on the old side in the end, was able to properly embody his style of play.

Whether that style was fit for purpose in 2024 is another debate, but it was hard to argue that Arthur wasn’t successful in getting the guys that he wanted to play it. Big props, offloading backrowers and smart, running halves: he had the lot.

Whether he’ll be able to get them all given the short timeframe and tight salary cap at Leeds is another thing, but here’s a few ideas he might have jotted down on the long flight over from Sydney.

Maika Sivo

The massive Fijian winger is the most obvious choice if BA wants to make a splash in his new job.

Though Sivo has been one of the most loved figures at Parramatta over the last six years – 98 tries in 111 games will do that – there’s been an acceptance by figures around the club that he is not the force he was and it might be best for all parties if the 30-year-old found somewhere else to play out the twilight of his career.

Arthur actually dropped his star winger earlier this year and it was an open secret that he was available despite having three years left to run on his deal.

To say things have been up and down would be an understatement: the ups have often been Sivo looking that way as his propensity to jam off his wing saw halfbacks float passes over his head, the downs too many times have been him staring at his feet like a naughty schoolboy having shot the line and smashed an opponent late, high or both.

His yardage, too, is nowhere near as good as you might expect for a guy of his side: under 100m per game this year, and around 8m per run.

On his best day, Sivo is an exceptional finisher, and Super League fans would love to have a player like him in the competition. On the slightly more boring levels, defensive decisions and backfield work, it’s less rosy.

That, of course, is why Parra would let him go. It’s why he might not get a gig elsewhere in the NRL. And at Leeds, Sivo would offer star power and an awful lot of tries. Don’t count it out.

Junior Paulo

Junior Paulo Samoa News Images

The most eye-catching move that Arthur could make would be to bring in Junior Paulo, one of his co-captains at Parramatta.

It’s not entirely unrealistic: Paulo has a decent length of contract at CommBank Stadium but there have been whispers that that might be negotiable, especially if an offer came in.

He’s 30, out for the season with a foot injury and on big money at the Eels, so take it with a pinch of salt.

But Paulo, perhaps more than anyone, exemplifies what Arthur’s football is about: power through the middle with plenty of skill. There’s good hands for a big man, then there’s Junior Paulo.

He also has all the soft skills that Arthur likes: quiet leadership off the field, controlled aggression on it.

A move would require Leeds to make Paulo a marquee and the British commentators to update their Samoan pronunciation – it’s Bow-low – but in return, the Rhinos would get an elite prop and someone with a real feeling for what the coach wants to do.

There would almost certainly be other suitors in the NRL, but if Paulo himself wanted to have a proper crack at Super League and a swansong to his career with a coach he really likes, he could make it happen.

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Martin Taupau

Martin Taupau

It’s not surprising that our third option is also a middle: Arthur loves a big man.

Martin Taupau – ta-pa-oo, not like the 80s pop band – is available from the Broncos and, while Arthur hasn’t coached him, that isn’t for lack of trying.

Parra tried to sign the Samoan international from Manly in 2022 as part of their push to add a middle en route to the Grand Final that year and rumours didn’t go away until he eventually landed at Brisbane, with the general understanding being that there was mutual interest but too much difficulty in the salary cap.

Taupau is now 34 and hasn’t played much NRL this year at the Broncos, but might be available immediately and certainly could move for 2025, as his contract is up.

Taupau is less China in Your Hand, more bull in a china shop given his destructive running and occasionally brutal defence.

He’d add immediate aggression and ball-carrying power, plus a fair whack of leadership and experience to the pack. He doesn’t crack skulls like he used to, but there’s still a player there and he has shown few signs that he wants to retire quite yet.

It might be a short time rather than a long time, but if Arthur wanted to impose his style immediately, he could do so with Taupau.

Haze Dunster

25-year-old winger Haze Dunster was the next big thing at Parramatta once upon a time, debuting in the 2020 Finals series and then impressing in 2021, earning his first grade spot when the whole NRL was relocated to Queensland.

That all came collapsing down in the 2022 pre-season, when he was subject to a shocking hip-drop tackle that tore three ligaments in his knee – ironically, at the hands of Dragons forward Tyrell Fuimaono, sister of his then-girlfriend, NRLW star Taliah Fuimaono.

Since then, it’s been a Dunster fire: it took 18 months to return to the NSW Cup and another hip-drop as recently as April broke his foot and ended his season.

He has a year left at the Eels but with the club having added Zac Lomax to their outside backs and scrambling to find cash to retain breakout star Blaize Talagi, Leeds could strike.

Make no mistake, there was no doubt Dunster was good enough – it was always whether he could stay on the field. Both his injuries have been as a result of foul play, too, and that luck surely will change.

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Daejarn Asi

Arthur showed plenty of faith in Kiwi half Daejarn Asi, but he seemed out of step with the rest of the Parramatta hierarchy.

He had struggled to break into the team at both the Cowboys and the Warriors, but under Arthur, he found a mentor.

BA picked him the moment Dylan Brown was banned last year and then again this year when Mitch Moses went down injured, giving Asi both of his longest stints in the NRL.

The Samoan international remains unsigned beyond the end of this year and with Parra tight on the cap and stacked in the halves, that will probably remain the case.

Asi has versatility across the backline and halves, a decent running game and a kick: he’s not as good as Brown, but that’s very much the vibe he’s going for.

Arthur will like Brodie Croft as his Moses proxy, but he’s rarely found space for a player like Matt Frawley. Asi could offer a different profile, he’s available and, at 23, has plenty of upside.


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