Every player in rugby league history to have broken transfer record including Hull FC, Hull KR and Wigan Warriors icons

Aaron Bower

It is now well over a decade since rugby league’s transfer record was broken: and it looks unlikely to be done so again any time soon.

2013 was the last time a club paid a record fee for a player, when Sam Tomkins switched from Wigan Warriors to the New Zealand Warriors for a fee believed to be in the region of £700,000. In reality, the prospect of a fee of that kind being paid any time soon seems incredibly unlikely.

The world record transfer fee has been broken over 40 times in history: here’s a look at every time it’s happened.

Pre-World War Two

James Lomas was responsible for breaking the world record fee on the first two occasions in rugby league history. He became the sport’s first £100 player when he moved from Bramley to Salford in 1901 before, a decade later, switching from Salford to Oldham for £300.

Billy Batten was next, when Hull FC paid £600 to sign him from Hunslet in 1913 before Harold Buck moved across Leeds from Hunslet for a fee of £1,000 in 1921. Nine years later, Leeds broke the record again, paying £1,075 to sign Stan Smith from Wakefield.

Leeds were responsible for the next two world record fees too: in 1934 they paid £1,200 to sign Stan Brogden from Huddersfield before three years later, they paid £1,400 to sign Australian Vic Hey from Ipswich. Interestingly, they paid that money directly to Hey as a signing-on fee. The same year, Billy Belshaw transferred from Liverpool to Warrington for £1,450.

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After the war, the fee was broken on a fairly regular basis for a prolonged period. The record went on two occasions in 1947, when Bill Davies moved from Huddersfield to Dewsbury for £1,650 before Bill Hudson went from Batley to Wigan for £2,000.

A year later, Jimmy Ledgard switched from Dewsbury to Leigh for £2,650 and Ike Owens left Leeds for Castleford for £2,750. Then in 1949, the record was broken twice again: first when Stan McCormick moved from Belle Vue Rangers to St Helens for £4,000 before Albert Naughton moved from Widnes to Warrington for £4,600.

And in 1950? It went twice again! Bruce Ryan moved from Hull to Leeds for £4,750 before Joe Egan switched from Wigan to Leigh for £5,000 – the first time a £5,000 fee had been paid. Within two years though, it had been done again – this time as Leeds signed Lewis Jones from Llanelli for £6,000: a move which proved to be a masterstroke.

Mick Sullivan was next, moving from Huddersfield to Wigan for £9,500 before Ike Southward went from Workington to Oldham for £10,650 in 1959. Sullivan and Southward, incredibly, would then each be responsible for the world record fee being broken again.

First, Sullivan left Wigan for St Helens in a deal worth £11,000 before a few days later, Southward went back to Oldham for £11,002 and 10s: around £2.50 more than the previous record! Brian Shaw became the third player of 1961 to break the world record fee when he left Hunslet for Leeds in 1961 for £13,250.

Before the 60s was out the record went on two more occasions: Colin Dixon left Halifax for Salford for £12,000 and Mike Kelly in a player-plus-cash deal, before Paul Charlton switched from Workington to Salford too, this time for £12,500.

The great Mal Reilly then left Castleford for Manly in a deal worth £15,000, Bill Ashurst joined Penrith from Wigan for the same amount and Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson also went to Penrith from Dewsbury for £20,000. Steve Norton was next to set the fee, when he joined Hull from Castleford for £25,000, while Phil Hogan left Barrow for Hull KR in a deal worth £33,000.

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The modern era

The world record was broken another nine times in the 1980s, including twice in 1980 alone. The first was when Len Casey left Bradford for Hull KR for £38,000, before Trevor Skerrett joined Hull FC from Wakefield for £40,000.

There was then a huge jump up as George Fairbairn was sold to Hull KR from Wigan for £72,500, before the legendary Ellery Hanley joined the list. Wigan paid £85,000 cash for Hanley, as well as Steve Donlan and Phil Ford, who went the other way to Bradford.

Wigan then created history when they paid £100,000 cash for Joe Lydon, before usurping that with a £130,000 fee for Andy Gregory. Lee Crooks and Garry Schofield both left Hull FC for Leeds in deals worth £150,000 and £155,000 respectively, before Graham Steadman joined Castleford from Featherstone for £170,000.

Hanley joined the small group of men to be on this list twice when Leeds paid £250,000 to sign him from Wigan; within a year, Wigan had the world record fee back as they paid £440,000 to Widnes for Martin Offiah.

The value of the deal was then deemed to be broken again in 1995, when St Helens paid Bradford £250,000 cash for Paul Newlove, with Sonny Nickle, Bernard Dwyer and Paul Loughlin going the other way.

It would not be until 2006 when the record was actually broken again, a wait of over a decade – as Wigan signed Stuart Fielden from Bradford for £450,000. Then, a few years later, Tomkins became the latest – and current – record holder with his £700,000 move. Will we ever see it beaten again?

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