LRL Q&A: Your questions answered on Super League transfers, IMG and much more

Aaron Bower
Adrian Lam

Adrian Lam - Alamy

Throughout 2024, Love Rugby League’s Aaron Bower will be answering your questions on a variety of issues across the sport. 

It could range from recruitment – a topic which is often at the forefront of peoples’ minds – IMG gradings or anything topical that’s happening in the sport. This is the first instalment, taking questions from followers on Twitter/X.

It covers recruitment for a number of Super League clubs, IMG and the Challenge Cup. Let’s dive straight in, starting with transfers..

Phil Higgins: Anything more on Leigh trying to free up an overseas spot for Armstrong?

It’s an incredibly tricky situation, this – made more complicated by Leigh’s current problems within their squad. I’ve written this year already how the most likely candidate from the Leopards’ overseas contingent to make way for Armstrong is Ben Nakubuwai. He did have interest from clubs in Super League and the Championship: the latter being slightly more serious.

But, injuries to Tom Amone and John Asiata have muddied the waters. Leigh are light on middles and a move for Armstrong is now firmly on ice, I’m told: certainly in the short-term. Adrian Lam likes Armstrong though, and the idea is he’d come in and provide immediate competition for both fullback and wing. The success Umyla Hanley has had in the latter role has also calmed any notion of Leigh being short.

So in summary: it’s unlikely to happen imminently, at least until Amone and Asiata are back on the field.

Brandon Whitaker: What NCL clubs have you heard apply for League 1? Also when IMG said the chances of Champ. Winners of not being promoted were very remote, is that still the stance they are taking?

I know of two Yorkshire-based clubs playing in the NCL who are strongly considering applying. To answer the latter part of your question: I think IMG’s point was that the winners of the Championship Grand Final won’t be guaranteed a place in Super League and yes, that is still categorically the stance they’re taking.

READ MORE: Analysing where League 1’s newest club could come from including amateur options

It’s entirely possible that one – or both – of the teams playing in the Grand Final one year may believe that victory secures them the extra IMG points to get over the line and into the 12 highest-ranking clubs. For what it’s worth, I don’t imagine that’ll be the case this year as Wakefield will already have enough, and nobody else will be close enough. But no, automatic promotion isn’t returning.

Paul Griffin: Do you think that there will be coverage of the Championship this year..whether it’s on Premier or another broadcaster/streaming site?

Wanted to pick this one up as it’s certainly topical – not least given how there’s a major meeting on Thursday to essentially decide whether or not to accept Premier Sports’ deal.

Look, the money on offer isn’t great. But the feeling is that right now.. it might be just about what the Championship is worth to a broadcaster. And nobody wants to hear that, but it’s the truth. There are other concerns – as has been reported elsewhere, the feeling from some clubs is putting every game on TV would potentially put off away fans from going to matches.

FINANCES REVEALED: How much the Championship TV deal is worth to clubs

But my sense is the Premier deal is goes through, and come next month, every game of the Championship will be available to watch. Which is a start, even if the money won’t reinvent the wheel, so to speak.

Matthew Lane: Any news on hull kr signing a forward?

Rovers are done for now, I’m told. I’d expect a pretty quiet few months ahead; there is the obviously reported deal for Tom Davies that will probably happen, and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is also done. But imminently, quiet at the Robins..

NOW READ: How Hull KR secured the signing of NRL superstar Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

‘Wrench’: Are the RFL making or looking into making improvements in how it oversees club CEOs/owners, etc?

So essentially, a fit and proper owner’s test like you’d see in other sports like football. A wonderful idea in principle, and the RFL would argue their policies surrounding potential owners are already stringent – which, as a number of examples prove, they aren’t.

But the governing body have no real plans to tighten up the criteria in that regard. Which as you point out, is disappointing given recent events surrounding Toronto’s non-payment of players, coupled with the well-documented issues at Featherstone.

Samuel Pyrah: Bradford Bulls any players coming in?

Bradford are intending to be active throughout the year, as I understand it. There’s very much a clear intention at Odsal that by the time the business end of the season rolls around, the Bulls will be much stronger than they are now.

They have the capability to do more business, and without quota restrictions, they’re one of the clubs I’d imagine will continue to utilise the new loosening of restrictions when it comes to bringing players from Australia in.

IN-DEPTH: How pre-season Portugal training camp led to Wigan retaining Matt Peet long-term