Paper Talk: Merrin links, Westerman’s future, New York update & SL chief impressed by Toulouse

There’s a lot of transfer speculation in this week’s papers, which we’ve flicked through at Barcelona airport this morning.

Merrin NRL return links won’t go away

Whether you think Leeds are in crisis or not, the speculation surrounding the future of Trent Merrin won’t go away, with the Daily Telegraph Down Under once again linking him with a switch to NRL side St George-Illawarra Dragons. The suspension of Jack de Belin leaves the Dragons with a hole in their pack, and also plenty of room on their salary cap.

Ottawa and New York get the green light

League Express reports that an announcement from the RFL on the New York and Ottawa inclusion to their league system is expected this week. As reported recently in our Off the Record column, Ottawa are set to enter from next season, but New York will have to wait until 2021.

Toulouse impress Super League chief

Super League chief executive Robert Elstone has talked up the inclusion of Toulouse in the top flight in this week’s League Express. He said: “It was a pleasure to have been invited. All aspects of the trip were first class… A rivalry with Catalans would not only boost rugby league in France, it would add to the Super League competition.”

Westerman waits as Castleford line-up move

Hull forward Joe Westerman is being linked with a return to Castleford in the Hull Daily Mail. The former England international re-joined Hull following a spell at Toronto Wolfpack, and came through the ranks at Castleford before leaving them to join Hull nine years ago. The 29-year-old has been offered a deal at the KCOM Stadium, where he left at the end of 2015 for Warrington.

Huddersfield win race for highly rated Butler

Young Halifax centre Chester Butler is set to make the step up to Super League with Huddersfield, reports the Halifax Courier. Chester has had interest from several top flight clubs, including Warrington and Castleford, but has opted to pen a deal for 2020 and beyond with the Giants.

Gildart linked to NRL as transfer talk heats up

With clubs now free to talk with out of contract players, speculation is rife. League Weekly report that Castleford are keen on a swap deal involving Mitch Clark and Wigan’s Taulima Tautai, while St Helens winger Adam Swift is interesting Hull. Their biggest link has Wigan centre Oliver Gildart interesting Canberra. Souths are also rumoured to be looking at Saints duo Alex Walmsley and Luke Thompson, while Theo Fages could be off to Castleford.

Support rugby league in the media and subscribe to League Express or League Weekly, as well as checking out the regular coverage of the sport in The Mirror, The Sun, The Guardian and other national newspapers; the more you read, the more there’ll be.