With the Championship set to kick off at the weekend, talk among fans will turn to how well they expect their clubs’ new signings to do. We take a quick look at six new acquisitions who could turn the tide in their team’s fortunes this season…
When looking at any list of big signings for this season, the huge Tongan prop’s name is difficult to miss. The audacity of bringing such a big name to Lancashire speaks volumes about Leigh’s ambitions under the new league structure. Not much needs to be said about what the former Parramatta man can bring to a team, but fans will be smacking their lips in ancticipation at watching this wrecking ball of a prop run into teams. The thought of him running into players like Menzie Yere, Epahalame Lauaki and Makali Aizue will surely get everyone’s blood flowing ahead of the new season.
The former Bradford and Hull KR backrower will need to stay fit, as his last Super League season was marred by injury and he hardly played in a Rovers jersey. That may well be easier for him at a less challenging level of rugby. Langley offers leadership and quality to the Eagles, and gives their pack a hard, steely core. How many minutes he ends up playing could be crucial to the Eagles’ chances under the new structure, and Sheffield fans will hope that the niggles and knocks of 265 Super League games and five internationals can be managed by Mark Aston and his coaching team.
Carvell has struggled to settle anywhere in recent seasons, and one senses that this move may be just what he has been waiting for to kickstart his career into one last bright flame. The 2014 season was spent bouncing around between Bradford, Hull FC and Castleford, and the 33-year-old will want to put some of those frustrations right. He also had to pull out of the Wales squad for the recent European Championship due to injury. At his best, the former Wales international brings size, strength and aggression to the table, and he will undoubtedly improve Fev’s pack. He will also offer experience, and his ability to mentor and lead younger players could prove crucial when the league splits.
London have made some astute signings this year, not the least of which is former Scotland hooker Andrew Henderson as assistant coach. Naiqama’s name was the one which stood out from their list of close-season recruits, however. The utility back has played over 120 NRL games for St George-Illawarra, Newcastle and Penrith, as well as playing 14 times for Fiji at international level. That kind of experience will prove invaluable when the going gets tough later in the season, and Naiqama can be relied upon to produce moments of magic that will turn games for his team.
Fuifui Moimoi may have attracted the headlines, but the acquisition by the Bulls of another Kiwi of Tongan descent is just as exciting for fans of the West Yorkshire club. Offering almost 18 stone of bulk, as well as plenty of aggression and spirit, Lauaki will generate the go-forward that will enable players like Danny Addy, Lee Gaskell, Jake Mullaney and Etu Uaisale to flourish. He is also a big character, a totemic figure when he is out on the park, and few forward packs will relish a trip to Odsal now that he is a part of the Bulls’ front row options.
Dion Aiye – Whitehaven
The PNG halfback can turn out in a variety of roles, though the pivot positions remain where he does his best work. He will be lining up alongside his fellow countryman Jessie Joe Parker for Haven, and the pair should produce some entertaining moments between them for Cumbrian fans. Aiye has played eight international games for the PNG Kumuls, and has been playing his club rugby for the Rabaul Gurias back home. He played in the 2013 World Cup in the UK, and he possesses the natural enthusiasm and commitment that we have come to expect from PNG players in this country. A top acquisition could help Haven spring some surprises in 2015.