Most of the Leigh transfer talk has been about big names like Rangi Chase, Harrison Hansen, Cory Paterson and Willie Tonga. It seems that near to nothing has been said about former State of Origin star Reni Maitua. Joining from Salford Red Devils, who signed him for their Qualifiers campaign after spending most of last season at Featherstone, the back-rower brings all the skills expected of a player who was playing NRL games week-in week-out not so long ago. Unlike his fellow new signings, Maitua knows what it’s like in the second tier, so he will be more equipped than the others. Maitua joins easily the strongest Championship squad in the history of the competition, and the former Australian and Samoan international will be wanting to play a big part in getting Paul Rowley’s side back to Super League for the first time since 2005.
Will Sharp (Halifax)
One of the best wingers in the Championship for quite a few seasons now, Sharp strengthens the back line of a tough Halifax outfit. The praise for coach Richard Marshall will keep on coming due to signings like this, as well as the acquisition of former Warrington back-rower Simon Grix. A potent try-scorer with pace and power being two of his main assets, Sharp will be a big hit at The Shay in 2016 and beyond. Featherstone Rovers have lost quite a few of their big players in the off-season, none more so than Sharp himself who looks likely to be up near the top of the Championship try-scoring charts next year.
Now the former captain of the Papua New Guinea Hunters, who play in the ultra competitive Intrust Super Cup competition (Queensland Cup) in Australia, this is something of a coup for London Broncos. A capable stand-off to say the least, Eliab will be one of six players in the Championship who are PNG natives. Arriving in the capital with big wraps from people over in Australia – winning the ISC five-eighth of the year award in both 2014 and 2015 – coach Andrew Henderson will have done extensive research and obviously liked what he saw. There’s a lot of similarities between the Queensland Cup and the Championship, so expect Eliab to be performing well from the get-go.
An experienced Championship performer with both Sheffield Eagles and Dewsbury Rams, it’s the latter’s Heavy Woollen neighbours who have acquired the services of Brambani. A player who can turn a game on its head in an instant – something Batley have been missing since the departure of Ben Black – Brambani is a great signing by John Kear. Also crossing over Yorkshire from Sheffield to the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium are Pat Walker and James Davey. A top four challenge is certainly on the cards for Batley this season and Brambani should play a big part in that. Playing on the big slope at Batley looks like being an advantage for astute kickers, and with Brambani and Walker on the books, the Bulldogs have the creativity to put teams on the back foot and force mistakes in dangerous areas.
One of the few players to stand out in a poor Doncaster side last season, Groat arrives at Dewsbury with the hope of making up for lost time by leading the Rams to a place in the top four. The Australian joins an already strong pack of forwards so it should be interesting to see how he fits in and whether he starts or comes off the bench. Groat should make an immense difference to the West Yorkshire side with his great go-forward which gain a lot of yards during matches, while taking a damaging toll on opposition defenders.
The young forward had a loan spell at London Broncos last season before moving back to Leeds Rhinos. Mark Aston snapped up Minchella on a two-year deal and the potential to be a star player for the Eagles is definitely there. Fitting in with the Eagles’ expansive style of play, Minchella will be hoping to seal a regular spot in the match day squad. It won’t be a surprise to see the back-rower make a return to Super League in the future, can he go there with the Sheffield Eagles?