While the NRL salary cap increase may put players off coming to Super League in future seasons, there have still been some relatively big names making their way across the pond for 2012.
Tackle 1: Lance Hohaia (New Zealand Warriors to St Helens)
New Zealand international Hohaia is probably the most recognisable of the NRL imports this close season, having been a key figure in the Kiwi team for the past few years, featuring at full-back in all of the games in their triumphant 2008 World Cup campaign. He has also been part of the Four Nations competitions, and New Zealand’s ill-fated tour of Great Britain in 2007. The 28-year-old joins Saints on a four deal having spent all of his club career at New Zealand Warriors, racking up 185 appearances in the NRL. A utility player who can play at full back, half-back, hooker and centre, Hohaia is likely to feature in the halves for Royce Simmons’ men, following the departures of Leon Pryce and Kyle Eastmond.
Tackle 2: Anthony Laffranchi (Gold Coast Titans to St Helens)
Utility forward Laffranchi is another new addition to the St Helens line-up, moving to Langtree Park on a two-year deal. Eligible to play for the Italian national team, Laffranchi has five caps for Australia, and has made four appearances for New South Wales in State of Origin. He has been a member of the Gold Coast Titans squad since their inaugural season in the NRL in 2007, and has also previously racked up more than 100 appearances for Wests Tigers, winning the NRL with them in 2005. Now 31, the strong running forward is likely to play at prop, and help fill the void left by James Graham, who has gone Down Under with Canterbury Bulldogs.
Tackle 3: Brett Seymour (New Zealand Warriors to Hull)
In truth, any one of Hull’s three big signings from the NRL could have made it in to this list, with Seymour being joined in the Airlie Birds line-up by Wade McKinnon and former Leigh hooker Aaron Heremaia. The three, all set to play in pivotal positions in the Hull team, could be the difference for Peter Gentle this term. Seymour is in the peak of his career at 27, and is a talented half-back with experience for Brisbane, Cronulla and most recently, New Zealand Warriors. In fact, his familiarity with Heremaia, another former Warrior, could enable Hull’s new signings to bed in quickly, as they look to force their way in to the play-offs.
Tackle 4: Trent Waterhouse (Penrith to Warrington)
Could Waterhouse be the catalyst for a Grand Final appearance for the Wolves? They have been there or there abouts in the past few years without making it to Old Trafford, and the addition of the 12-cap Australian international could give them that quality and experience in the back-row that they’ve needed. A one-club man before this switch, Waterhouse has racked up 186 appearances for Penrith Panthers in the NRL, and also played five times for New South Wales, famously become the first Blues player to be sent off in an Origin game back in 2009.
Tackle 5: Craig Gower (Rugby union to London)
Gower, who was linked to Salford virtually every season earlier in his career, finally makes it to Super League with London Broncos following a spell in rugby union which saw him capped 13 times by Italy. In league, he won 18 caps for Australia between 1999 and 2008 and is a coup for the Broncos, who will partner him with Michael Witt in the halves. Although 33, Gower is still capable of making a big impact, and he could help guide the Broncos to a play-off place. He last played rugby league back in 2007, ending a 12 year career with Penrith, for who he played 238 games in the NRL, winning the competition in 2003.
Tackle 6: Tim Smith (Cronulla to Wakefield)
Not a new face to Super League, but a returnee, as half-back Smith signs on for Wakefield, just under three years since leaving Wigan. A promising youngster with Parramatta, which saw him win rookie of the year in 2005, Smith was suspended by the Eels in 2008 and sought refuge in the north west of England, signing for Wigan in June 2008. He put in some fine displays for the Warriors, but inconsistency and injury depleted his time at the DW Stadium, and a shoulder injury forced him home midway through 2009. He wound up at Cronulla Sharks, but failed to really make an impact in two seasons there, and will now give Super League another go with the new look Wildcats.