Super League returns on Friday, so we take a look at six eye-catching signings over the close season.
Ellis’s return to England has been the most eye-catching signing for the 2013 season, arriving back to these shores after gaining rave reviews in the NRL with Wests Tigers for the past four seasons. In the first three years of his stint Down Under, the second-row was named Wests’s Player of the Year and his coach at the club, Tim Sheens, described Ellis as “the best buy this club has had.”
Prior to the successful move to the Southern Hemisphere, Ellis had been a great servant at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Leeds Rhinos, where he picked up two Super League Grand Final rings as well as two World Club Challenge wins. Airlie Birds chairman, Adam Pearson, has spoken of his great ambitions for the west Hull club and the signing of the 31-year-old is a great statement of intent ahead of the 2013 season.
That there is a home World Cup at the end of the year should persuade Ellis to show off the many attributes that wowed the Australasian audience in the NRL and big things are expected of the burly Yorkshireman.
2) Gareth Hock to Widnes
Probably the story of the close season was the shock move of England international forward Gareth Hock to Widnes, on a season-long loan from Wigan. Having looked set to depart for the NRL in the autumn, Hock will join brother-in-law Kevin Brown at the Stobart Stadium, to help the Vikings improve on last season’s bottom placed finish.
His departure triggered a sensational statement from Wigan chairman Ian Lenegan which appeared to suggest that Hock may have played his last game in the cherry and white, and Hock is likely to be subject of much speculation as to where he will play his rugby in 2014, although he is under contract with the Warriors until the end of 2015.
With the World Cup at the end of the year, many have questioned whether playing for one of Super League‘s lower clubs will affect his international credentials, but Hock will be hoping to play a significant part in transforming Widnes from basement boys to play-off challengers.
It’s fair to say that Salford City Reds were none too pleased when Joel Moon moved across the Pennines to join Leeds last November. The Aussie centre had declared he wanted to quit Salford so that he could be closer to his family Down Under before agreeing a three-year deal with the reigning Super League and World Club Challenge champions. Now, Moon will be hoping to put the controversy behind him and show what he can do for a club that regularly chases honours having made a positive start to his career. Starting at the Brisbane Broncos, he caught the attention of other NRL
clubs and ended up at the New Zealand Warriors to fulfil his wish of playing at five-eighth. He didn’t excel in his preferred position and found his natural role at centre where he performed ably for the Warriors and appeared for the Indigenous All Stars in 2011. A move to Salford demonstrated his ability in Super League and, at 24, there should be plenty more in the tank to please the hordes of Loiners with an insatiable appetite for success.
Not commanding quite so much attention as Gareth Ellis’s journey home was Daniel Holdsworth’s move from the cash-stricken Salford City Reds to Hull FC last September. For fans of statistics however, Holdsworth’s move represented a ripple of excitement due to some impressive tallies racked up in Super League XVII.
The Australian stand-off finished 7th in the list of top try assists with 23, 6th in the top goalscorers category (69) and 9th-best points scorer (164).
The fact all of this was achieved for a lower-half team makes the reading all the more impressive and given the chance to control operations on the field at the KC Stadium, Holdsworth could become a genuine star of Super League and the Airlie Birds aim to break into a top four position.
5) Michael Shenton to Castleford
The local boy comes home! After 7 seasons at Castleford Tigers where he won the hearts of the West Yorkshire club’s supporters, Shenton spent two impressive years at St Helens before agreeing to return as captain of the Tigers for Super League XVIII.
Only 26, Shenton has packed a lot into his career, including representing England and winning promotion to the Super League with his hometown club, and the three-quarter will hope to reinvigorate a squad containing the occasionally brilliant Rangi Chase into Play-Off chasers after a disappointing 2012 for Cas on and off the pitch.
As captain, he’ll want to make his mark and become the lynchpin of the side after furthering his rugby league education at the more ambitious surroundings of St Helens.
6) Justin Poore to Wakefield
It may have been a friendly but Justin Poore has already made himself known to Super League followers after being red-carded in Wakefield’s Boxing Day clash at Leeds after only 20 minutes. His profile picture on the Wakefield Wildcats website shows him sporting a black eye and he is described as a ‘destructive prop’ with enough quality to be chosen for three State of Origin appearances in 2009.
His CV boasts 178 games in the NRL and with injury preventing him from playing regularly over the past couple of seasons the Aussie will be chomping at the bit to succeed in Super League. In Poore, Super League fans may witness one of the more aggressive props in the sport and if recent evidence is to go by he could be making quite a few more headlines yet…