The NRL merry-go-round has been in overdrive ahead of the 2018 season – and it’s set to affect the NSW playing stocks more than ever.
It seems like there has been more big-name signings than ever this year, with many of the off-season moves likely to have an impact on the representative arena. Of the relocating players, nine formed a part of the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues squad last season, including seven from the unchanged starting line-up.
With Brad Fittler set to take the reins in 2018, many players will need to impress at new clubs as they push for selection. It sets the scene for an intriguing opening 12 rounds of competition, kicking off on Thursday, 8 March.
James Tedesco, Sydney Roosters
He wore the red, white and blue proudly as a Camden Rams junior, and in 2018, Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues fullback James Tedesco will once more don the tri-colours – pledging his services to the Sydney Roosters until the end of the 2021 season. Held as one of the game’s most elusive ball runners, the Roosters’ no.1 will be hoping the arrival of experienced halfback Cooper Cronk will add another dimension to his game in 2018.
Josh Dugan, Cronulla Sharks
Writing another chapter in the already-long and decorated book of feuds between the clubs, outgoing St George Illawarra Dragons centre Josh Dugan finds a new home at cross-town rivals, the Cronulla Sharks. Starring for the Kangaroos at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, the 12-time NSW representative replaces fellow Blue – and close friend – Jack Bird on the Sharks’ right-edge.
Jarryd Hayne, Parramatta Eels
The return of the prodigal son is another chapter in an indisputably fascinating sporting career – and an increasingly complex relationship between Jarryd Hayne and the club he calls home. Having reportedly taken a significant pay cut to return to Parramatta, he is up for the challenge of winning back the blue and gold faithful and dealing with the intense media pressure he has come to expect.
James Maloney, Penrith Panthers
After a saga that dragged on at the end of last season, the Panthers’ star recruit now appears to have settled in to life at the foot of the mountains. In positive signs for the Penrith faithful, Maloney has had success every time he has switched clubs; after taking the Warriors to the grand final in his second year across the ditch, he helped both the Roosters and the Sharks to premierships in his first season of each stint. Of particular interest will be Maloney’s halves pairing with Nathan Cleary, predicted by some to feature at State of Origin level this year.
Mitchell Pearce, Newcastle Knights
In a move which would not have been expected six months ago, Pearce heads up the M1 to Newcastle – and the impact of his signing has not been lost on Novocastrians. Having largely struggled in their efforts to replace Andrew Johns since the Eighth Immortal’s retirement in 2007, the control and experience of Pearce is bound to lift the Knights off the bottom of the ladder. Pearce’s signature was also a significant personal decision and it is hoped the 18-time NSW representative will thrive in the laid-back lifestyle of the Hunter.
Aaron Woods, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
As one of the two big-name recruits headed to Belmore for the 2018 NRL season, Aaron Woods, along with Kieran Foran, would be certainly hoping for less drama-filled seasons than they have had in recent years. Woods unwittingly got caught up in the Wests Tigers fiasco that saw three high-profile players and a coach depart the club, and a fresh start in Belmore is exactly what’s needed. While he has constantly performed for his club, state and country, Woods hasn’t played finals footy since 2011, and will be hoping to change that under new coach Dean Pay this season.
Jack Bird, Brisbane Broncos
A St George Illawarra Dragons junior that made a name for himself at the Cronulla Sharks, Jack Bird departs Sydney’s south into the hustle and bustle of Queensland’s capital. Likely to play in the centres again in 2018, Bird has undergone off-season surgery and is no certainty to play the opening round of the season. What is certain is that Bird has raw talent that should see him shine under Wayne Bennett, and a strong start to the year could see him added to the unique list of Brisbane-based players representing the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues in State of Origin.
Matt Moylan, Cronulla Sharks
The silky ball-playing skills of Matt Moylan were warmly welcomed in The Shire upon the 26-year-old’s arrival, following the ‘player swap’ deal which saw him change places with Maloney. In the halves for the Blues’ Game-Three win in 2016, Moylan is no stranger to defending in the front line – a task he’ll be asked to perform many a time at his new club.
Jordan McLean, North Queensland Cowboys
It’s not like the North Queensland Cowboys were in desperate need of another skilful big body with the likes of Jason Taumalolo, Matt Scott, Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess in their squad, but the inclusion of Jordan McLean improves what is already one of the best forward packs in the competition. 2017 was a big year for McLean, who made his Australian Kangaroos debut in the Rugby League World Cup, and a big start under Paul Green will surely see him come into Brad Fittler’s Origin calculations.