New Hull FC hero and 4 more top Super League signings
Super League XXI gave us the most dramatic finale possible, with Wigan Warriors toppling Warrington Wolves in a terrifically tense Grand Final, before Salford Red Devils triumphed in the Million Pound Game in the most dramatic fashion.
And the signs are pointing towards another hugely exciting and competitive campaign, with clubs across Super League bringing in top talent in the close-season.
Here are the five savviest bits of business so far…
Josh Griffin (Hull FC)
Nobody did more to secure Salford’s safety last season than Griff, with the 26-year-old centre chalking up 15 tries for the struggling Red Devils, with his brilliant footwork and robust frame making him impossible to handle on his day.
While this deal was agreed back in May 2016, the Airlie Birds newboy stayed commendably focused on Salford’s survival, with his move taking place earlier this month.
Having gone from strength to strength over the past few years, Lee Radford could well have snapped the classy centre up at the perfect time.
Zak Hardaker (Castleford Tigers)
There’s no doubt that a settled Hardaker is among Super League’s finest assets, and Cas will be hoping their loan arrival can revive his fortunes at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, following a frustrating 2016.
Named the Man of Steel in 2015, the Leeds loanee’s speed, strength and fantastic handling make him an absolute nightmare for opponents.
Meanwhile, his huge experience – three Super League titles, two Ladbrokes Challenge Cup trophies and a World Club Challenge winner’s medal – mean he can pass on invaluable experience to Cas’ younger players.
Lee Gaskell (Huddersfield Giants)
Bradford Bulls’ sad demise has seen a number of talented players looking to find new clubs – and it’s Huddersfield who have largely been the beneficiaries, bringing in five players from the now-defunct club since November.
The most talented of that fivesome is stand-off Gaskell, with the tough-tackling 26-year-old proving almost impassable for opponents last season. Add to that the 34 tries he chalked up in 56 games at Odsal Stadium, and you have one of the best buys of the close-season.
Brayden Wiliame (Catalans Dragons)
Following a strong finish to the season with NRL heavyweights Manly Sea Eagles, Catalans boss Laurent Frayssinous has pulled off something of a coup by snapping up the highly-rated Fiji international.
At 24, Wiliame’s best days are likely still ahead of him, and having chalked up seven tries since April, fans of the Perpignan outfit are likely to see him add much-needed points to a side who scored six points or fewer in three of their final 11 games last season.
Morgan Escare (Wigan Warriors)
Many sides were running escared of the France international back in 2014, as he chalked up an incredible 29 tries for Catalans Dragons. And despite two less prolific years since, he now has the chance to rediscover his best form under Shaun Wane.
We certainly saw glimpses of the 25-year-old’s immense quality last year, with his dazzling try in the 41-22 defeat of Castleford arguably the best anywhere in Super League XXI. Alongside the likes of Sam Tomkins and Lewis Tierney, you should expect him to flourish once again.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing