Shaun Lunt (Batley)
Ex-England International Shaun Lunt was a shock signing announced by Batley back in mid-November which may have gone under-the-radar following substantial recruitment from potential promotion favourites such as Toulouse, Bradford and London. Batley finished 2019 in ninth place with 17 points and required double this amount in order to reach the play-off places so chose to bring in the experienced veteran Shaun Lunt ahead of 2020.
Lunt, 32, has clocked up a notable 320 appearances since his Castleford debut in 2005 with the vast majority of these appearances while playing for Huddersfield (123) and Hull KR (89). In addition to his experience, Lunt has also been on the losing side in three Challenge Cup Finals but has lifted the profound Super League trophy with the Rhinos in 2012.
Last year, the Cumbrian-born hooker was awarded a testimonial following a stellar career in the Betfred Super League, which clearly demonstrates his dedication and commitment to any teams he plays for and we expect his next destination, Batley, to be no different.
Brett Ferres (Featherstone)
Featherstone head coach Ryan Carr guided his side to a promotion play-off final last year, where they were defeated by Toronto, but have made no mistake when it comes to recruitment. Alongside the likes of Super League’s Thomas Minns and Craig Hall from Hull KR, they have recruited stalwart Brett Ferres from dual-reg partner Leeds.
The powerful Yorkshire-born forward, who is well-known for playing loose forward or second-row, boasts an impressive 329 appearances with clubs all around his home county and spent four years each with Castleford, Huddersfield and most recently, Leeds. Internationally, Ferres has accumulated 14 England caps and has partaken in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, 2014 and 2016 Four Nations and has also scored three tries during a Baskerville Shield victory over New Zealand in 2015.
Meanwhile, in Super League, Ferres has also earnt a number of commendable accolades including a 2006 World Club Challenge, an appearance in the 2013 Super League Dream Team as second-row with Huddersfield and a 2017 Super League trophy triumph with the Rhinos making him arguably the perfect acquisition for the Rovers.
Harrison Hansen (Toulouse)
Similarly to Ryan Carr’s Featherstone, Toulouse has been on the cusp of promotion but have failed to receive Super League status for the past couple of seasons. In the 2018 Qualifiers, they finished two points adrift of London, who defeated Toronto in the Million Pound Game to earn promotion, and in 2019, they failed to earn a play-off victory after defeats from Toronto Wolfpack and Featherstone Rovers. Sylvain Houles realised that to succeed, Toulouse would need more firepower and subsequently, have brought in veteran Harrison Hansen ahead of 2020.
After amassing nearly 250 appearances over 9 years at Wigan which, during that time, the Warriors won two Super League Grand Finals and two Challenge Cups, Hansen has been regularly on the move across Lancashire clubs and has spent two years at Salford and Widnes alongside spending three seasons with the Leigh Centurions. Hansen does also have international experience with Samoa including performances in the 2008 and 2013 Rugby League World Cups.
Matty Smith (Widnes)
Matty Smith, 32, will be Widnes’ go-to scrum-half in 2020 after signing a one-year deal with the Chemics. The Vikings have a side full of youth and upcoming talent but required an experienced player, such as Matty Smith, to provide an additional attacking threat. Matty has also been known as a game-winner multiple times and has been a regular drop-goal kicker with Wigan, kicking 25 field goals in just 139 appearances.
Matty has the best portfolio out of the five players on this list and in total, has participated in seven finals, including two Super League Grand Final victories and two triumphs in the Challenge Cup. Smith’s break-through year occurred in 2013 where he collected two individual accolades, the Lance Todd trophy and a place in the Super League Dream Team, following a series of consistent and strong performances.
Danny Washbrook (York City Knights)
Finally, we have Danny Washbrook, who has a completed a switch from Hull FC to Championship side York prior to the new season. Despite having no experience at international level, Washbrook has still racked up an impressive record during his 16 years spent in Super League, with two spells at Hull and a four-year stint with Wakefield Trinity, totalling 337 displays.
Washbrook does, however, lack Grand Final experience and has only played in one Super League Grand Final, where he was on the losing side against a tough St Helens outfit. However, Hull’s notable consecutive Challenge Cup victories had significant contributions from Washbrook, as he played in the side that toppled Warrington in 2016 and Wigan the following year.
James Ford’s side manages to clinch third place in their inaugural Championship season after promotion and we expect them to be challenging for the play-off places once again. Will Danny Washbrook be the missing piece in the Knights’ puzzle?