WITH the Super League off-season now upon us – although the World Cup is very much alive – those in the top flight have been eager to recruit players who they think could propel their club to greatness in 2023.
The relegation of Toulouse Olympique and the promotion of Leigh Centurions means there will be a different dimension in Super League with just one French team.
That being said, all 12 top flight sides have made a number of signings for 2023, but which deserve a place on this list?
Jake Wardle – Wigan Warriors
Wigan have been in need of a centre for a few months following the departure of Zak Hardaker and a serious injury to Iain Thornley and they have perhaps signed one of the best in Super League with Jake Wardle. Though Ian Watson preferred the likes of Ricky Leutele and Toby King at Huddersfield Giants, Wardle impressed on loan at Warrington Wolves. Now, he has signed a long-term deal at Wigan. The Warriors clearly feel that the 23-year-old is capable of future England honours and under the tutelage of Matty Peet that will not be out of the question.
Brad Dwyer – Hull FC
Brad Dwyer departed Leeds Rhinos at the end of 2022 after five seasons at the club to join Hull FC. The wily hooker enjoyed a stellar year in Super League in 2022 with Leeds, helping the West Yorkshire club to a Grand Final after a shocking start to the season. That meant it was quite a surprise that the Rhinos let Dwyer go, but it is a perfect match at Hull. The Black and Whites have been desperate for a quick ruck on the back of massive runs from the likes of Chris Satae and Ligi Sao, but have somewhat struggled at dummy-half for that to happen. Now, they have one of the best ruck runners in the top flight in their ranks.
Kevin Naiqama – Huddersfield Giants
It’s fair to say that Ian Watson is building a brilliant team at the John Smith’s Stadium and the signing of Kevin Naiqama proves just that. The Fijian international is a real pedigree signing for Huddersfield and will bring that experience and versatility that the Giants perhaps missed towards the back end of 2022. A three-time Super League Grand Final winner with St Helens, Naiqama may well be 33-years-old, but the centre/winger/fullback is still in peak physical condition as Watson goes in search of silverware in 2023.
Harry Rushton – Huddersfield Giants
Again a sign of Huddersfield going in the right direction, Harry Rushton put pen to paper on a three-year deal at the John Smith’s Stadium after a period in the NRL with Canberra Raiders. The former Wigan Warriors forward is still only 20 but has been touted as one of the most promising forwards of his generation – and he is Huddersfield’s man. It was no secret that a number of clubs were after Rushton before Huddersfield swooped, but what a signing it is for the West Yorkshire club going forward!
Tom Opacic – Hull KR
Hull KR have had some great success in the past with their overseas recruits such as Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Kane Linnett and 2023 may prove that even more with the signing of NRL Grand Finalist Tom Opacic from the Parramatta Eels. The Australian centre enjoyed a superb year in 2022 which makes Hull KR’s signing of him even more impressive. Opacic is still only 28 and played nearly 50 games for the Eels in the past two seasons as new Robins boss Willie Peters looks to put his own stamp on the squad.