Widnes Vikings confirmed on Thursday that winger Corey Thompson would be leaving the club at the end of the season.
The former Canterbury Bulldogs flier, who scored 27 tries in his maiden season with the club, has decided to activate an NRL ‘opt out’ clause, allowing him to return to Australia at the end of the current season.
It leaves the Vikings on the lookout for a new winger to replace Thompson in 2018, and also another quota spot to use, whether that be on Thompson’s replacement or another target in a different position.
But who will be available for the Vikings at this stage? With their Super League status far from secure they may have difficulties snapping up the best talent currently in the open market.
Nevertheless, here are five played the Vikings may be considering.
Realistic target: Niall Evalds
The young utility back has just not had it his way since being named Salford’s player of the year in 2015.
He appeared to have the world at his feet after a superb year domestically, but in 2016 he became a squad player following the arrival of Justin Carney.
A lot of his appearances came from the bench, but despite that, he still scored 16 tries in 21 games and boasted one of the best try to minute ratios in the league.
However, this year has seen his chances even more limited, making just three appearances all season and left playing on dual-registration for Halifax in the Championship.
His contract expires at the end of the year and at the age of 23 he is likely in search of regular first-grade rugby. Widnes could provide him with that.
Fantasy signing: Kevin Naiqama
The exciting speedster was linked with a move to Super League in the build-up to the current campaign, although a move never materialised.
But with his contract expiring at the end of the current campaign, those rumours are likely to resurface now the market is open.
The likelihood of Naiqama agreeing on a deal with the Vikings in their current predicament is unlikely, as he is a player who would bring genuine quality to any Super League outfit.
Nevertheless, the opportunity is there for Widnes to recruit an overseas star, and the Wests winger might fit the bill.
Wildcard #1 – James Saltonstall
The young Halifax winger is widely regarded as one of the best young players outside of Super League.
At the age of 23 he already has international experience having featured for Italy in the 2013 World Cup, at the age of just 20.
Domestically, he is the Championship’s second top scorer this season with 12 tries in as many appearances and continues to impress with his overall work rate in backfield.
With time on his side and evident talent, he might be a player Denis Betts looks at.
Wildcard #2 – Joel Monaghan
The veteran Super League winger might be nearing the end of his career, but in his sporadic appearances for Castleford, he has proven that he is still more than capable.
Nevertheless, with Cas continuing to showcase up-and-coming talent, Monaghan’s future is uncertain.
Will he stay at Cas? It remains unclear, but if there isn’t an opening at the Tigers and he wants to stay in England, the Vikings would likely come calling.
TotalRL’s tip – Ben Jones-Bishop
Jones-Bishop’s future at Wakefield is uncertain.
With his contract at Trinity expiring, it’s almost a certainty that Super League clubs are after the former Leeds star, especially given his superb performances so far this season.
Now that Thompson’s departure has been confirmed, you can bet Widnes will be keen to join that mix of clubs vying for his signature. He is in the prime of his career, offers versatility in the backline and brings genuine quality.
If the Vikings could lure him it would be a major coup, but it’s a deal they should pursue.