By DANIEL HUNT
Kevin Brown (Salford)
Kevin Brown may be coming to the latter stages of his career, aged 35, but will bring a priceless amount of Super League & international experience. Brown was selected to play at stand-off for England in the memorable 2017 Rugby League World Cup, which Australia won 6-0, and has also previously played in both finals with Warrington (Challenge Cup vs Catalan, Super League vs Wigan).
As we mentioned, Brown will also bring a wealth of Super League experience and boasts an impressive 340 appearances in the topflight with high-profile sides such as Wigan, Widnes, Huddersfield and, most recently, Warrington.
2019 Grand Finalists Salford will be Brown’s next destination and will have big boots to fill replacing Man of Steel Jackson Hastings, who has moved to Wigan. However, Great Britain coach Ian Watson will be hoping to guide Salford to another successful season.
Tom Johnstone (Wakefield)
24-year-old Johnstone began his Super League career with Wakefield Trinity in 2015 when their injury-hit side were defeated by Wigan Warriors in Round seven. Since making his initial debut, Johnstone has maintained a consistent place in the Trinity side and has gone on to make 78 appearances to date. German-born Johnstone is regarded as one of the fastest players in Super League and therefore, has an impressive record close to the whitewash by darting over for 67 tries in total.
2018 was a memorable season for Johnstone as, after an impressive spell on the wing, he received his first international call up. On his debut, Tom crossed over for a sensational hat-trick as England defeated France 44-6 at Leigh Sports Village.
2019 looked to be a similar season for Johnstone as, against Leeds at Headingley in Round four, the rapid winger completed a hat-trick in just 11 minutes by scoring tries on the 11th, 15th & 22nd minute respectively. However, just two weeks later, Johnstone ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee which left him, a likely candidate for 2019 top try scorer, kept on the side-lines for the rest of the season.
Johnstone, although recovering from his injury, may still miss a couple of weeks of the new season and head coach Chris Chester will intend to only play him when he is ready.
Tom Davies (Catalans)
Wigan-born Tom Davies has played all his amateur Rugby League in his home-town, playing for Shevington Sharks, Orrell St James and Wigan St Patricks. To date, Davies has only played professionally for three years and currently has a scoring rate with Wigan of a try every two games (32 tries in 64 appearances). Davies represented England Knights in 2018 by playing against Papua New Guinea twice and is remembered for his decisive four-pointer against Warrington in Wigan’s 2018 Super League Grand Final success.
Davies played 12 games in the beginning of 2019 but suffered a horrific injury during the traditional ‘Good Friday’ clash against St Helens, which Wigan lost 36-10, after dislocating and breaking his ankle. The talented winger was rushed to hospital after his foot was left pointing in the opposite direction to normal and originally, he was ruled out for three months but unbeknownst to Davies, his season was heartbreakingly over.
In early November, Davies signed a two-year contract with Catalans Dragons and has already linked up with ex-Wigan teammates Joel Tomkins, Sam Tomkins and Michael McIlorum during pre-season training. The Dragons ended 2019 in seventh place and due to winning only five away games out of a possible 15, were left four points adrift of the play-off places. If pacey Davies returns to his electric form in 2020, Catalans could easily improve their away form which would make them a key contender for the top five.
Luke Gale (Leeds)
Gale played a pivotal role in the Tigers’ success in 2017 by kicking a crucial drop goal in extra-time against St Helens to grant Castleford their first Grand Final appearance, which they ended up losing to the Rhinos. However, the past two years have been two to forget for the England International. 2018 saw Gale fracture his kneecap which kept him out for a substantial three months and although Gale did later return in September against Catalans, Castleford were already out of luck for the play-offs. In 2019, Gale was unable to participate at all due to rupturing his Achilles back in January and being unable to recover.
Gale now has a new challenge ahead of him after signing a lucrative contract with his hometown club, Leeds Rhinos, and will bring his level of experience in different areas – the 31-year-old can be a playmaker, kick goals and can also provide belief to his side during the latter stages of matches.
Michael Shenton (Castleford)
Heavily experienced Michael Shenton has racked up close to 400 appearances in his career so far including two spells with the Tigers and a brief two years with St Helens and, at 33, still has a considerable amount of years remaining in his playing career. As we mentioned earlier, Castleford had a storming season in 2017 which unfortunately ended in a Grand Final defeat but, after two more years of play-off disappointment, the Tigers will be one of the favourites to make the play-off places. Castleford have a number of youth players in their side and, after losing talent such as Luke Gale, Mitch Clark & Jamie Ellis, Shenton will be a key player required to guide these players to success.
Unfortunately for Daryl Powell, Castleford had to play the majority of their 2019 season with Michael Shenton as, during a game in April against Catalans, he injured his ankle. Initially, this injury ruled Shenton out for 10 weeks, meaning he would’ve been able to play around June, but played no further part in 2019. Although, Castleford physiotherapist Matt Crowther did say that Shenton may have been able to play in the play-off semi-final had they have got there, meaning there were positive signs of him improving.
Shenton has been in pre-season training with the Tigers since day one and is likely to play his first 2020 Super League game against newly-promoted side Toronto Wolfpack on Sunday 2nd February at Emerald Headingley (KO: 2:30 pm)
Jodie Broughton (Halifax)
Finally, we have 31-year-old England Knights International Jodie Broughton. He is the only player in this list to play in a different league next year and after four years at Catalans Dragons, will now face a fresh challenge with Betfred Championship side Halifax.
In the past two years with Catalans, Broughton has been unlucky with injuries and has faced three lengthy lay-offs. In July 2018, Broughton suffered season-ending ligament damage in his ACL meaning he subsequently missed Catalan’s Challenge Cup historic semi-final & final victories over 2019 finalists St Helens and Warrington respectively. Unfortunately for Broughton, he suffered a second lengthy injury while playing for Les Dracs in a reserve game and was ruled out long term with an injury to his bicep. This time, Broughton was able to return to Super League action but, after a matter of weeks, suffered ligament damage in his knee which kept him out of action for the remainder of 2019.
Broughton has only played three Super League games since July 2018 due to these set-backs but will still bring 198 games of experience to Halifax including spells with Salford, Huddersfield and Hull FC. Halifax are among the best-recruited sides in the Championship and alongside Broughton, will bring in the likes of Tom Gilmore, Keegan Hirst and Scott Grix.