The Super League and NRL are yet to kick-off, with a few weeks left before their respective March kick-offs. As is customary at this stage of the season, last-minute transfers and contract negotiations are finalised, training schedules devised, and fitness concerns addressed. What makes this pre-season a little more unusual might be the surprising wealth of talent currently in free agency. In the Super League, clubs have tough decisions to make.
Current financial pressures brought on by a challenging 2020 season, and global delays amidst the health crisis have left teams with limited options to spend money. Signings they do make will have to count – but, thankfully, they aren’t left struggling for choice. We’re looking at the five best free agents currently on the market across both leagues.
A wealth of experience
The Catalans Dragons lost a real player for the ages in Remi Casty, as so many fans were both sad and shocked when he left after at the end of the 2020 season. The main issue for potential suitors looking to sign him, would be Casty’s now advanced age at 35. After several French tournaments and over 340 domestic games under his belt, Casty is a player who offers benefits in the dressing room and training ground, while his on-pitch antics might be limited as a prop. The experience he can bring is invaluable for getting the best out of youth players.
Half-back Benji Marshall is perhaps the biggest name to be a free agent after his release from Wests Tigers. Like Casty, at 35, Marshall is more of an injection of experience rather than energy. However, unlike Casty, a further obstacle to Marshall finding a club could be significant wage expectations that are hindering him finding the next club in his career.
Old dog, new tricks?
Tony Gigot was a star player during his Dragons days. However, despite failings in relationships with management, followed by poor tenures and reported bouts of homesickness at both Wakefield and Toronto, Gigot has now found himself without a club. At only 30, Gigot offers physicality, impressive speed and technique that is still very much present. If he can find a club who’ll sign him despite his past inconsistencies, the Frenchman could be a great, last-minute signing.
Our third pick is another older player, at 35. However, Bryson Goodwin is known for his excellent relations at every club he’s been at, unlike his controversial counterpart Gigot. Goodwin is, in many ways, unlucky to find himself in free agency. Leaving Manchester side Warrington, Goodwin’s minimal spell with the Cronulla Sharks equalled a disappointing seven appearances – apparently not enough for management to want to offer him a new deal. At his age, Goodwin might expect a smaller offer or a lower club, but he still has plenty to give.
Potential to impress
After departing the Manly Sea Eagles in 2020, and switching to the Newcastle Knights, hooker Danny Levi is perhaps one of the most capable athletes of the free agents. The disappointing, inconsistent performance left him under scrutiny and ultimately, failed to seal him a contract. Levi is, however, still an unfinished product at his age, and form can fluctuate, often for the better, on the right side.
After watching St Helens lift the Super League trophy yet again last season, the rest of the league is likely clamouring at the chance to take the fight to them. According to the latest rugby league betting odds, St Helens are certainly still the hot favourites, with the Saints at 2/1 to win the Grand Final. Wigan is their nearest challenger at 9/4, hoping to repair the heartbreak’s of their final loss last season.
Finally, after claiming the Challenge Cup in 2020, the Leeds Rhinos fell into third, with 10/1 odds to oust the rest and take the title. If any of these teams are willing to take a chance on a talented, experienced free agent, nothing is off the table.