In all there are sixty-four departures from Superleague clubs and fifty-four arrivals meaning that on average clubs are losing one player each, probably as a victim of the salary cap. Of the twelve clubs just four are showing a net gain (Bradford, Catalans, Hull FC and Wakefield) while the rest are showing negative balances of up to five players.|
The least activity has come from the champions Saints, with one arrival and three departures...but what an arrival in Matt Gidley.
Probably the most improved side in 2006, Hull FC, have seen fit to recruit five players while releasing just two. They will undoubtedly be stronger next season and with the Rhinos seemingly reticent to strengthen, we are likely to fall further behind. Wakefield, under the new coaching of John Kear, have been on a massive recruitment drive and signed nine new players to try and keep them away from the 2007 relegation dogfight.
The sides which seem to have 'thrown in the towel' with a deficit shift in players are Leeds, Wigan and the Harlequins. All of these sides have released five more players than they have signed.
Wigans plight at the bottom of this table is understandable. Their disasterous start in 2006 saw them recruit like crazy to get out of trouble and this must have meant that they broke the salary cap. They needed to offload, and offload fast, to avoid doing the same in 2007 and risk a massive fine for repeated breaches. Expect few further signings from them before the start of the season.
The Harlequins look the most unsettled side with twelve departures and seven arrivals although with their backbone being overseas players it is no surprise that many will be making their way home back down under with a new crop arriving.
So the real enigma is the Rhinos. We were under the cap last season, aided by the departure of Danny Ward at the last minute, and the movement of Richie Mathers onto the training staff midway through the season. Even the late arrivals of Thackray and Toopi were well under the cap. We've waved goodbye to big earners like O'Neill, Walker, Mathers, Millard and Poching so there is even greater space to expand the squad into.
We underachieved last season, and low season ticket sales must be hurting a club who is used to shifting 10,000+ before the end of January - it is all money in the bank. The sides around us, Hull FC and Bradford have both strengthened but we have gone backwards in squad size and experience.
Have all the best players gone...of course not! Is Hetherington waiting until after the tri-nations...there is every chance! After guiding the Rhinos to major trophies in 1999 and 2004, Hetherington must be as keen for further success as we are and he must be acutely aware of the need to strengthen, both for the squads sake and for commercial reasons.
I don't want to support a side at the bottom of the league, even if it is a league of player recruitment, Come on Gary, buy us a present or two...you can afford it!