An impressive selection of big-money moves and under-the-radar switches took place over the recent off-season.
While the likes of Tyson Frizell and David Fifita have hogged plenty of the limelight, names such as Daine Laurie and Isaiah Papali'i have shown once again that there is plenty of value out there if you know where to look.
The experts at NRL.com have had their say on which new recruit will prove the most helpful to their club by the end of the 2021 season.
Experts' view - Best signing for 2021
Brett Kimmorley (Former Test halfback)
Benji Marshall will be a huge signing for South Sydney. He adds depth to the halves, which is hard to do. He knows how to win big games and an old head like his will only help the Rabbitohs in big games at the back end of the year.
Daine Laurie has had a great start to the season. He seems to find his way through the defensive line with ease. He will only get better as the season goes on and is just what the Wests Tigers need.
Round 3 - Cleary and Reynolds named, Radley returns
Benji Marshall will be the best signing due to his ability to step in at crucial moments and help the team. In round one he played well in the middle and made an immediate difference to the momentum of the game. Then, in round two, he was able to take over from Adam Reynolds.
Robbie Farah (Wests Tigers legend)
Tyson Frizell. He's a NSW and Test player for a reason. He will provide leadership both on and off the field. When the important games come along, he is a player Newcastle know they can rely on to play well.
How Parramatta managed to sign Isaiah Papali'i without more interest from other clubs or a bigger fight from the Warriors is a mystery. Papali'i has been a stand-out for the Eels in the first two weeks of the competition and will no doubt be a Parramatta cult hero by the end of the season.
Sometimes a change of scenery is all that is required and the Knights are already getting their money’s worth with enforcer Tyson Frizell. The former Dragon has started his career at Newcastle strongly, averaging 155 metres a game and three tackle busts. What the stats won’t say are his tough carries when the game is in the balance.
Much has been made of the lucrative contract the Titans needed to produce to get him from Brisbane but David Fifita will be the most influential new recruit in 2021. The way he dismantled the Broncos last weekend was ominous for any edge defender in the NRL.
Every try from round 2
It's hard to go past Isaiah Papali’i. Parra really struggled to maintain momentum when Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard went off last year but the former Warrior has quickly proven that won’t be a problem this year. He's been arguably the best forward on the park in his club’s opening two wins.
Tino Fa'asuamaleaui. Could it be that David Fifita is the second-best signing the Titans made for this season? When Fa'asuamaleaui was signed in late 2019, he was considered a young player with a very bright future. That future arrived almost immediately as he helped the Storm to the 2020 title. Now at the Gold Coast, he can set his sights on being the best forward in the game.
Episode 4 - Christian Welch
For the second time in as many years, it looks like the Wests Tigers’ best player could be a new recruit – and a rookie at that. Daine Laurie has been an instant success story at his new club, pushing former club captain Moses Mbye out of the starting line-up and showing he’s the Tigers’ best fullback since James Tedesco.
Addin Fonua-Blake. The Tongan enforcer is arguably the best prop in the game and his presence gives the Warriors' forward pack greater respect. Fonua-Blake showed with a man-of-the-match performance in the round one defeat of Gold Coast the impact he can have.
Warriors coach Nathan Brown said after round one that he almost fell off his chair when the club signed Addin Fonua-Blake - and it’s been easy to see why. The hulking prop will only get better as the year progresses, bringing aggression, work ethic and skill to the pack.
Tyson Frizell. Not so much a changed man but a reinvigorated one in his first two games for the Knights. If he rediscovers the form that tailed away during his last few Dragons campaigns, Frizell is the hard edge Newcastle need to make a dent come finals time.
Fifita at his unstoppable best
Tyson Frizell has added a whole new dimension to the Newcastle pack in 2021 and he’ll keep going from strength to strength. The former Dragon made 180 metres in round one and 129 metres in round two and had had three tackle breaks in each game. Frizell is a winner and a true professional.
Harry Grant. The judges allowed this selection through on a technicality. Grant returns from his loan deal with the Wests Tigers and although he will miss the opening six rounds, when he plays he will be instrumental in Melbourne’s title defence. If you had one hooker stepping in to try and fill Cameron Smith’s shoes, you’d want it to be Grant. He was the Tigers’ best player last year.
How good is Magic Round
What defines a great signing? If it’s a player that delivers the results that were intended, then it’s probably David Fifita. However, if the criteria is based on value for money, then it is hard to go past Daine Laurie. He is only two games in and he is already the stand-out player in a Wests Tigers team that looks like they will struggle to get anything done in 2021.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.
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