After a weekend of trials which saw plenty of fringe players given a chance to shine and a few shiny new 'Ferraris' left in the garage, the time has come for clubs to unveil the star recruits they hope can turn their fortunes around in 2022.
Can they justify the hype and live up to the expectations of their team-mates and their fans? Can they slot seamlessly into a new team and deliver the sort of performance which will have their coach rubbing his hands together in anticipation of things to come?
After some lean years the Warriors, Bulldogs and Wests Tigers will be hoping their recruits can propel them back to the finals, while the Sharks have put their faith in a new coach and a posse of new faces to carry them back into the eight after narrowly missing out in 2021.
Shaun Johnson (Warriors)
It seems a lifetime ago that a light stepping 20-year-old debuted for the Warriors and carried them all the way to a grand final in his first season. Johnson scored tries in his second and third career games and went on to post 63 four-pointers in 162 games before making the move to Cronulla for three seasons. Now 31 and with 206 NRL games and 32 Tests to his name, Johnson returns to add the spark and stability the Warriors need to again challenge for a title. This week's hit-out against the Titans gives Johnson the perfect opportunity to gauge whether his fitness and his finesse are where he wants them to be ahead of the season opener against the Dragons.
Johnson: The first time running back out in a Warriors jersey
Nicho Hynes (Sharks)
New Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon must have been delighted with what he saw from his new playmaker in the All Stars game and now he gets to unleash him against the Bulldogs in one of the most intriguing matches of the weekend. At 25 and with 36 games to his credit, Hynes is in the sweet spot of his career and shapes as one of the best buys of 2022. He comes from a great system at the Storm where he developed an array of skills which will ensure he quickly becomes a fan favourite in the Shire.
Chad Townsend (Cowboys)
Exactly the type of game manager and man manager the Cowboys need to turn things around this season. Townsend knows what it takes to win premierships, having helped Cronulla break a 50-year droug
ht in 2017, and his composure is the perfect complement to the brashness of Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Jeremiah Nanai and Heilum Luki, who will hang off his every word. His promotion to co-captain of the club alongside Jason Taumalolo highlights just how important he'll be. Look for the 31-year-old to take control from the outset against Brisbane and lay the groundwork for a successful season in Townsville.
Jackson Hastings (Wests Tigers)
The former Sea Eagle and Rooster returns to the NRL after a highly successful four-year Super League which included grand final appearances in 2019 with Salford and 2020 with Wigan. With Adam Doueihi still recovering from a second reconstruction on his right knee, Hastings joins forces with Luke Brooks in the halves and it's a fair bet the pair will dominate the headlines one way or the other. At his best, Hastings is a highly skilful playmaker whose exuberance and enthusiasm could be just what the Tigers need to make some noise against the Storm, Knights, Warriors and Titans in the opening month of the season.
'Foxx' steps out of his comfort zone and into a new challenge
Josh Addo-Carr (Bulldogs)
The Bulldogs get an A+ for their recruitment and the dux of the Class of 2022 could well be 'The Fox'. A proven match-winner, Addo-Carr will fast become a cult hero to the blue and white army if he can combine with Matt Burton and Matt Dufty to spark a Bulldogs attack which mustered a paltry 14 points per game last season. Already on a high after captaining the Indigenous All Stars against the Maori, Addo-Carr will be buzzing when he strides onto PointsBet Stadium on Monday to kick start a season Doggies fans will see a return to the days of 'The Entertainers' and a return to finals after five years in the doldrums.
Jaydn Su'A (Dragons)
The powerhouse Maroons forward arrives at the Red V fresh off a grand final appearance with the Rabbitohs and a superb season which saw him enhance his reputation. At 100kg and 188cm, Su'A brings a new dimension to the Dragons attack and he'll look to feed off the service of fellow Queenslanders Ben Hunt and Andrew McCullough at every opportunity. The Charity Shield against his former club is the ideal testing ground for a player the Dragons hope can make them more lethal on an edge and add some much needed intimidation factor.
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