The coronavirus brought the NRL season to a screeching hault, just as we were trying to determine the merits of South Sydney's decision to sign Latrell Mitchell from the Roosters. While we await the resumption of play, we take a look back on 10 of the most successful signings in the history of the game.
10. Luke Lewis
Lewis made his debut for Penrith Panthers as a nifty outside back in 2001, before taking his place on the wing during their 2003 premiership victory. He later moved into the forwards where he starred for the Panthers, New South Wales and Australia. In 2014, after falling out with the Panthers, he departed for Cronulla Sharks and won the Clive Churchill Medal in their maiden Grand Final victory over Melbourne Storm.
9. Greg Inglis
Inglis was one of the most naturally talented players to ever play the game of rugby league. He burst onto the scene for Melbourne Storm, debuting in 2005, before starring in their 2007 and 2009 Grand Final victories. When Melbourne's systematic salary cap cheating was revealed and those titles stripped, Inglis packed up his boat and headed to South Sydney where he made the fullback jersey his own. The star of Origin and internationals played a major role in securing the Rabbitohs their first premiership in 43 years when they saluted in 2014.
8. Luke Priddis
Priddis made his debut with Canberra Raiders in 1997 before signing with the Broncos for the 1999 season. He played hooker for the Broncos in their 2000 Grand Final victory over the Roosters before signing with the Panthers for the start of the 2002 season. Priddis played a vital part in the Panthers' second premiership in 2003 before packing his bags and heading to the Dragons for the start of the 2009 season where he linked up with his Broncos mentor Wayne Bennett. Although playing a big part in the 2010 season at the Dragons, he did not play in their Grand Final victory, denying him the chance of winning three premierships at three clubs.
7. Brad Fittler
Fittler started his career with Penrith Panthers as a schoolboy, starring in the centres during their maiden premiership win in 1991. He signed with the Roosters for the 1996 season and played in their premiership victory in 2002, as well as losing efforts in 2000, 2003 and 2004. Considered one of the game's greatest five-eighths, Fittler was part of many victorious State of Origin campaigns and captained Australia.
6. Steve Edge
Edge made his first grade debut for the Dragons in 1973 before playing in the 1975 Grand Final loss to the Roosters. In 1977 he captained the Dragons in the historic drawn Grand Final against the Eels, winning the replay to claim his first premiership. He was part of the Dragons' 1979 premiership winning side before joining Parramatta Eels in 1980. The no-nonsense hooker then led the Eels to their maiden premiership in 1981 and completed the hat-trick of titles in 1983. He overcame a serious eye injury to play in the Eels' 1984 Grand Final loss to the Bulldogs, retiring after the game.
5. John O'Neill
O'Neill was one of the toughest front-row forwards to ever play the game and also one of the most successful. Starting his career with the Rabbitohs in 1965, he played in six Grand Finals over seven years, winning four premierships before Manly came calling for his services for the 1972 season. He was part of Manly's maiden premiership that year and backed it up to claim back-to-back titles with the club in 1973. He returned to the Rabbitohs for the final two seasons of his career.
4. James Maloney
Born in Orange, Maloney made his first grade debut with Melbourne Storm in 2009, playing just four games before being signed by New Zealand Warriors. He was part of the Warriors' 2011 Grand Final loss to the Sea Eagles before leaving the club for the Roosters in 2013 where he starred in their Grand Final victory over the Sea Eagles. In 2016 he joined Cronulla Sharks, playing a key role in their maiden premiership victory that year. He joined Penrith Panthers in 2017, but was unable to replicate his success there as they battled through coaching turmoil. Maloney was also credited with helping New South Wales to success over Queensland, before departing to the English Super League for the 2020 season.
3. Cooper Cronk
One of the game's great halfbacks, Cronk made his debut for Melbourne Storm in 2004 and played a key role in their Grand Final victories in 2007 and 2008 as well as winning the Clive Churchill in their 2012 premiership victory over the Bulldogs. He again starred in the Storm's 2017 premiership victory before joining the Roosters in 2018. He steered the Roosters to premiership glory that same year, despite playing in the Grand Final with a broken shoulder blade. He finished his career by helping the Roosters win back-to-back titles in 2019.
2. Ron Coote
It's the Roosters again, with their masterstroke signing of rugby league legend Ron Coote for the start of the 1972 season. Coote was a lanky back-row forward who started his career with the Rabbitohs in 1964, playing in four premiership-winning South Sydney teams before the cross-town move. He then won back-to-back premierships with the Roosters in 1974 and 1975. In a period of 11 seasons he played in nine Grand Finals, winning six. If you watch match highlights of the Rabbitohs or Roosters during his playing stints, you will see a lot of Coote as he cuts his way through defences or makes scything cover tackles.
1. Glenn Lazarus
Glenn Lazarus tops this list for his incredible record of bringing the ultimate success to three clubs. He made his premiership debut with Canberra Raiders in 1987, was then part of their maiden premiership success in 1989 before going back-to-back with the Green Machine in 1990. He signed with Brisbane Broncos for the start of the 1992 season and led the charge to their first premiership that year, before backing up to win it all again in 1993. He signed with expansion club Melbourne Storm for their inaugural season in 1998 (meaning Lazarus missed another Broncos premiership that year). He was then part of the Storm's maiden premiership victory over the Dragons in 1999. That must be some trophy cabinet at the Lazarus home.