This year's November 1 NRL signing free-for-all has been a bit slow out of the blocks really, with a couple of big names inking deals for a move in 2023 and a couple more renewing with their current clubs. There has been an uneasy silence from the Dolphins, with the NRL's newest club naming its first big signing today, despite several previous attempts.
Here's what we've seen so far, with a quick look at some of the better buys and retentions.
In a massive coup for the Bulldogs, the Panthers' destructive edge running back-rower will head to Belmore in 2023. They may have botched the signing announcement, with photos of Kikau in a Bulldogs shirt leaked, but Phil Gould will enjoy his Christmas after playing a big part in this move. The question remains whether Kikau will be as effective in 2023, with his game arguably in decline during the Panthers' premiership winning 2021 season. A new club may well spark the big unit back to his rampaging best.
The NRL's newest team has finally announced its first big signing, although with all due respect to Kaufusi, his name might not necessarily draw the oohs and aahs from the fans. Kaufusi has been a key part of Melbourne Storm and Queensland success in recent years and at his best possesses a cutting running game and solid defence. It seems as though he has been around forever, but he is only 29 and could prove to be an excellent base upon which to build the Dolphins pack.
Wests Tigers have pinched Parramatta backrower Isaiah Papali'i on a three-year deal starting in 2023. The 2021 Dally M second-rower of the year turned down the best the Eels could afford to offer him and will add a much-needed strike weapon to the Tigers pack. Will coach Michael Maguire survive long enough to take advantage of this signing?
Leilua and his manager were after more money than the Wests Tigers were willing to pay. Thanks to the signing of Papali'i the Tigers were able to stick firm on their offer, leaving Leilua to look elsewhere. It marks what many Tigers fans will hope is a turning point in the joint-venture's roster dealings. With Tim Sheens back at the helm, the club will be keen to put a recent history of overpaying underperforming players behind them.
Another signing coup by the Bulldogs sees the Eels rake join the revamped 2021 wooden-spooners in 2023. The biggest criticism of the Bulldogs rebuild so far has been their neglect of the key spine positions, with gaping talent holes in the No.9 and No.7 jerseys. This signing goes part of the way towards rectifying that issue. Maloney was let go as a junior by the Bulldogs, who welcome him back after watching him blossom at Parramatta. He does have a worrying shoulder injury history to overcome.
King Gutho's signing of a three-year extension must have come as a huge relief for Eels fans who were starting to see a worrying exodus of star players. Coach Brad Arthur has the Eels back in finals-playing form and will hope Gutho can rally the remaining stars to make another run at the Top 8 in 2022.
Big Tino's signing is huge for the Titans, who are clearly on the improve as a team and want to build their short- and long-term success on the shoulders of the young Queensland Origin forward. There was a lot of talk around that Tino was going to be the Dolphins' first big signing after he took a tour of the Redcliffe facilities, but he has decided to stay and help the club build on last season's finals appearance.
Another Queensland Origin forward many thought might end up at the Dolphins, Welch has instead decided to stay at the Storm. The front-rower has inked a three-year extension with Melbourne, making it highly likely he could end his career as a one-club man.
The Sea Eagles have extended versatile back Walker for another year. Walker, who moved from five-eighth to the bench to allow the return of Kieran Foran, can play anywhere in the backline and is a key depth player for the club.
Carrigan will remain at the Broncos until the end of the 2024 season after signing a two-year contract extension. The 23 year-old middle forward has played 47 first grade games and is seen as central to the Broncos pack.