Good recruitment is the secret to any club’s success, and that doesn’t necessarily mean paying big dollars for an off-contract star or potential star just because of his reputation. That type of recruitment more often than not ends in buyer regret.
The key to recruitment is finding just the right player for your squad, a player who’ll do a job for you, and will provide just what’s needed to take your team to the next level.
With the benefit of hindsight, here’s my take on the top three most influential signings for the season, and interestingly, none of them came with a ridiculous price tag, and they didn’t all get to play finals football.
1. Reece Walsh (Broncos)
Walsh was nearly the one that got away for good from Brisbane when he left the club in 2021 for greener pastures with the Warriors. Fortunately for the Broncos though, he was granted an early release by the Warriors at the end of the 2022 season and they were lucky enough to re-sign him.
We all knew that Walsh was always going to be a star, provided he could get his discipline under control both on and off the field, but no one could have predicted the season he had for Brisbane this year. He’s a constant threat to the opposition with ball in hand, has the ability to pull off the unpredictable, has set the Broncos attack alight.
His mere presence in the backline creates space for the talented players around him and causes panic in opposition backlines. Without Walsh, I doubt that Brisbane be just one game away from their first Grand Final since 2015.
2. Jamayne Isaako (Dolphins)
When Jamayne Isaako was announced as one of the first players recruited by Wayne Bennett, many pundits thought that the old coach was losing his grip, as here was a player unwanted by the Broncos and coming off a very ordinary spell with the Titans.
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that Bennett knew what he was doing all along, and Isaako was a truly inspirational signing. He played nearly every game during the season, finished as the NRL’s top try-scorer with 24 tries from as many appearances, and also topped the NRL point-scoring ladder with 244 points.
Isaako added a touch of class to the Dolphins right edge and if a try was on he invariably found the line. Isaako’s point scoring feats were a big contributor to the Dolphins’ achievements in their inaugural season, and he invariably kept them in the contest right to the end.
3. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Warriors)
These days, every successful team needs a strong fullback, and they don’t come any stronger than CNK. His rugged, 80-minute performances are inspirational, and he’s set the standard for his team to follow.
Whether it’s kick returning off his own line, taking the hard runs when his team is in trouble, putting his body on the line under the high ball, or tackling like a forward, Nicoll-Klokstad has got it covered.
Some of his effort plays are next level, and his fitness and toughness can’t be questioned. He’s not the flashiest fullback in the NRL, not by a longshot, but in many ways he can take a large part of the credit for the Warriors long-awaited success this year.
Most clubs would have struggled after losing a player of the calibre of Reece Walsh, but I doubt if a single Warriors player would swap CNK for Walsh or any other fullback in the NRL.