NRL 2018: The top 10 buys ready to fire

Swapping clubs is common in the modern age of rugby league, but it’s hard to remember a time when player movements involved so many of the competition’s high-profile names.

The signing merry-go-round made for some quality entertainment, but produced some even better signings for 2018.

While some clubs got the short end of the stick, most prospered by adding much-needed pieces to their puzzles.

We take a look at which buys will have the biggest impact in 2018.

#10 – JOSH DUGAN (SHARKS)

#josh dugan

A standout for the Dragons during their mid-season win streak in 2017, Dugan’s form began to decline following a tough Origin period where he was embroiled in a drinking drama with Blake Ferguson.

But since stripping off the Red V for the green and gold at the World Cup, the Blues strike weapon shrugged off his demons and proved why he is such an attacking threat.

Cronulla lose plenty of spark with Jack Bird off to Brisbane, meaning Dugan – despite being of superior stature – has some shoes to fill in the centres.

He already has Bird’s number covered at Origin, so there should be no issues at club level.

#9 – TOHU HARRIS (WARRIORS)

#tohu harris

Please New Zealand, dont kill this gun’s career.

The Warriors have a reputation for turning weapons into duds, but Harris could be the one to break the curse.

Despite having a rollercoaster season battling with injury, the Kiwi international returned in perfect timing for Melbourne’s successful 2017 finals campaign and was second in line for the Clive Churchill Medal behind Billy Slater.

A breeding ground for hard-running, attacking forwards, the Warriors have lacked composed big men who can operate in high-pressure moments.

It makes Harris the perfect fit, if they don’t ruin him.

#8 – KALYN PONGA (KNIGHTS)

#Kalyn Ponga

$600,000 for a teenager with nine NRL games under his belt. He must be good – you’d hope.

Newcastle have taken a giant risk by paying overs for Ponga, but it was the only way they could lure some talent to the Hunter.

The hype was somewhat justified in his brief appearances in the NRL and going off reports from his teammates, the 19-year-old has impressed at pre-season training so far.

He’s tipped to be the one of the game’s next biggest things, so maybe the Knights have got it right.

#7 – MATT MOYLAN (SHARKS)

#matt moylan

Cronulla have begun a youth rebuild process with a heap of their veterans ready to hang up the boots this year, if not next.

There was no point on holding onto James Maloney who was bound to leave for a higher-paying contract at the end of 2018, so they opted for a wise player swap that ensures they have a creative playmaker on their books for the future.

The only doubt around Moylan is if he can provide the same direction as his predecessor who was renowned for his game management skills.

#6 – JORDAN MCLEAN (COWBOYS)

#Jordan McLean

Just when you thought the Cowboys pack couldn’t get any stronger, Jordan McLean prepares to pack the scrum next to the returning Matt Scott.

Veteran Scott Bolton did a terrific job filling in the injured Scott’s shoes, but the club is filled with old heads and needed an energetic rising star to be the face of North Queensland’s pack in the years to come alongside Jason Taumalolo and Coen Hess.

Not that they’re short on size, but McLean provides a James Tamou-like body shape, although he can run about 10 times harder and pickyback three blokes in every tackle attempt.

It’s scary to think the Cowboys made the grand final without Johnathan Thurston and Scott, welcoming them both back with their recruit for another genuine shot at the premiership.

#5 – JAMES GRAHAM (DRAGONS)

#james graham

With the Bulldogs paying almost half his salary next year, the Dragons jagged an absolute bargain!

There are concerns about his durability, but Graham still has the energy of a 21-year-old.

The Englishman provides a much-needed leadership figure in a team that lost their way last season, set to take charge with his international teammate Gareth Widdop.

#4 – JAMES MALONEY (PANTHERS)

#James Maloney

The Panthers are now equipped with the perfect mix of youth and experience, being led by a future Origin star and the incumbent Blues five-eighth.

There is plenty of hype around the Nathan Cleary-James Maloney combination and the pair are more than capable of winning a title.

Maloney’s a born winner and although his stints at four previous NRL clubs have been short, success has come quickly and effectively.

Whereas Matt Moylan is more of an individual creator, Maloney directs traffic and provides structure, alleviating pressure off his young partner which could pay dividends.

#3 – MITCHELL PEARCE (KNIGHTS)

#mitchell pearce

After a year-long manhunt, the Knights finally got their man.

This isn’t just an important signing to improve the team’s performances in recent years, it’s a massive boost for their culture and confidence as well.

Lacking a solid playmaker since Andrew Johns’ departure, bar Jarrod Mullen in brief showings, Newcastle finally have some guidance.

It’s been their downfall for almost a decade and Pearce has the qualities to finally end their halves curse.

#2 – COOPER CRONK (ROOSTERS)

#cooper cronk

If you had the choice of Cooper Cronk and Mitchell Pearce you’d take the Queensland legend any day of the week.

That said, his age is a concern. But the Roosters seem to be chasing short-term success and are desperate to collect their second premiership trophy in six years.

They want the professionalism that Sonny Bill-Williams brought to the club in 2013, and it’s a quality Cronk breathes.

#1 – JAMES TEDESCO (ROOSTERS)

#james tedesco

The Roosters have pulled the two biggest signings of the year, but Tedesco comes out on top because of his age and potential.

Cronk only has two years left in the tank, while the NSW fullback is on track for a bright representative career and a successful long-term tenure at Bondi.

Think about the magic he produced on a mediocre Tigers outfit, now picture what he can do with a crop of high-profile names at the Roosters.

The sky is the limit.