Sea Eagles load up with huge off-season catch
With an unprecedented number of quality players changing clubs since the end of the 2015 NRL season, it's time to have a look at which rosters have enjoyed the biggest improvement, on paper at least, ahead of next season.
Perhaps not surprisingly, this season's grand finalists North Queensland and Brisbane have shown faith in their lists, staying almost totally out of the market place.
But other clubs, including Manly, South Sydney, the Warriors and Parramatta. have been very active on the transfer front, securing players in key positions to make an assault on the premiership in 2016.
Betting agencies certainly reflect some of that movement, with the Warriors (who finished 13th last season), and Manly (who ended up ninth), quoted as equal-fourth favourites at $9 behind the Broncos $4.50, Roosters $6.50 and Cowboys $7 to win the title in 2016.
So, as fans look in their club's Christmas stockings to see who they have gained, we've come up with the top five clubs on the recruitment front.
1: Manly (9 out of 10)
The Sea Eagles board has gone all out to give incoming coach Trent Barrett a chance to challenge for a top four position in his first year.
The club has picked up classy centre Dylan Walker (Souths), Queensland Origin hard man Nate Myles (Titans), human wrecking ball Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers), and 2014 premiership-winning hooker Apisai Koroisau (Penrith).
That's not to mention slick utility Tim Moltzen (Wests Tigers), creative forward Lewis Brown (Penrith) and former Sea Eagles forward Darcy Lussick, who will add some mongrel to Manly's pack.
Admittedly, the Sea Eagles have also lost a few quality players, primarily Kiwi No.6 Kieran Foran, but overall they have improved their list significantly.
2: New Zealand Warriors (8.5)
Any side which secures a player with the sheer brilliance of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and the toughness of Kiwi hooker Isaac Luke to go with the genius of Shaun Johnson is going to improve big time, or at least you think it would.
3: South Sydney (8)
All the speculation is finally over and South Sydney has its heartbeat back with code-hopper Sam Burgess cleared by the NRL to return to Redfern.
Former Dragon and Bulldog No.9 Damian Cook, who looked exceptionally good at times last season, is a smart pick-up, and coach Michael Maguire is still chasing former Titans centre James Roberts. If they can lure the try-scoring machine back to the club, the Rabbitohs' rating will jump up level with Manly.
4: Parramatta (7.5)
The Eels have offloaded some of their Manly stock in Darcy Lussick and Fabian Goodall back to Brookvale, but they have also picked up former Sea Eagle Kieran Foran and Newcastle hard man Beau Scott. Expect big improvement on their 12th next season.
5: Cronulla (7)
The Sharks have done well, securing the services of former Roosters and NSW five-eighth James Maloney and ex-Warrior Chad Townsend in the halves. Former Manly forward Jesse Sene Lefao could be a surprise packet.
The recruiting staff at the Titans and Dragons get an honourable mention for their efforts.
Who do you think has fared best? Comment below