Like many players, Ben Murdoch-Masila has been rejuvenated with a Super League stint and the New Zealand Warriors are the beneficiaries.
Murdoch-Masila will join the Warriors side from 2021 on a three-year deal.
The former NRL player made the move to the Super League and has since taken his game to a new level.
Showing brute strength at all levels, including for Tonga, Murdoch-Masila will add some size and venom to the Warriors pack.
“Ben is right up among the best forwards in the game right now and he had plenty of clubs trying to sign him,” said Vodafone Warriors recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan.
“It’s a huge signing for us, one we couldn’t be happier with.
“Ben always had enormous potential and has now matured into a total professional. He’ll be a real asset to have back in the NRL.”
A product of the Wests Tigers associated with Keebra Park High School, the man nicknamed BMM had a solid stint in the NRL previously.
His previous 52 NRL games came with both the Wests Tigers and Penrith Panthers.
The move back to the NRL excites Murdoch-Masila.
“I’ve always left the door open for the opportunity of an NRL comeback,” he said on Warrington’s website.
“My daughter has spent her life here and all she knows is the Wire (Warrington Wolves).
“When this opportunity came around I couldn’t say no to taking her home to meet mine and Roxy’s families.”
Although his time at Warrington will end at season’s end, Murdoch-Masila praised them for everything.
“I want to thank all at the club for what they have done for not only me but for my wife and daughter too,” continued Murdoch-Masila.
“They’ve gone above and beyond for us and after a tough first two seasons for me, and a not so good start, I will do whatever it takes to help repay what the Wire has done for me and do my best for the remainder of the year.
Wayne Bennett is out and Shaun Wane is in. That is the change at the top for the England national team.
Wane will take over the reins from the departing Bennett on a two-year contract.
The former Wigan head coach returns to rugby league from a stint in Scottish rugby.
Wane is honoured to have the chance in the role with some big tournaments coming up.
“I am honoured to be appointed Head Coach of my country’s national team at such an exciting and important time for Rugby League in England,” Wane said.
“We have a three-Test Ashes series against Australia this autumn, and after that we host the World Cup in 2021.
“Everyone who knows me knows that I’ve always loved the game of Rugby League, and been proud of British Rugby League.”
With players on offer in both England and Australia, Wane looks forward to success involving players from both areas.
“I’m looking forward so much to starting work with the outstanding Rugby League players we have in this country,” Wane continued.
Also the guys who have enjoyed success in Australia in recent years, to do all we can to win the World Cup next year.”
The appointment of Wane is one that excites those associated with the English governing body, the Rugby Football League.
“We think this is an exciting appointment that will be welcomed by England Rugby League supporters as we prepare for this year’s Ashes series, and the 2021 Rugby League World Cup,” said RFL CEO, Ralph Rimmer.
“Shaun is passionate about the game and his country, and also an outstanding coach, as shown by his record in eight seasons as Wigan’s head coach, a major feature of which was the success he and the club had in developing so many homegrown players.
“With two years to go in the lead up to RLWC2021, a full review was always programmed in to follow from the 2019 Great Britain tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
In part two of our 2020 Super League preview we examine Salford, St. Helens, Toronto, Wakefield, Warrington and Wigan.
Salford Red Devils
2019 finish: 3rd
Ground: AJ Bell Stadium
Coach: Ian Watson
Captain(s): Lee Mossop and Mark Flanagan
After one of the most surprising seasons in recent history Ian Watson’s men defied the odds to finish 3rd and make their way to their first ever Super League Grand Final.
However, as a new season dawns, the Red Devils see plenty of big departures with the inspirational Jackson Hastings, Josh Jones, George Griffin, Darell Olpherts and Robert Lui all making an exit.
This year may just be a transitional year for Watson’s men, meaning both Joey Lussick and Niall Evalds will be pivotal as the season goes on.
They have been able to fill some voids though, adding Kevin Brown, James Greenwood, Dan Sarginson and Sebastine Ikahihifo in the hope of following on from a sensational 2019.
Player to watch
Even though it did not work out for him at Leeds, Tuimoala Lolohea has seemingly found a new lease of life with Salford.
If his performances for Tonga towards the end of the year are anything to go by, then it will be interesting to see where this side goes from here with the halfback in tow.
2019 season finish: 1st (Champions)
Ground: Totally Wicked Stadium
Coach: Kristian Woolf
Captain: James Roby
Unlike other teams around them, the 2019 Super League Champions have decided against adding any extra talent to the side that dominated most of last year.
Well, they do say why mess with a winning formula and again the Saints still look an unfathomable unit with James Roby leading the way once again.
It is possible to think though that the Red Vee will not always have it their own way this year especially with how other teams have added over the off season.
Though when you have Lachlan Coote, Regan Grace, Kevin Naiqama, Tommy Makinson and Jonny Lomax in the backline and a front row consisting of Luke Thompson and Alex Walmsley, then you will still be brave to bet against them.
Player to watch
In a team that has its fair share of impact players, Jonny Lomax has been one of the most consistent performers over the last couple of years.
His versatility and ability to unlock an opponent’s defence saw him claim 16 tries and 21 try assists last year. Man of Steel 2020 anyone?
2019 season finish: N/A (recently promoted from Championship)
Ground: Lampert Stadium
Coach: Brian McDermott
Captain: Josh McCrone
The first ever transatlantic rugby league team make their highly anticipated debut in Super League this year.
In the process, they bring with them one of the biggest acquisitions in the sport’s history, if not the biggest in Sonny Bill Williams.
The 34-year-old will make his return to rugby league for the first time since 2014 and will provide a huge boost in the back row.
Alongside SBW, Toronto have the coaching of McDermott and Super League experience of Joe Mellor, Gareth O’Brian, Matty Russell and Jon Wilkin.
Together, that should seemingly be enough to steer them to safety with a play-off spot maybe too much too soon for the North American side.
Player to watch
Even though all eyes will be on SBW, the key man for McDermott’s side may just be the talented Andy Ackers at dummy half.
The 26-year-old has spent time with Swinton and London before joining Toronto in 2018 and has developed a reputation as one of the best hookers in the country outside of Super League.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats
2019 season finish: 9th
Ground: Belle Vue (Mobile Rocket Stadium)
Coach: Chris Chester
Captain: Jacob Miller
The West Yorkshire side should be quietly confident they can challenge some of the leading contenders ahead of them this season.
They face a fight in the middle table with the likes of Leeds, Castleford and Catalan looks to be much likelier.
The Wildcats have brought in Joe Westerman, Chris Green and Jay Pitts to bolster the forwards.
They still have influential players in Bill Tupou, Reece Lyne and Danny Brough to create opportunities going forward.
Also, the additions of the young and exceptionally talented Alex Walker and veteran Ryan Atkins certainly bolster the backline.
Player to watch
There is no question that Tom Johnstone is the one to watch for Wakefield this year.
Over the last two years he has had his career curtailed after a pair of serious injuries saw him miss a substantial amount of time.
However, if he stays healthy, he remains one of the most exciting talents out there with his electric speed and finishing ability.
2019 season finish: 4th
Ground: Halliwell Jones Stadium
Coach: Steve Price
Captain(s): Chris Hill and Jack Hughes
In the duo of Blake Austin and Gareth Widdop. the Wire have two of the most lethal halves in the league to get them in to the top two this year.
The departure of Ryan Atkins and Bryson Goodwin have left a gap in the centres.
The trio of Toby King, Jake Mamo and Keenan Brand alongside new signing Anthony Gelling show there are plenty of options for Steve Price there.
Even out wide, they have two exceptional try scorers in Josh Charnley and Tom Lineham.
There are huge presences in the forward pack with Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Joe Philbin, Ben Currie, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Sitaleki Akauola.
Not to mention catalyst Daryl Clark flying around at dummy half.
All the ingredients are there, it is up to the Wolves now as to whether they can finally put the pieces together and finally achieve the big one.
Player to watch
We already know what the likes of Austin, Widdop and Charnley so for Warrington, I decided to look at more youthful prospect and that is Matty Ashton.
The 21-year-old arrived from Swinton Lions recently and comes into Super League as the second tier’s top try scorer and Young Player of the Year in 2019.
2019 season finish: 2nd
Ground: DW Stadium
Coach: Adrian Lam
Captain: Sean O’Loughlin
Alongside Hull FC, Wigan have probably made some of the best signings over the course of the post season.
2019 Man of Steel winner Jackson Hastings has joining the fray to go with the inclusions of George Burgess, Mitch Clark and Jake Bibby.
The Warriors have a team filled with a great blend of youth and experience and that was certainly evident last year.
Youngsters Morgan Smithies and Oliver Partington gained valuable first team minutes and showed why they are potential stars in the making.
If you combine all this with the leadership of Sean O’Loughlin, Liam Farrell and Thomas Leuluai and the skill and talent of Zak Hardaker, Oliver Gildart, Bevan French and Joe Burgess, then Wigan have it all to go better than 2nd this year.
Player to watch
Although you can point to either Smithies or Partington or the fact that Gildart is set to miss the start of the season due to injury, the stage is set for Bevan French.
He has a chance to announce himself in his first full year with the Warriors.
The 24-year-old certainly has all the skills and creativity to be one Adrian Lam’s best attacking weapons this coming season.
After more opportunity, Leilani Latu is expected to get that at the Warrington Wolves after being granted a release by the Gold Coast Titans.
Joining the club from the Penrith Panthers, Latu struggled for regular game time at the Titans, prompting the move to Wolves.
With Latu wanting a fresh start, the Titans were not about to stand in his way.
“Leilani and his family have been passionate members of the Gold Coast community, and as a Club, we are supportive of him taking this new opportunity for his career and family,” Titans Head of Performance and Culture Mal Meninga said.
“The Titans thank Leilani for his time at the Club, and wish his nothing but the best for the future.”
Latu’s arrival at Warrington will see him rejoin some familiar faces.
The prop played with both Ben Murdoch-Masila and Sitaleki Akauola at Penrith.
“I’m looking forward to getting into training with the boys and creating some combinations with them,” Latu said.
“It’s an exciting brand of footy here and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.
I chose Warrington because of the quality of players and I have played with a couple of them back in the NRL too; Ben Murdoch-Masila and Sitaleki Akauola at Penrith and we had some success there.”
Warrington coach Steve Price says Latu fits the bill in terms of what the club was looking for in the forwards.
“We are always looking for quality rugby players to bring to our club and we feel Leilani fits that,” said Price.
“I’m looking forward to working with him and developing his game during his time at Warrington as we feel there is a lot more he can bring to the game.”
With the George Williams signing confirmed, the halves future looked bleak for Aidan Sezer, prompting the half to jump ship to the Huddersfield Giants.
The English-based Super League club have signed the experienced half on a two-year deal.
Sezer is no stranger to Simon Woolford, having worked briefly alongside him at the Raiders.
“It’s been a drawn out process for most of the year, but to have it all done is a great relief,” Sezer said.
“Joining up with Simon and the boys will be a relief – obviously it was a disappointing campaign last year for the Giants but the ambition of the club and the group is exciting.
“I’m really looking forward to get over there and have a successful campaign in 2020.”
The opportunity was too good for Sezer to refuse in the end, as he looks forward to what lies ahead with the Giants.
“I’ve followed the Super League pretty closely and I’ve always said I want to be a part of it and hopefully go over there and I’m delighted it’s come,” continued Sezer.
“I’ve got a good opportunity to play with the Giants and to play for a great club and hopefully have a successful campaign.”
With the addition of other solid players, Sezer believes the Giants have the makings of a good side moving forward.
“Hopefully my big game experience will carry through, I’m a more mature player now,” continued the veteran.
“We’ve already got big game experience with Jordan Turner who is Grand Final winner, we’ve added some great experience with Kenny Edwards – a high quality player back-rower and of course James Gavet, who’s been a really solid front-rower in the NRL.
“I think as a collective we’ve got things to be optimistic about in the coming year.”
Woolford praised the signing of Sezer and talked up the half for his experience, poise and kicking game.
“I am delighted to finally get the news of Aidan Sezer’s signing out as it’s been a long process,” Woolford said.
“Everyone knows he was my preferred pick in the crucial half back area but to get a current NRL Grand Finalist over here in the prime of his career really is a massive boost for the Giants and the game as a whole.
“With over 150 career games in the NRL and experience of finals football, his pedigree speaks for itself and he will be a real asset for the team.”
His all-round skills as a half, both as a kicker and a runner, are what especially excite Woolford.
“He is an experienced organiser, a superb kicker of the ball both out of the hand and off the tee, and with his 83% kicking success rate, he’ll obviously become our primary kicker,” Woolford continued.
“His running game I think will complement the people around him and above all he is from a winning environment at Canberra and having enjoyed such a stellar season last year can bring a lot of that toughness and win at all costs mentality that successful teams need.
Over the course of the off season, there has been plenty of player movement throughout Super League.
Now, as pre-season gets underway towards the end of the calendar year, I take a look at 10 signings that make all the difference for their retrospective new clubs.
Sonny Bill Williams (Toronto Wolfpack)
Let’s start off with maybe the most obvious choice and one of the biggest acquisitions in the sports history.
It is amazing to think with the career that SBW has had that this will be his first ever season in Super League.
Remarkably, we will finally see Williams in UK’s premier division with expansionist side Toronto Wolfpack.
Even at 34, the cross-code star remains the full package and one incredible athlete who if can remain healthy may just prove to be a devastating addition to Canadian side.
Luke Gale (Leeds Rhinos)
Since the departures of Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire, the Rhinos have been crying out for a play caller and someone to just inject some energy and creativity in the middle of the field.
In recent times, the Rhinos have looked to the likes of Richie Myler and Tui Lolohea to fill the void but have fallen short on consistency.
But the return of the 2017 Man of Steel into the Leeds fold may just rectify that with his ability to unlock the defence and his firm accuracy with the boot.
James Maloney (Catalans Dragons)
Alongside Sonny Bill, this is another huge coup for Super League as Maloney makes his bow across the pond with the Catalans Dragons.
A NRL title and State of Origin winner who will bring a wealth of experience and championship winning mentality to a side that looks to keep making big strides in the game.
The 2018 Challenge Cup winners may even become more of a handful as the season goes along with Maloney possibly teaming up with Josh Drinkwater in the halves.
Adam Swift (Hull FC)
For the last couple of seasons, Hull FC have seemingly lacked that little extra something out on the edge and now even more especially after the retirement of Fetuli Talanoa.
However, the return of Mahe Fonua along with bringing in Adam Swift from St. Helens may just give the Hull faithful a whiff of optimism.
The 26-year-old Swift brings a decent try scoring record to Humberside after scoring 86 tries in 130 appearances.
Alongside the likes of Jake Connor, Albert Kelly and Marc Sneyd, he can easily add to his try tally.
Alex Walker (Wakefield Trinity)
One of the country’s most promising youngsters who burst onto to rugby league scene with London Broncos who always looked set to make his presence felt in Super League at some point.
The 24-year-old was a big factor in London’s promotion to Super League.
He now makes the move over to West Yorkshire and that of the Wakefield Trinity.
His positional awareness at the fullback spot will make him a welcome addition to Chris Chester’s side.
Josh Jones (Hull FC)
After one of his best seasons to date, Jones more than deserved his Great Britain call up.
After spending a good proportion of his career with Salford, the second rower now makes the move over to Hull FC.
The Airlie Birds have seen the exits of veteran backrowers Sika Manu and Mark Minichello this post season.
The inclusion of Jones with his offloading and powerful running can partially fill the void left my two consistent performers.
Gareth Widdop (Warrington Wolves)
After spending the entirety of his professional career in the NRL, the Halifax born Widdop will be another premier talent that is set to make his debut in Super League in 2020.
The 29-year-old joins Warrington for the new season and will look to bring all the game management and offensive creativity that made him a success in the NRL.
Over the last couple of seasons, it has been a case of so near yet so far for Warrington.
Could Widdop be the final piece of that puzzle alongside Blake Austin in a dream halfback combination?
Jackson Hastings (Wigan Warriors)
The 2019 Man of Steel winner was the beacon of consistency and creativity that Salford had needed for some time and in turn steered them to their first ever Super League Final.
The 23-year-old was the Red Devils key catalyst over the course of last season and led both his side and the league in try assists with 36.
The versatile back now joins Wigan from the 2020 season,
If the GB international is able to find a connection alongside the likes of Oliver Gildart, Zak Hardaker and Bevan French, then the Warriors can easily continue to be the force they have been for so long.
George Burgess (Wigan Warriors)
An ageing Wigan front row consisting of Tony Clubb and Ben Flower had a new lease of life of last season.
Youngsters Oliver Partington and Liam Byrne burst onto the scene in the front row.
Now, with the addition of George Burgess come the new season, Wigan’s forward pack certainly looks as bolstered as ever.
Even despite a poor discipline record in recent times, the 27-year-old’s sheer size, presence, intensity and big game experience in the NRL mean he could definitely be an impact player over the course of 2020.
Greg Minikin (Hull KR)
It is fair to say that Hull KR have not exactly been quiet in terms of recruitment, with plenty of noteworthy names taking their trade over to Humberside.
However, one name that could stand out over the course of the season may just be Greg Minikin.
The centre has played some of his best rugby while at Castleford, showcasing to be a prolific try scorer in the Tigers run to the Grand Final in 2017.