So it seems at this stage, Kelma Tuilagi and Morgan Harper are the only two signings so far for 2024. Meaning we have 27 spots locked up for 2024. Now Luca Moretti has not be signed for 2024, bet he will be therefore it will be 28. So usually clubs like to have a spot or two open for mid season moves incase of injuries. Overall, still have two spots left, though we could make a move or two to create space. Momoisea, Cini and Rodwell should be earmarked to be moved on. Momoisea could stay for one more year due to versitility, Rodwell though has his replacement with junior Props just no need for him now. Cini more likely got the top 30 deal as a sweetener to get him over in 2022 when we were desperate for depth in the backline. BA and Parramatta more likely though Cini was going to get a club debut in either 2022 or 2023 leading into 2024 having a deal. But despite us having depth issues, hell we had no Simonsson, Russell and Dunster in round 1. Cini looked primed to get a debut on the Wing v Melbourne, but BA chose Isaac Lumelume instead. Throughout the year Cini was also looked over a few times, Russell, who just came back from missing 5 weeks with injury and playing his first NRL game in nearly 14 months was put at Centre where he had not played in a top level before. Chose that and Dunster coming off an horrific injury over Cini? Just shows BA's trust with Cini is nowhere near where he thought it would be. So moving Cini on to sign another back makes sense.
Now, reason that having a few spots open is crucial is due to believing once November 1 hits, there will be moves galore as teams arrange their caps and sign players and having other players know their place within a club causing them to move on elsewhere. 2023 market has nothing left, yet there was not much to begin with anyway. What is left that is worth touching? Honestly only Billy Smith, who is rumoured to have agreed to a one year extension with Sydney. More likely waiting for Suaali'i to jet off to Rugby while Smith tries to play a full season in Cup then take the Centre spot in 2025. However, Fwith Suaali'i now getting cold feet on a move to Rugby, it could lead to two opportunities for Parramatta, neither i reckon we could pull off but still opportunities nonhteless. First is Smith not wanting to wait til 2026 for Tedesco to retire for a Centre spot to open with Suaalii staying so decides to get out qiuck. Or, pipe dream, Suaali'i is the big play we finally make for ourselves, using Penisini connection a ploy. Now, neither would happen, but it is an example of what needs to happen for us.
Other than that where else do we look? Blake Wilson was a target, though turned us down. Now, seems we are looking for a Winger that can play Fullback. With that would mean Simonsson would stay at Centre in 2024 with a new right winger. I would prefer have a Centre take Simonsson's spot all together, then have Simonsson on one wing competing with another player. More likely needing a rookie; Morkos, Iongi, Iro for that role. For Centre, look for players looking to start; Tass, Billy Smith, Olam. Or use Sanders to get a player like Smith-Shields or make a play for Xavier Savage who is not being used by Stuart. There is your possible X-Factor.
Then comes in Harper. Not confirmed, yet it is reported from a quite reliable source. Now, i panicked too. We need a left Centre and sign Harper. But i am not 100% sure he will be starting at Centre, more so providing depth. Depth was an area of need more than any other. At the moment here is our depth in the backs so far:
Fullbacks: Gutherson, Miller-Stephen.
Wings: Sivo, Russell, Lumelume, Dunster.
Centre: Penisini, Simonsson, Cini, Asi
That's it, Asi on top of that is our first depth half, so if we lose both a Half and a Centre, we are royally screwed. So therefore, Harper signing strengthens up that Centre depth quite well. We have kids like Richard Penisini, Blaize Talagi and Lachlan Blackburn playing Centre in lower grades, though all three are still at least a year away from being considered, maybe late 2024 but nothing as a full-time starter. Hell we had Momoisea playing there in Cup by the end, that is also us trying to turn Momoisea into Niukore, though shows the depth we lack.
Now a question one would raise is, why are we signing a back-up this early in the process? Well i think there are two reasons. 1) limited off-contract players available, if you wait and hope to get a player contracted elsewhere, could miss out, meaning we are stuck with limited depth once again. So getting Harper now gives us security, if he plays well then he plays, worst case he is there for us to use when we see fit. 2) Harper was about to sign with a club in ESL, so we needed to jump now. So we get an extra Centre to put into our squad, he stays in Australia with his young family hoping BA could help his career further in NRL.
So Harper makes sense. Though is it a good signing? Well of course it depends on who else we bring in, if we do bring more in as it is. If Harper is our only backline signing then it is a poor move. As even if Penisini and Simonsson are the starting Centre's, Harper will still be the back-up, it is a bad move due to limited competition. We need another Centre, use Simonsson versitility to strengthen other areas. I love Russell, he is a goer, but we cannot keep him on the wing. He is solid but we need more than solid. So another signing fixes that.
Finally, Simonsson is he the answer at Centre? Well i do not know. He had a real purple patch in the middle of the year, showing pace and ability to make metres. He played his best footy at Centre for us, where he has only had one great game on the Wing. Though, he was not great late in the year. Now that could be due to having Asi and Davey along side him. Perhaps also not having a full off-season didn't help either. Or could be he was found out. His best asset is his speed, he runs really good lines. Though i do not see him as a future Centre as i think we can get better. We have offered Simonsson a new contract, yet he has not accepted it, with one eye on Union. Makes me think, does he think he will not be the Centre in the future? He has mentioned he wants to play Centre, does he want a good start to the year to up his price?. Is the club waiting for some of the kids to be ready and they take over in 2025? More likely looking too much into it, but with Simonsson hesitant at the moment it could force the club to move him to the wing and get a Centre.
Now if i could play fantasy, i would go for Smith and Savage. There is a Centre, and a back-up Fullback/Wing that will compete with Simonsson. We have 2 spots available, can make it more, we can get two more backs, we should get two more backs.
In summary to main idea, let's judge the Harper signing once we have completed our signings.