Dave Craven: Relegation fears have sparked deadline-day transfer frenzy

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats' head coach Brian Smith has been looking to rebuild his squad (.'Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats' head coach Brian Smith has been looking to rebuild his squad (.'Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
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IT is possibly not something the Rugby Football League envisaged when they dreamed up this “new era” concept but the recent manic transfer activity that has occurred has certainly been an interesting bye-product of the game’s new format.

The deadline for signings passed last night with a raft of intriguing deals having already been completed before the last 24 hours.

Ordinarily, there is hardly a murmur this time of year.

However, this time around there has been a din that left people questioning whether Sky Sports presenter Jim White needed to be pressed into action for some of his deadline day antics more usually associated with that channel’s relentless coverage of football’s bi-annual trading fest.

At one point on Thursday, you could seemingly not turn away from your computer without another capture being announced. The fear of relegation taking a grip possibly?

It is perhaps no surprise that the side that has struggled most in Super League this term and most in danger of the drop – bottom-placed Wakefield Trinity Wildcats – have been the biggest players in the market.

Chairman Michael Carter has overseen eight recent captures as head coach Brian Smith seeks to rebuild their shattered squad for the daunting challenge ahead of the qualifiers.

It is, undoubtedly, a gamble making such vast changes at this stage with, after tomorrow’s last regular fixture, just seven qualifiers to save their skins, eight if they get embroiled in the ‘Million-Pound’ play-off.

However, in fairness, too many of the squad Smith inherited from James Webster have under-performed and, with captain Danny Kirmond injured for the foreseeable future and winger Richard Owen having entered the Sporting Chance Clinic to tackle his demons, their hand was forced.

Furthermore, their major signing – Kiwi star Kevin Locke – has got injured, too, so they have had to replace a replacement!

Of the others, the news that Wakefield hooker Paul McShane and Castleford No 9 Scott Moore had swapped clubs was perhaps the biggest surprise and it will be fascinating to see who gets the best value for money given both are such skilful but still unfulfilled talents.

Worryingly, there has also been a big emphasis on heading to that old drinking hole of the National Rugby League.

There was a lot of Googling going on when Hull KR confirmed they had Canterbury Bulldogs’ Dane Chisholm flying in. The stand-off has never played first-grade for them and, at the age of 25, has only managed one NRL game with Melbourne Storm in 2011.

But Bill Tupou, the powerful New Zealand Warriors winger who arrived at Wakefield, certainly has more pedigree and there is no doubting Warrington capture Chris Sandow – yes, it’s the leading teams, too, who have dipped into the market – is of a high calibre even if the gifted stand-off’s time with Parramatta Eels ended in disagreement.

Bradford Bulls have tellingly made a couple of notable signings in the bid to climb back out of the Championship.

Former Hull KR winger Omari Caro quickly showed with his treble against Leigh that he is a Super League-standard player and, in James Clare, the tall winger they have added from Castleford, Jimmy Lowes has ensured he has plenty of strike power for the battles ahead.