Leeds and Hull KR gamble on transfer dealings

THE dice has been rolled, so who will get lucky?

Robert Lui.
Robert Lui.

There is often a sense of gambling when clubs dip into the transfer market approaching the month of July.

Why is there a need so late in the day? Well, the threat of relegation creates urgency in such matters; both Leeds Rhinos and Hull KR certainly feel threatened.

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There was a busy day of transfer activity in Super League yesterday perhaps unsurprisingly predominantly involving the competition’s bottom two clubs.

With 10 rounds to go, each has decided they need to gain new players in order to bolster their hopes of survival.

It will be fascinating to see what effect each club’s mid-season recruitment will have on their chances of doing that.

Leeds have gone big. It has been no secret that the eight-times Super League champions have been desperately seeking a stellar stand-off to guide them out of these troubled, muddied waters.

In Robert Lui, they think they have their man. Rhinos announced yesterday they had paid an undisclosed fee to capture the Australian stand-off from Salford Red Devils, initially on loan until the end of the season but then on a two-year deal from 2020.

He will debut against Catalans Dragons on Sunday and Leeds will be hoping for immediate dividends. No time to ease in.

The former North Queensland Cowboys star, 29, has scored 31 tries in more than 100 games for Salford where his running and kicking game have seen him become one of Super League’s most dynamic half-backs.

Leeds will be desperate he comes good; they thought they had finally solved their No 6 conundrum when signing Tonga international Tui Lolohea from Wests Tigers last autumn.

However, such has been his lack of impact, he has joined Salford as part of the Lui deal.

It is hard to put a finger on where it went so wrong for Lolohea who leaves barely six months into a three-year deal, much like the recently departed Rhinos head coach Dave Furner.

Tellingly, as he joined a side in the top-five, the 24-year-old said: “The level of footy at Salford has been really high and I think I can get back to playing my best there.”

That remains to be seen but, on the other side, Leeds certainly need Lui to at least maintain his Salford form and that is what Kevin Sinfield must be banking on. The Leeds director of rugby said: “We are pleased to have brought a half back of Robert’s experience into our squad for this season and the next two years.

“He has proven his quality in Super League over the last four seasons and I know the players are looking forward to working with him.”

To help facilitate the move, Leeds released Australian hooker Matt Parcell to join KR on loan until the end of the season.

The club has been trying to offload the 26-year-old for some time but their loss could certainly be Rovers’ gain.

Parcell, who earned Dream Team selection when winning the Grand Final with Leeds in his debut 2017 season, will bring much-needed pace and organisational quality to Hull KR’s dummy-half play. Rhinos, in fairness, have Brad Dwyer in the form of his life in that position so, in this instance, both clubs could profit.

Former England hooker Shaun Lunt heads the other way to Leeds on loan for the rest of the season.

Lunt, 32, won a Grand Final with Rhinos alongside Sinfield when on loan from Huddersfield Giants in 2012 and never truly wanted to leave.

He suffered a life-threatening illness last September and only made his return to action in late March but has struggled to recapture his best form since.

Hopefully a change of scenery might help him find it again as will Sinfield’s promise that a longer deal could be on table if he performs.

Robins coach Tony Smith is pleased to get Parcell on board - a fourth loan signing in just over a week - and said: “What he has got is something that we’re lacking a little bit at the moment.

“He can split teams up and we need to do that. I think he’ll do a fantastic job and slot in very well.

“He’s a very proud player and knows he can play at that ‘Dream Team’ level (again). I think it’s really exciting times for all of us.”

Meanwhile, Rovers full-back/stand-off Will Dagger, 20, has joined Championship Featherstone Rovers on a month’s loan to gain greater game time.

But how those other signings will fare for their respective clubs to avoid the Championship will be truly intriguing. Which gamble will pay off?