NRL: Top 10 worst signings in the NRL era

Since it's inception following the Super League season of 1997, the NRL has seen its fair share of terrible recruitment decisions. Here are the ten worst.


Picture credit: PNG Rugby Football League via Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

  1. 10 Tony WIlliams (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

    That big T-Rex is still playing first grade footy is at least testament to his ability to play just good enough at contract extension time to attract another offer from a club.

    Tony Williams burst onto the scene as an enormous winger at the Sea Eagles before making the successful transition to the second-row under Des Hasler early in his career.

    Williams was bustling, hard to tackle and a hard-hitter in his own right and he looked like the prototype physical giant set to dominate the league, so much so that when Des Hasler shifted to Canterbury, he made sure to bring Williams with him.

    Fast-forward four years and Williams made little to no impact at the Bulldogs while collecting a reported $650,000 a year, making him one of the more expensive flops in the game's history.

  2. 9 Karl Filiga (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)

    There'll be more than a few people reading this who have absolutely no clue who Karlos Filiga is. For those of us who remember the hype around Filiga as he came through the grades, he'll go down as one of the most disappointing cases of potential never filled.

    Touted as the next Sonny Bill Williams back before that was the vogue, Filiga drew the attention of pretty much every club in the league as the race for his signature heated up.

    The Ricky Stuart-led Sharks beat the rest to Filiga's signing, but they did have to shell out a reported $600,000 on the 20-year-old, money that would be quickly considered wasted.

    Filiga's one and only game for the club came in a Round 13 win over the Penrith Panthers. Filiga started from the bench, he played exactly 11 minutes of football and he was never seen at first grade level again.

    Later released on compassionate grounds, Filiga stands as one of the greatest examples of potential being wasted. Oh, and for how to get paid $20,000 per minute of first grade footy, obviously.

  3. 8 Chris Sandow (Parramatta Eels)

    Brought over from South Sydney in a big-money deal as the Eels splashed the cash in an attempt to turn around their flagging fortunes, Chris Sandow proved nothing more than an expensive mistake for Parramatta.

    Sandow joined the club on a four-year deal worth a reported $2 million but ended his four years with the club overweight, unfit and so out of form that he was whisked between first grade and reserve grade week to week.

    The Eels were quick to cut ties with Sandow during the 2015 season when he unleashed an expletive-filled tirade on club coach Brad Arthur on his personal Facebook page, never a smart move in this modern world.

    Simply put, although there was some bright spots for Sandow during his time at the Eels, overall, the investment from the club was wasted and the halfback never fulfilled his obvious potential before departing for the UK Super League.

  4. 7 Chris Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

    One barometer for just how good a player's time with a club was is to look at how many death threats they received from fans of that club.

    If the answer is zero, well done, it wasn't that bad.

    Anything more than that, and you might have a problem.

    That's how it panned out for Chris Walker following his ill-fated spell with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

    Brought in as a high-profile recruit at a time when the club was doing everything it could to rebuild and become a powerhouse again, Walker was a complete bust for the Bunnies, playing just five times for the club before seeking a release and joining bitter rivals the Roosters.

    A long time after leaving the club, Walker confirmed to the Courier Mail that he received seven or eight death threats via the post, and that probably sums up how well that recruitment decision went for both parties.

  5. 6 Timana Tahu (Penrith Panthers)

    For Penrith fans, there's an unfortunate time in our lives when our club thought the answer to adding firepower and grit to our backline was signing an ageing Timana Tahu.

    One huge hit on Bryan Norrie at Penrith Park aside, Tahu's seven-game career with the Panthers was an absolute bust and stands as a testament to the Matthew Elliott era and just how bad things could be around the club at that time.

    It's no surprise Tahu's time with the club in 2011 came in the same season Elliott was turfed and briefly replaced by assistant coach Steve Georgallis. 

    Tahu's time at Penrith was ended by a season-ending torn pectoral muscle and he returned to the Knights the following season, a great career petering out.

  6. 5 Shannon Hegarty (North Queensland Cowboys)

    Be honest, you'd almost completely forgotten that former Sydney Roosters star Shannon Hegarty spent time with the North Queensland Cowboys, didn't you?

    That's ok, you didn't forget much.

    Hegarty spent just the one season with the far North Queensland club, playing a total of five games despite coming in on decent coin with the expectation that the former representative winger would rekindle his career and rediscover his best form.

    Long story short, he didn't, at all. Not even close.

    A premiership winner with the Chooks and a rep player at Origin and international level, Hegarty had plenty of talent in his prime, but after leaving the Roosters he'd already failed to fire in four seasons at the South Sydney Rabbitohs, which makes the recruitment decision by the Cowboys to bring him in even more bizarre,

    By the time he stepped off a plane in Townsville, Shannon Hegarty was a done man at first grade level.

  7. 4 Nate Myles (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles)

    You know things are bad when a player is still being paid so much money by a club he no longer plays for that he posts thank you messages on his Instagram feed alongside pictures of a beautiful tropical paradise.

    That's exactly what went down with Nate Myles and the Sea Eagles, with Myles sending out a heartfelt thanks to former Manly supremo Bob 'Bozo' Fulton.

    Under the stewardship of Fulton, Manly brought Myles to the club as part of a huge recruitment drive in 2016 which included the likes of Marty Taupau, Lewis Brown, Darcy Lussick, Dylan Walker and Api Koroisau and while most of those guys are still on the books in some form or another, Myles is long gone.

    With a reported salary around the $500k a season mark on a three-year deal, Myles was making the big bucks with almost no impact on the field. 

    The club slumped to 13th on the ladder and Myles was soon on his way to Melbourne where he similarly made no real impact and went into retirement, still collecting paychecks from the Sea Eagles as a legacy to costly bad decisions.

  8. 3 Darius Boyd (Newcastle Knights)

    When the Wayne Bennett and Darius Boyd show rolled into Newcastle, the locals were quietly expecting the same sort of premiership drive that the pair had brought to the St George Illawarra Dragons.

    What they got from Bennett was a salary cap mess and an uncompetitive playing roster. WHat they got from Boyd was, at times, near illogical levels of performance with the Queensland Origin star barely even looking like he wanted to be at the club.

    Boyd would cut ties with the club and follow Bennett back to the Brisbane Broncos where he would reach something like his best form again, but his time at Newcastle is remembered angrily by the locals who were fed up with a high-paid star who clearly wanted to be anywhere but the Hunter.

    In all, Boyd's three seasons at Newcastle saw just 17 tries and minimal effort.

  9. 2 Jarryd Hayne (Gold Coast Titans)

    While he left the NRL as one of the more highly-rated attacking weapons in the game, Hayne's return to the league following stints in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and rugby sevens with Fiji, was a masterclass in how not to endear yourself to a new club.

    Hayne signed a $1.2m a year deal with the Gold Coast Titans despite initially pledging any return to the league would be with the Parramatta Eels and his presence was an immediate distraction for a side punching well above its weight at the time.

    The Titans had entered the 2016 season tipped by many pundits for the wooden spoon, but after a solid season, they were in the finals hunt. 

    Enter Jarryd Hayne. The club lost three of their last five games to throw away a finals berth and end the season on a low note.

    The next year, things went even further downhill. 

    Hayne and head coach Neil Henry appeared locked in a battle for control of the club and, with the club sitting amongst the lower reaches of the ladder, the board backed Hayne and sent Henry packing.

    Despite his poor on-field performances and significant reported rifts amongst the playing group, the Eels doubled down on their investment in the star back only to be left hanging when he requested a release to rejoin the Eels on less than half his current salary ahead of the 2018 campaign.

    Say what you will, but bringing Jarryd Hayne to the Gold Coast was a costly error by the Titans and the club is still feeling the ramifications to this day.

  10. 1 Daine Laurie (Penrith Panthers)

    On sheer size and speed, Daine Laurie could have made for one of the most devastating and dominant ball-runners in the modern game.

    He was quick, strong, had good ball skills and was capable of pulling off freakish plays. Unfortunately for the Panthers, he also liked a drink, could barely get himself motivated and faded away with less a bang than a pathetic whimper.

    Laurie had only played 20 games in two seasons for the Wests Tigers before he came to Penrith. The coaching staff heralded his arrival as the chance to mould and build a weapon capable of mass destruction on the pitch.

    That he only played three games for the club and his last-chance move to Newcastle on a second-tier contract ended under the cloud of intent to murder charges being laid by New South Wales Police says everything you need to know about Daine Laurie and his time in the NRL spotlight.

    Who was the first flop in modern NRL history? Let us know in the comments below.

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Daniel Lang

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Rugby League & Cricket editor at RealSport.

Daniel is a passionate advocate for the game of rugby league and the development of the sport across the world and, as such, writes with a zeal and determination to spread the gospel of the game.

A huge fan of cricket, football, NFL, Tennis and Supercar racing in Australia, Daniel can quickly find himself a casual fan of just about any sport after putting his mind to watching it.

Daniel is also one-half of the hugely successful podcast 'Panthers Weekly with Strawbs & Teach' where he talks all things Panthers Weekly while he also hosts the current affairs show 'the Strawbs Show' and the 'Summer of Cricket with Strawbs & Shnuu' as well as appearing on the Sydney FC covering 'Nothing But Blue Skies' podcast occasionally.

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