The off-season is well and truly heating up in the NRL.
The off-season is well and truly heating up in the NRL.

Transfer Centre: Cowboys lure Dragons ace north

THE Cowboys have snared the signature of Dragons winger Nene Macdonald, further boosting the strike power of their backline.

Just weeks after the club announced they had signed star fullback Ben Barba on a one-year deal, the Cowboys  confirmed on Tuesday they will also have the services of PNG international Macdonald for the next three years.

The Cairns product was granted a release from the Dragons so he could be closer to family, in what is a major boost for the Cowboys after a disappointing 2018 season.

Coach Paul Green said Macdonald would add plenty of depth to the Cowboys' backline.

"He's a north Queensland kid and we like north Queenslanders representing this region," Green said.

Dragons winger Nene Macdonald (centre) will play for the Cowboys in 2019. Picture: AAP
Dragons winger Nene Macdonald (centre) will play for the Cowboys in 2019. Picture: AAP

"Nene is going to offer plenty of depth to our backline and had a fantastic year for the Dragons.

"I know him on a personal level after coaching him in the under-20s at the Roosters and am confident he will be a good cultural fit for our club as well."

It's clear the Cowboys have been focused on recruiting outside backs for 2019, with former Broncos centre Tom Opacic also joining Barba and Macdonald in Townsville, while Valentine Holmes remains a major target for North Queensland.

Ben Barba will also join the Cowboys for the 2019 NRL season. Picture: Getty Images
Ben Barba will also join the Cowboys for the 2019 NRL season. Picture: Getty Images

Director of football Peter Parr said the loss of the likes of Antonio Winterstein (retirement), Lachlan Coote and Kane Linnett (released) opened the door for the club to make these signings.

"Nene fits the criteria we were looking for," Parr said in a statement.

"He's a very talented athlete and with the retirement of Antonio Winterstein, we were keen to add to our outside backs and in particular, the wing position."

The Cowboys have been one of the most active recruiters so far in the off-season as they overhaul their squad, which finished in 13th place in 2018.

NRL TRANSFER CENTRE: ALL THE INS AND OUTS AT EVERY CLUB

The 2019 NRL season is five months away but the action is already heating up off field. Check out all the ins and outs at every club.

BRISBANE

Recruited: Sean O'Sullivan

Losses: Korbin Sims, Sam Thaiday

Need: A game-managing halfback to complement Anthony Milford. They have the best young pack in the league.

CANBERRA

Recruited: John Bateman, Ryan Sutton

Lost: Blake Austin, Junior Paulo, Shannon Boyd

Need: A pair of steady halves and some consistency from their forwards as they attempt to stem their knack for losing the close ones.

CANTERBURY

Recruited: Jack Cogger, Nick Meaney, Corey Harawira-Naera, Christian Crichton

Lost: Josh and Brett Morris

Need: Some experience in their outside backs and some value for money from their new recruits.

Corey Harawira-Naera is off to the Bulldogs. Picture: Getty Images
Corey Harawira-Naera is off to the Bulldogs. Picture: Getty Images

CRONULLA

Recruited: Josh Morris

Lost: Luke Lewis, Edrick Lee, Ricky Leutele, Jesse Ramien

Need: A bit of depth in the outside backs following a handful of departures. Other than that, they've regenerated well.

GOLD COAST

Recruited: Tyrone Peachey, Shannon Boyd

Lost: Kane Elgey

Need: Some fire power and finishing ability out wide to complement their hardworking pack.

MANLY

Recruited: Kane Elgey

Lost: Shaun Lane, Akuila Uate, Tom Wright

Need: A halves partner for Daly Cherry-Evans and a few classy backs. Oh, and a good coach.

Is former Titan Kane Elgey the answer to the Sea Eagles’ halves dilemma? Picture: Zak Simmonds
Is former Titan Kane Elgey the answer to the Sea Eagles’ halves dilemma? Picture: Zak Simmonds

MELBOURNE

Recruited: Albert Vete

Lost: Billy Slater, Tim Glasby, Ryan Hoffman

Need: It's hard to replace the irreplaceable and the Storm will just rely on their production line to keep rolling on. They'll back the likes of Jahrome Hughes, Scott Drinkwater and Brandon Smith.

NEWCASTLE

Recruited: Tim Glasby, Jesse Ramien, Edrick Lee, Mason Lino

Lost: Jack Cogger, Chris Heighington, Brock Lamb, Jacob Lillyman, Nick Meaney

Need: Some experience up front to show their young forwards the way and a good, experienced hooker.

NORTH QUEENSLAND

Recruited: Nene Macdonald, Ben Barba, Tom Opacic

Lost: Johnathan Thurston, Antonio Winterstein, Lachlan Coote, Shaun Fensom, Kane Linnett

Need: While they have a great pack, they're about to undergo a changing of the guard.

PARRAMATTA

Recruited: Blake Ferguson, Shaun Lane, Junior Paulo

Lost: Cameron King, Beau Scott, Tony Williams

Need: Some big bodies in their outside backs and go-forward.

Blake Ferguson is bound for the Eels after helping the Roosters win the premiership. Picture: Getty Images
Blake Ferguson is bound for the Eels after helping the Roosters win the premiership. Picture: Getty Images

PENRITH

Recruited: Tim Grant

Lost: Tyrone Peachey, Corey Harawira-Naera, Christian Chrichton, Tim Browne

Need: Not much. An experienced hooker would make them the complete package.

SOUTH SYDNEY

Recruited: Corey Allan, Bayley Sironen.

Lost: Jason Clark, Angus Crichton.

Need: A bit of forward depth and some size on the bench.

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA

Recruited: Korbin Sims

Lost: Nene Macdonald, Leeson Ah Mau, Jason Nightingale

Need: Depth in the outside backs following the departures of Nene Macdonald and Jason Nightingale.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS

Recruited: Angus Crichton, Ryan Hall, Brett Morris

Lost: Blake Ferguson, Ryan Matterson, Paul Momirovski, Sean O'Sullivan

Need: A replacement for outgoing metre-eater Blake Ferguson

Rabbitohs back-rower Angus Crichton is jumping ship to the Roosters. Picture: Getty Images
Rabbitohs back-rower Angus Crichton is jumping ship to the Roosters. Picture: Getty Images

WARRIORS

Recruited: Leeson Ah Mau

Lost: Simon Mannering, Albert Vete

Need: Some size and experience in the forwards to give their all-international spine room to move.

WESTS TIGERS

Recruited: Ryan Matterson, Paul Momirovski

Lost: Tui Lolohea, Kevin Naiqama, Sauaso Sue

Need: Some point-scoring ability in their backs and forwards. And they are likely to be in need of a good coach.

- with AAP