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Back to the Future: Players Homeward Bound in ’22

Shaun Johnson headlines several players returning to their former clubs in 2022. We look at six players making the move back ‘home’.

Related: 2022 NRL Squads and Player Movements

Chris Smith (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs to Penrith Panthers)

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Age: 28
Clubs: Penrith Panthers (2015, 1 game); Sydney Roosters (2016-2017, 2 games); Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (2018-2021, 30 games).

Chris Smith made his NRL debut for the Penrith Panthers in their 2015 final round victory over the Newcastle Knights.

Since then, Smith has played 2 games at the Roosters (2016-2017) and more recently at the Bulldogs (2019-2021) where he appeared in 30 matches.

He is unlikely to feature in Penrith’s regular eighteen-man squad and will be purely there for back-up through injury or replacing the increasing representation of Panthers players making it into the State of Origin squads.

Since the time of publication, Christian Crichton has returned to the Penrith Panthers after making his debut for the club in 2018.

Connor Watson (Newcastle Knights to Sydney Roosters)

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Age: 25
Clubs: Sydney Roosters (2016-2017, 38 games); Newcastle Knights (2018-2021, 66 games).

Connor Watson made the tough decision to turn down a three-year offer at the Knights, to return to the Roosters on a two-year deal.

He made his debut for the Roosters in 2016, appearing 38 times for the Tricolours before moving up the M1 to the Knights, playing 66 matches for the club.

Watson is the ultimate utility who will add spark to the Roosters either from the bench or covering in key positions for injured players, and we know they’ve suffered badly in that department the last couple of years.

Paul Momirovski (Penrith Panthers to Sydney Roosters)

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Age: 25
Clubs: Sydney Roosters (2018, 2 games); Wests Tigers (2019-2020, 11 games); Melbourne Storm (2020, 6 games), Penrith Panthers (2021, 19 games).

Paul Momirovski made just two appearances for the Roosters in 2018 before moving to the Wests Tigers in a tenure that saw him loaned out to the Melbourne Storm. He returned to the Tigers at the end of 2021 and was swapped for Daine Laurie in moving to the Penrith Panthers last season.

Momirovski comes back to the club a better player for the experience of being in the Storm and Panthers premiership squads. He plays with plenty of heart and doesn’t let his teammates down with his efforts.

He’s expected to slot right into the centres and play inside teenage superstar in the making, Joseph Suaalii.

Dane Gagai (South Sydney Rabbitohs to Newcastle Knights)

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Age: 31
Clubs: Brisbane Broncos (2011, 6 games); Newcastle Knights (2012-2017, 128 games); South Sydney Rabbitohs (2018-2021, 92 games).

Dane Gagai returns to the Newcastle Knights after a four-year stint at the South Sydney Rabbitohs which almost ended up in winning a Premiership ring last season. This is likely to be his last career move in the NRL after signing on for the next three seasons.

It was an unhappy time at the Knights first time around where he left the club after they won the wooden spoon three consecutive years.

This time around the Queensland Maroons star will be pivotal in a backline which boasts some up-and-coming talent in Bradman Best, Dominic Young and Enari Tuala.

Nick Cotric (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs to Canberra Raiders)

Age: 23
Clubs: Canberra Raiders (2017-2020, 93 games); Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (2021, 14 games).

Nick Cotric was meant to be one of the best 2021 NRL buys for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. However, it turned out to be a season from hell with a toe injury keeping him sidelined from the end of June.

There was delight from Raiders fans upon the news last month that Cotric would return to the club. At twenty-three years old, he has a lot of football left in him and will fit right back in with the Raiders attacking structure.

This could be the year he returns to form and becomes one of the premier wingers in the competition.

Shaun Johnson (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks to New Zealand Warriors)

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Age: 31
Clubs: New Zealand Warriors (2011-2018, 162 games); Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (2019-2021, 44 games).

New Zealand’s favourite son, Shaun Johnson, returns home in the twilight of his career to the Warriors.

His experience and leadership are sure to help the Warriors stay together as a unit as they wind down their extended stay in Australia, with the club looking to return home for their match against the Penrith Panthers in mid-June.

Johnson’s partnership with Kodi Nikorima is something Warriors fans can get excited about. In addition, Reece Walsh at fullback gives the club a slick spine heading into 2022.

Hopefully at some point during the season Chanel Harris-Tavita will be able to partner with Johnson and gain some knowledge about gameplay from the Warriors favourite son.

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  1. Back to the Future: Players Homeward Bound in ’22 – NRL Breaking News

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