Rugby league's most notorious defectors.
Rugby league's most notorious defectors.

Before Latrell: Rugby league’s most notorious defectors

Latrell Mitchell's defection to South Sydney adds another layer of animosity in the club's longstanding and bitter rivalry with the Sydney Roosters.

We take a look at some of the other controversial switches that sparked outrage in the rugby league world:



Souths to Roosters

In January 2016 the pint-sized playmaker infamously was involved in a bust-up with South Sydney owner and Hollywood heavyweight Russell Crowe. Six months later Keary, who helped the Rabbitohs to their first title in 43 years in 2014, signed with the Sydney Roosters where he has won back-to-back competitions.



Jamie Lyon switched Parramatta for Brookvale Oval. Photo: Gregg Porteous
Jamie Lyon switched Parramatta for Brookvale Oval. Photo: Gregg Porteous


Eels to Manly

Lyon shocked the league world and stunned Eels fans when, at age 22, he announced his retirement in 2004 with two years left on his deal.

The kid from the country town of Wee Waa in northern NSW said he had struggled with life in Sydney.

After a stint in England for St Helens, Lyon returned to the NRL but not for Parramatta. Discussions surrounding his Eels return quickly turned sour and Lyon moved to Manly where he retired as a club great in 2016.

His Eels snub angered Eels fans and greats, as Parramatta had lost fellow centre Willie Tonga to bitter rivals Canterbury in the off-season.

"I'm filthy on Jamie Lyon," Eels great Peter Sterling said at the time about his potential return to the NRL.

"Jamie Lyon dudded Parramatta like you wouldn't believe. He got $125,000 for an off-season and one game. No, I don't want him in the Test side and I don't want him back in the NRL."




Penrith to Roosters

One of the best players of his generation, Brad Fittler's influence was no more evident when he controversially made the move 60 kilometres east from Penrith to Bondi back in 1996. Before his arrival, the Roosters missed the finals for almost a decade but Fittler's impact was immediate. The playmaker guided his side to four grand finals and ultimately a premiership in 2002.


Ron Coote started the action between Easts and Souths.
Ron Coote started the action between Easts and Souths.



Souths to Easts

Committed a cardinal sin in 1972 when he defected to Eastern Suburbs from South Sydney after winning four premierships with the Rabbitohs. He proceeded to win back-to-back comps with Jack Gibson's Roosters in 1974-75.

"The fans were livid. I remember one woman, she sent me a letter explaining how she was a gypsy and she'd put a gypsy curse on me for joining the Roosters," Coote told The Daily Telegraph.

"Worse still, another family told me they had a pet rabbit called Ronnie Coote. They reckoned when I made the switch, they ate the rabbit."



Sharks to Dragons

Widely regarded as the best to ever to play for Cronulla, Rogers was forced to join neighbouring and bitter rivals, the St George Dragons in 1983.

The Immortal played 29 games in the Red V before returning to his beloved Sharks in 1985, albeit for one match after he suffered a broken jaw against the Bulldogs.


The “Raging Bull” had a big impact when he left Brisbane.
The “Raging Bull” had a big impact when he left Brisbane.



Dragons to Broncos

Not only was Tallis' defection at the height of the Super League war, it happened at the height of the rivalry between the Dragons and the Broncos during the mid-90s.

After making his debut with the Red V in 1992, Tallis signed with Brisbane to play in the Super League in 1996. But with the breakaway competition delayed until 1997, the fearsome forward sat out the 1996 ARL season refusing to play for the Dragons.

It left fans livid and when he returned to Kogarah Oval for the first time Tallis was booed incessantly and even pelted with rubbish.



Magpies to Manly

From the rugby league era when rivalries resembled genuine hatred and spilt into all-in brawls, Boyd's switch from the Magpies to the Sea Eagles, the fibros to the silvertails, was as controversial as it got.

The volatile Boyd signed with Manly in 1980 after playing 68 games for the Western Suburbs between 1976-1979. Almost four decades later, Boyd admitted his move to the northern beaches was financially motivated.

"I wanted to stay at Wests, who offered me about $17,000 a year," Boyd told The Daily Telegraph. "Manly offered me $40,000 plus $1000 a game. It was a big difference in salary for a young bloke who was just starting a family."



Craig Wing didn’t make it easy for himself.
Craig Wing didn’t make it easy for himself.



Souths to the Roosters (1999) Roosters to Souths (2007)

"To have him paraded around like a show pony is not only demeaning to Craig, but insulting to all his current teammates, sponsors and fans". Roosters supremo Nick Politis didn't mince his words following Wing's Redfern 'homecoming' in 2007. Wing made his debut in 1998 for his junior side, the Rabbitohs.

But following South Sydney's expulsion in 1999, Wing joined the Roosters. After eight seasons with the glamour club he announced he was returning to South Sydney mid-season in 2007 while he was still contracted at Bondi. Tricolours fans booed him in his first game following the announcement even after he issued an apology.



Dragons to Broncos

The Dragons insisted they would match any offer Brisbane tabled to Mundine but ultimately he defected to the Broncos. His decision left the Dragons furious, especially since Mundine made the announcement of his impending switch midway through the 1996 ARL season.

"I think Anthony hasn't performed his best over the last couple of weeks because he's been thinking about making a decision … as far as his future is concerned," Dragons CEO Brian Johnston said at the time.

Mundine's only title was the 1997 Super League trophy with the Broncos. He returned to Kogarah in 1998.



Bob Fulton was the Latrell Mitchell of 1976.
Bob Fulton was the Latrell Mitchell of 1976.


Manly to Roosters

Manly legend Fulton caused a furore at the end of the 1976 season when he announced he was departing Brookvale to join Eastern Suburbs. The immortal was prolific during his time at Manly and won three grand finals during the 213 games. Despite his influence at Manly, he wasn't able to repeat the same premiership glory at Bondi Junction.

He returned to Manly as a coach following a stint in charge of Easts and angered Roosters fans when he took superstars Kerry Boustead, Ian Schubert and Noel 'Crusher' Cleal to the Sea Eagles in 1983.


Wests Tigers fans still haven’t got over Moses’ decision. Photo: Mark Evans
Wests Tigers fans still haven’t got over Moses’ decision. Photo: Mark Evans




Tigers to Eels

The playing future of Moses - and then Wests Tigers teammates Aaron Woods, James Tedesco and Luke Brooks - was the hottest talking point of season 2017. The rising playmaker ultimately walked away from Concord to join cross-town rivals, the Eels from 2018. After initially denying him an early release, the Tigers relented and allowed Moses to leave in May 2017. It was a move that created plenty of animosity among Tigers fans and continues to do so till this day.


Bulldogs to rugby to Roosters

The cross-code superstar says he has "made peace" with the controversial decision to walk out on the Canterbury Bulldogs for French rugby union in 2008. Williams departed Belmore 18 months into his five-year deal amid a pay-dispute and the dramatic exit remains a sore point for Bulldogs fans until this day. He returned to the NRL for two seasons with the Sydney Roosters, guiding the glamour club to a title in 2013.



Watmough’s acrimonious Manly exit didn’t end well at Parramatta. Photo: Tony Feder/Getty Images
Watmough’s acrimonious Manly exit didn’t end well at Parramatta. Photo: Tony Feder/Getty Images



Sea Eagles to Eels

The Manly hardman had a bitter fallout with the club he won two premierships at between 2002-2014. Watmough became disgruntled over the club's treatment of fellow veteran forward Glenn Stewart, signalling the beginning of the end for him and Manly. By the end of the 2014 season, Watmough had signed with the Eels where he only managed 17 games in two seasons and was medically retired in 2016.


Bulldogs to Eels

Success wasn't enough to keep this quartet at Belmore in the mid-90s. Pay, McCracken, Dymock and Smith all walked away from the Super League bound Bulldogs even though the club had just won the 1995 ARL trophy.