It is officially silly season.
Here at ACM, we are fully embracing all of the rumours and other chatter going around the region about who will be the next former NRL player to feature in the Peter McDonald Premiership.
Wellington picked up Blake Ferguson midway through the 2023 season while other clubs boast former top grade stars as well.
So, we've put together a dream list for each side and who they could target.
Who knows, maybe one will come off.
It was somewhat of a disappointing season for the Raiders in 2023.
They missed the finals and struggled to keep a consistent side on the park, while injuries and suspensions didn't help either.
Their forward pack is strong but I think what they are really missing is a gun playmaker.
Enter Mitchell Pearce.
The former NRL star could slot straight into the halves at Macquarie and be right in the argument for the best player in the competition, and he may also help the Raiders win their first title in more than a decade.
CYMS might need more than one former star to return them to the glory days. Disappointing doesn't come close to describing 2023 for the proud old club with just one win to their name against a depleted Nyngan Tigers outfit.
We were originally going to suggest a Mitchell Pearce and Dan Mortimer reunion be on the cards but the Daily Liberal have him pencilled in to steer the Raiders around.
But why not stay on theme and suggest another 2013 Sydney Roosters premiership winner in the form of Orange boy James Maloney.
He's enjoyed a couple of seasons in the south of France so making the move to CYMS will have him right at home amongst the vineyards and good food.
This one is the least likely of the bunch.
Charlie Staines has yet to re-sign for the Wests Tigers for the 2024 season and should attract attention from a number of clubs.
But should he wish to refresh, why not come home and have a run around for his junior club before heading back to Sydney.
The Forbes Ferrari was brilliant in his junior years with the Magpies, winning the under 18s and first grade competitions on the same day.
Capable of playing anywhere in the backs, Staines could find himself in the centres as it looks unlikely Mitch Andrews would give up the Forbes number one jersey anytime soon.
Lithgow Workies Wolves
Lithgow has plenty of talented juniors coming through the ranks so we've thought outside the box with this one.
Instead of recruiting a player Workies should swoop for master coach and Portland boy Craig Bellamy.
The former Oberon Tiger always gets the best out of his players and a partnership with current player-coach Jack Sullivan could fit the bill.
Perhaps he could even lure back Billy Slater and Cameron Smith for one last hurrah?
A lot of these signings are obviously a joke but I have a feeling this one is probably the most likely of the bunch.
How do you change a side that won the competition?
Well, it's tough but we've given it a crack.
The future of Jyie Chapman is up in the air so what better time for Dubbo CYMS to welcome back a familiar face.
Tony Pellow has made the move back to NSW after spending time in QLD and why wouldn't the Fishies have a play at him.
Capable of playing anywhere in the backs, Pellow could provide that extra bit of strike.
A former Wests Tiger linking up with their Nyngan counterparts?
Count me in.
Corey Thompson's recent retirement from professional rugby league has opened the door for a number of bush footy clubs to chase the experienced back.
Nyngan made massive steps forward in 2023, but a big signing could help parachute them into title contention.
Like Nyngan, Wellington took some major steps forward in 2023.
Brock Naden moved from the centres to lock and looks to have found a home there while Blake Ferguson and Preston Simpson were strong on the edges.
Tyrone Tattersall made himself at home at fullback meaning Wellington could be on the hunt for a gun forward.
Tevita Pangai Jr springs to mind for me and I'm sure there would be a suitable boxing gym in Wellington for the big man.
After falling one game short the Dragons could probably do with some freshening up ahead of their 2024 title tilt.
Sounds like a job for former Mudgee junior Josh Jackson.
Gulgong born and a Terrier through and through, Jackson retired from the NRL at the start of 2023 and one wonders whether the competitive fire has lingered.
A pack featuring Jackson and Clay Priest would be quite the sight to see.
Billy Burns is returning home in 2024.
Well, not really but who knows.
Weirder things have happened in this competition over the past 12 months and Burns is off-contract at the Dragons.
In all seriousness Hawks probably need a big signing to take them to the next level.
They had a great 2023 season but always felt like their young side was not quite on the level of the Fishies and Mudgee Dragons.
Come on down Wade Graham.
The recently retired Cronulla Sharks great is everything Hawks need and more - experienced, consistent and capable of big plays.
They need size and some added experience, and as a bonus it would be great if they could get someone who could cope with some cold Bathurst winter weather.
Say hello to George Burgess.
The English prop who made a name for himself as a reliable prop for eight seasons with the South Sydney Rabbitohs is surely dying to get out of the Cairns heat.
The Saints will need to shop around for a new player to step into their halves this year.
They could look to their juniors and reserves, or they could look to the experience provided by departing Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs player Josh Reynolds.
Sure, we're throwing a lot of names into the mix with this column, but this is certainly a fit that makes sense, and it gives the blue and whites some strong direction.
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