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Every NRL club’s players who will be targeted in the November free-for-all (Part 2)

Now that the mid-season swap meet has ended, the next date that will be front of mind for clubs, players and their agents is November 1, the date from which players coming off contract in 2023 can begin to negotiate with rival clubs for 2024 and beyond.

Club list managers will need to get very busy very quickly if they either want to keep their key players out of the clutches of their rivals, or target players from other clubs to fill gaps in their roster.

With around 175 players hitting the market, it’s a veritable smorgasbord of talent, bound to stretch some salary caps to the limit.

The smarter players whose careers are on the rise will probably hold out until the middle of next year in the hope that their market value is still on the rise, while some older players who are headed to retirement will be looking for a longer contract now.

A lot of the deals done come November might also involve a move in 2023, rather than waiting for 2024.

Here’s my take on the players who will attract the most attention, and there’s no shortage of big names and talent up for grabs.

New Zealand Warriors

The Warriors have nine of their squad coming off contract in 2023, the most notable of whom is Shaun Johnson. Johnson will be 33 years old by the time 2024 rolls around so it’s unlikely too many clubs will be rushing to get his signature, particularly given his patchy form this year.

Ben Murdoch-Masila is another who is getting a bit long in the tooth and he also has failed to set the world alight since his return to the NRL.

The most attractive of the rest are probably Adam Pompey, Edward Kosi and Marcello Montoya, who might attract some interest, leaving Bunty Afoa, Aaron Pene, Bayley Sironen and Jazz Tevaga bringing up the rear.

North Queensland Cowboys

Now, this is where it gets very, very interesting.

The Cowboys have 15 players, half of their squad, hitting the market in November and it will take either deep pockets or some very creative accounting to hang on to the top six in fullback Scott Drinkwater, star rookie Jeremiah Nanai, hooker Reece Robson, speedster Hamisai Tabuai-Fidow, and the up-and-coming Griffin Neame and Murray Tualagi.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow goes in for a try

The Hammer crosses for a try (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

The deeper they go into the finals the higher each players price will become, and to lose any one of these players would be a blow, while losing two or three would be a disaster.

The remaining nine hitting the market in Jake Granville, Brendon Elliott, Mitch Dunn, Ben Hampton, Riley Price, Ben Condon, Peta Hiku, Laitia Moceidreke and Jamayne Tuanoa-Brown are all unlikely to attract too much interest and wouldn’t be difficult to replace if they do head elsewhere.

Parramatta Eels

The Eels have 13 players hitting the market, the most notable being halves Mitch Moses and Dylan Brown, both of whom will attract big dollar offers.

The Eels may need to make a choice here as to which they feel is the more valuable to their quest for another premiership.

Parramatta’s potential problem doesn’t end there unfortunately, with star winger Maika Sivo also in the frame. Sivo will be 30 by the end of next season so he may be keen to lock in one final lucrative long-term contract.

Adding to Parramatta’s potential woes, Waqa Blake, Will Penisini and Shaun Lane will also come on to the market, and given the Eels’ forwards exodus in recent times, you’d think that re-signing the 27-year-old Lane would be a high priority.

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The remaining seven include Nathan Brown, Bryce Cartwright and Mitch Rein, who have all seen better days, as well as Jakob Arthur, Wiremu Greig, David Hollis and Sean Russell.

Penrith Panthers

The Panthers have 10 players joining the signing circus and by now they should be used to meeting the challenge of knowing who to keep and who to let go.

The three stars entering the market are Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin and Brian To’o, and it’s hard to imagine the Panthers letting any of that trio depart without a fight. It’s also hard to imagine any of them wanting to join another club, but money talks.

Solid first graders in Spencer Leniu, Chris Smith, Scott Sorenson and Charlie Staines will also be up for grabs, and it wouldn’t surprise to see Staines released from the final year of his contract at the end of the current season. Eddie Blacker, Soni Luke and Thomas Jenkins also come off contract in 2023.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Souths have 11 players hitting the market and the list makes for very interesting reading.

At the very top of the list are the “big two” in Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker, and this pair have been responsible for most of Souths’ success in recent times.

(Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)

Mitchell will be just 26 at the end of 2023, and as one of the most damaging players in the game, would be expected to receive some significant offers come November. Possibly one of the biggest contracts ever.

Walker, on the other hand, will enter the 2024 season as a 34-year-old, and will probably be looking for a contract for at least two more years. Given the way Souths dealt with Adam Reynolds, it’s quite possible that they won’t see the value in extending the five-eighth beyond 2023.

Sitting below these two on the list are the highly-paid Tom Burgess and Damien Cook, who are 30 and 31 years of age respectively. I doubt Souths will be keen to retain Burgess, particularly at that price, and they may also baulk if Cook wants to lock in a multi-year deal.

Youngsters in Blake Taaffe and Lachlan Ilias will also be hitting the market, but neither have done enough yet to suggest they’d attract much outside interest, while the rest of the field are Jed Cartwright, Siliva Havili, Jacob Host, Liam Knight and Hame Sele, who could be classified as solid first graders at best.

St George Illawarra Dragons

The Dragons, with seven, have the fewest players in play, and one of those, Andrew McCullough has already indicated that this may be his final season.

Of the remaining six, Ben Hunt is the biggest fish, and he’ll be 34 at the beginning of the 2024 season. Saints will need to think long and hard before extending the little halfback beyond 2023.

Blake Lawrie is the best of the rest and should be retained by the Dragons, while they should be trying to offload George Burgess and Tyrell Fuimaono as soon as possible. The remainder in Josh Kerr and Moses Mbye are unlikely to spark a bidding war.

I have excluded Talatau Amone from this list as I understand his contract is in the process of being extended.

Sydney Roosters

The Roosters have 10 players hitting the market and Nick Politis may have to have to be at his creative best to ensure that they don’t get careless and lose anyone of quality.

Sam Walker and Victor Radley would be their highest priorities as they’ll both attract a lot of attention if not locked down soon, but I can’t see either of them leaving Bondi.

Club stalwarts Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Daniel Tupou also come up for grabs but with JWH turning 35 at the beginning of 2024 I get the sense that 2023 will be his final year.

Tupou will be 32 at the beginning of the 2024 season and will most likely be extended by the Roosters until the end of that year. I can’t see either player signing elsewhere.

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Utility players Drew Hutchison and Connor Watson are unlikely to spark much bidding interest given their roles, while Easts up-and-comers Renouf Atoni, Fletcher Baker, Egan Butcher and Billy Smith would be handy additions for most clubs.

Wests Tigers

After extending the contracts of three players just this week, the Tigers now have 10 players whose contracts expire at the end of 2023.

The biggest fish on the list is the highly-paid and enigmatic Luke Brooks, who has been with the Tigers since 2013 and turns 29 just prior to the 2024 season.

I’d expect Brooks to be looking for a lucrative multi-year contract, but there are those at the Tigers who would like to see him move on. This will be one to watch!

Perhaps a bigger priority for the Tigers will be the retention of other key spine players in Adam Doueihi, Jackson Hastings and Dane Laurie, who have all played well this year despite Wests’ woes.

Each of these players would be attractive signing propositions for several clubs, with the most vulnerable being Laurie, who’ll be looking for a significant upgrade from his current reported salary of $300,000.

Out-of-favour Englishman Oliver Gildart is also on the list and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him snapped up at the end of this year, while the rest of the list comprises the injured Shawn Blore, Jacob Liddle, Tyrone Peachey, Alex Seyfarth and Tukimihia Simpkins.

Both Blore and Seyfarth are good prospects and will be of interest to opposition clubs.

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