Published by Mark St John, 31 October 2018 on foxsports.com.au
HUNTING season will arrive at midnight on Wednesday with the November 1 deadline making off-contract stars fair game.
Millions of dollars worth of talent comes off contract at the end of 2019 and clubs are officially free to register contracts for players from rival clubs.
The likes of Valentine Holmes, Shaun Johnson and Luke Brooks will be the hottest talent up for grabs as they test their value on the open market.
BIGGEST OFF-CONTRACT STARS
Everyone would love his signature, but few clubs could afford him.
Munster is believed to have re-signed with the Storm, but until it’s confirmed by the club, he will be a target for many including the Roosters, who will have a cool $1 million to spend once Cooper Cronk’s contract expires at the end of 2019.
The 28-year-old was given permission to negotiate with other clubs by the Warriors and looks destined to leave his only NRL club in 2020, or even earlier.
The Roosters look like the most obvious fit, with Cooper Cronk set to retire at the end of 2019, but the Eels, Wests Tigers, Raiders or even Brisbane shape as likely suitors.
The Sharks’ No.1 is coming off his best season in the NRL, which saw him star at fullback for Cronulla and dominate for state and country on the wing.
Holmes has been linked with a return home to Townsville and a swap with Ben Barba makes sense if he chooses to leave the Sharks.
The 28-year-old co-captain is coming off an injury ravaged season and will be hoping to get some consistent footy under his belt and re-sign with the club.
However, if his injury concerns continue to plague him, the Sharks could baulk at his high asking price and there will be a number of clubs keen on poaching his services.
The New Zealand international is coming off his best season in first grade and the Panthers will want to lock him up long term beyond 2019.
However, Michael Maguire could look to get one back on Ivan Cleary and poach Fisher-Harris to add some steel to his Tigers’ pack.
The Broncos’ youngster was one of the best bench forwards in 2018 and will be looking to push for a starting role next season and beyond.
One of the hottest young prospects in the game, Ofahengaue has time on his side and form under his belt, meaning if the Broncos don’t shore up his deal, someone else will come knocking with a decent pay rise.
Tevita Pangai Junior
It’s believed the boom young gun has only signed a one-year deal with the Broncos for next season, and if true, the 22-year-old will be seriously in-demand.
With Wayne Bennett heading to South Sydney in 2020, Redfern looks like a likely destination for the Tongan representative, but big money offers will be falling at his feet if he chooses to test his price after another starring season for Brisbane.
Now that Nathan and Ivan Cleary have re-signed with the Panthers on long term deals, Brooks will be more convinced he has a long term future at the Tigers.
Coming off his best season in first grade where he was named the Dally M halfback of the year, don’t be surprised if rival clubs look at Brooks with fresh eyes. The Roosters and the Eels could be potential destinations, with Cronk’s contract expiring and Mitchell Moses and Corey Norman considered to be on the outer at Parramatta.
The Man of Steel winner has only signed a one-year-deal with the Cowboys for 2019, which opens the door for a return to the Sharks in 2020.
Much will depend on Valentine Holmes’ decision, but if there is no position at the Sharks or Cowboys, a number of clubs including the Dragons and Bulldogs will be on the hunt for quality outside backs.
The Eels halfback is reported to be on the nose at Parramatta and much will depend on his ability to turn the club’s fortunes around after their wooden spoon finish in 2018.
If he leaves the Eels the Roosters could look to sign Moses to partner Luke Keary in the halves. The Warriors have also been mentioned as a potential destination for Moses if the club do not re-sign Shaun Johnson.
Coming off a season where he played Origin and the fact he will be reuniting with brother Korbin, it is hard to see Sims not re-signing with the Dragons.
However, the Dragons have 13 players off-contract and Sims could be forced out of the club, if his asking price goes north.
The Kiwi international is not coming off his best season for the Raiders, but he is still one of the most dangerous attacking weapons in the game.
If he doesn’t extend with the Raiders, the Sharks could look to lure Rapana to the Shire to sure up their try-scoring stocks, especially if Valentine Holmes chooses to head to the Cowboys.
The Cowboys’ enforcer, like his team, is coming off a disappointing season and will need to up his game in 2019 to earn a contract extension.
The Cowboys have the most players coming off-contract in the NRL with 21 and clubs will be lining up for a chance to revive the Origin rep if he can’t strike a deal to remain in Townsville.
After the season that Cook has just had for club, state and country, the Rabbitohs would be mad not to re-sign him — but money will be the issue.
Cook’s asking price will have skyrocketed since moving to the Rabbitohs in 2016 as a bench utility. He could look to test his worth on the open market for a well-earned pay rise.
George and Tom Burgess
The Burgess twins returned to form in 2018 and have made their intentions to remain at South Sydney clear.
However, the Rabbitohs have 20 players coming off-contract next season, including star young forward Cameron Murray and they may not be able to keep everyone. Especially considering a few players will be due for a contract upgrade.
Napa is coming off a premiership win with the Roosters, but winning the title always puts a squeeze on teams’ salary cap in the ensuing seasons.
If the Roosters can’t come up with competitive money, Napa would be the ideal replacement for David Klemmer at the Bulldogs, if he signs with the Knights, or the Knights, if Klemmer decides to go elsewhere.
OFF-CONTRACT PLAYERS 2019
Mitchell Aubusson, Cooper Cronk, Joshua Curran, Dylan Napa, Zane Tetevano, Sitili Tupouniua
Patrick Kaufusi, Cameron Munster, Joe Stimson, Christian Welch
Dean Britt, George Burgess, Thomas Burgess, Braidon Burns, Damien Cook, Joshua Cook, Jacob Gagan, Campbell Graham, Dean Hawkins, Mawene Hiroti, Matt McIlwrick, Cameron Murray, Mark Nicholls, Bayley Sironen, Lucky Ta’avale, Siosifa Talakai, Tevita Tatola, Tyrone Taukamo, Connor Tracey, Kyle Turner
Kurt Capewell, Sosaia Feki, Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, Aaron Gray, Valentine Holmes, Billy Magoulias, Toby Rudolf, Ava Seumanufagai, Scott Sorensen, Cruz Topai-Aveai, Braden Uele
Jed Cartwright, Wayde Egan, James Fisher-Harris, Tim Grant, Jack Hetherington, Sione Katoa, Sam McKendry
Patrick Carrigan, George Fai, Alex Glenn, Joe Ofahengaue, Andre Savelio
Matt Dufty, Jai Field, James Graham, Josh Kerr, Jeremy Latimore, Blake Lawrie, Joe Lovodua, Kurt Mann, Steven Marsters, Darren Nicholls, Reece Robson, Tristan Sailor, Tariq Sims
James Gavet, Shaun Johnson, Solomone Kata, Adam Keighran, Karl Lawton, Issac Luke, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Agnatius Paasi, Ligi Sao, Lewis Soosemea, Jazz Tevaga, Joseph Vuna
Josh Aloiai, Luke Brooks, Michael Chee-Kam, Robbie Farah, Mahe Fonua, Tyson Gamble, Luke Garner, Chris Lawrence, Jacob Liddle, Benji Marshall, Sam McIntyre, Thomas Mikaele, Robbie Rochow, Dylan Smith, Corey Thompson
Brad Abbey, Luke Bateman, Setefano Hala, Ata Hingano, Liam Knight, Jordan Rapana, Sam Williams
Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Slade Griffin, Shaun Kenny-Dowall
Fa’amanu Brown, Danny Fualalo, Michael Lichaa, Rhyse Martin, Ofahiki Ogden, John Olive, Francis Tualau
Daniel Alvaro, Carlin Anderson, Kurt Baptiste, Ben Barba, Logan Bayliss-Brow, Scott Bolton, Javid Bowen, Gavin Cooper, Reuben Cotter, Tom Gilbert, Ben Hampton, Coen Hess, Corey Jensen, Ethan Lowe, Te Maire Martin, Gideon Mosby-Gela, Justin O’Neill, Matthew Scott, Murray Taulagi, Enari Tuala, Kurt Wiltshire
Jesse Arthars, Michael Gordon, Ryley Jacks, Brenko Lee, Jack Stockwell
Blake Ayshford, Manase Fainu, Jack Gosiewski, Trent Hodkinson, Brad Parker, Lloyd Perrett, Toafofoa Sipley, Kelepi Tanginoa, Jorge Taufua, Joel Thompson, Dylan Walker, Frank Winterstein, Matthew Wright
Andrew Davey, Bevan French, Clinton Gutherson, Josh Hoffman, Greg Leleisiuao, Manu Ma’u, Reed Mahoney, Tim Mannah, Tepai Moeroa, Mitchell Moses, Corey Norman, Brad Takairangi