From today players who are off contract at the end of 2019 can be approached by rival clubs, and an estimated $20 million worth of playing talent has hit the open market. Some big names such as Sharks superstar Valentine Holmes and Warriors and New Zealand half Shaun Johnson headline the list of off contract players, but many other clubs are circling target players.
Holmes appears likely to head home to the North Queensland Cowboys, who have salary cap room to move after the retirement of future Immortal Johnathan Thurston. The Canberra Raiders are chasing Johnson, but may not be able to match the Warriors for his payscale. The Warriors seem to be looking to offload him from their salary cap, however, so a deal is possible.
The Sydney Roosters have also been linked to Johnson, seeing him as a replacement for Cooper Cronk – who will retire at the end of 2019. The pair have similar pay expectations, so the only issue would be if the Roosters want to upgrade any existing players.
Dally M halfback of the year Luke Brooks is also off contract at the end of next year, and he could be tempted by the prospect of linking up with James Tedesco again after starting their careers at Wests Tigers together. Parramatta pair Corey Norman and Mitch Moses are also available, so there could be a bit of a halves circus.
Damien Cook will also be available, and will be looking for a serious contract upgrade after a breakout season in 2018. He went from battling with Robbie Farah for a Souths starting spot at the start of the year to establishing himself as the NSW and Australian hooker, so the Rabbits will struggle to retain him – especially with the Burgess twins also coming onto the market.
Jarryd Hayne is without a 2019 contract, with the Eels struggling to fit him into their cap. He has been linked to Wests Tigers, French club Catalans and rugby union, but is giving no indication of his intentions.