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Which NRL walk-up starts are now on the outer?

Trent Hodksinon heads to Cronulla eager to reignite his career. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Roar Guru
21st February, 2018
43
2141 Reads

If players knew then what they know now, how many would rip up their contract for an opportunity to play elsewhere?

Sometimes the mix just isn’t right. For every club flush with options there’s another that would gratefully pot their leftovers. With salary cap pressure, injuries and the rise of unforseen talent, so much can change after a contract is signed.

With that in mind, here are some big names that might have second thoughts once their club’s top 17 is named in two weeks.

Te Marie Martin
Unavailability aside, not since Brisbane’s Shane Perry in 2007 has one of the four starting halves from the previous year’s grand final started the following season outside the top 13.

North Queensland fans will be hoping Te Marie Martin is next, for it will mean Johnathan Thurston has scored a pink slip to merge back into the traffic.

Last year, the Cowboys rescued Martin from an awkward situation at the Panthers, and the Kiwi Test half repaid them in spades, recapturing his best in the club’s dramatic finals surge.

Unfortunately for the reinvigorated 22-year-old, his restored momentum will stall before picnic rugs in the second-tier until Thurston’s exit in 2019.

The likes of Manly and Canterbury must be looking on with envy as they try and cobble lesser lights to partner star halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran.

It’s a classic scenario that screams for the implementation of a loan system. In this case, the Cowboys would welcome the extra cash in exchange for Martin, while the young gun entertains the masses and stays NRL conditioned for his Townsville return.

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Beau Scott
Life as an NRL hit-man cruels the body, just look at Beau Scott. As the one-time Sharks centre approaches 34, don’t expect any length-of-the-field efforts like Luke Lewis.

Recruited by Parramatta in 2016 to mould and toughen a young pack of tearaways, typical of the 11-time Blues enforcer’s uncompromising style, he’s gone the extra mile and now done himself out of a job.

With Brad Takairangi moving up front to make room for Jarryd Hayne, the Eels are unmatched for prime back-row talent. Manu Ma’u (29 years), Nathan Brown (25), Tepai Moeroa (22) and Kenny Edwards (28) make an aggressive and mobile quartet but there’s more on the periphery that make it almost impossible for Brad Arthur to name Scott on an extended bench.

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Robbie Farah
Divisive and polarising are just some of the descriptions Robbie Farah has had to wear in recent seasons, yet through it all the former Origin hooker has maintained a sharpness that belies his 34 years.

The long-term Tiger jumped from his perch to play all 24 Rabbitohs games last season but knows his 16th NRL season could well be his last.

The general consensus is that Damien Cook will command top spot. After a slow start to his career, the 26-year-old former Bulldog and Dragon has landed on his feet with 40 appearances at Souths in two seasons.

Cook relegated Farah to the bench for the final six games of 2017 – will new coach Anthony Seibold play the same card or swap the veteran out altogether in favour of a bigger bodied, four-man rotation.

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With Josh Hodgson already missing from the Raiders, could Ricky Stuart be angling for a mid-season reunification with his former Blues No.9?

Farrah-Smith

Robbie Farah (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

Peta Hiku and Gerard Beale
It looks like the Warriors entered the off-season market and headed straight for the tent marked ‘solid’. Blake Green, Adam Blair and – out wide – Peta Hiku and Gerard Beale are each the epitome of solid.

Hiku’s last two years have been a whirlwind, being forced out of both Manly and Penrith, before cutting his Warrington stint to return home to New Zealand. His three seasons on the Northern Beaches are his best to date, where he forged a reputation as a reliable finisher, scoring 28 ties in 61 games.

At 27, Beale has two years on Hiku but has cut a similar path, filling in the gaps at three clubs since his Broncos debut in 2009.

Along with Blake Ayshford, the Warriors now have a trio of steady outside backs, but sadly all three lack one of the key ingredients of either pace, power or size to regularly threaten the defence.

In a backline sure to include Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, with David Fusitu’a and Ken Maumalo on the wings, it looks like a three-way battle for a centre spot alongside Solomone Kata.

Should Ayshford be the one, Warriors fans will be entitled to know how Hiku and Beale along with their combined total of 21 Tests made it past the checkout.

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Peta Hiku New Zealand Rugby League World Cup 2017

Peta Hiku in the haka for New Zealand at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup (NRLPhotos/Nathan Hopkins)

Trent Hodkinson or Chad Townsend
From all reports, Trent Hodkinson’s ailments are still in Newcastle – the 2014 Blues hero is moving freely and in line for a run-on spot.

If that’s the case, then Chad Townsend’s claim could come down to a training shootout from the tee. Hodkinson matches James Maloney with a strike rate of around 80 per cent, well above Townsend’s part-time rate of 60 per cent.

Shane Flanagan is blessed to have two reliable options to partner Matt Moylan’s flamboyance. The easy option is continued loyalty to the local junior but I’m tipping the 29-year-old Hodkinson will have a fair say.

By year’s end, he could be the steal of the season.