With some clubs already having booked their trip to Bali, it’s time to take a look at who your club should be chasing this off-season.
The last couple of years have seen a number of players break contract to leave for other clubs, so don’t be surprised to see players like that arise. Retention is also on the cards for some clubs who have depth in all positions.
Brisbane Broncos – Chanel Harris-Tavita
I thought about putting Brodie Croft here, but if the Broncos see Tom Dearden as their halfback of the future then pairing him with Croft would be the opposite of the problem they had with Nikorima and Milford – too much control and not enough creativity – so Harris-Tavita is the way to go here.
Blake Green has been godsend for the Warriors and Nikorima is the perfect foil, with neither looking like leaving anytime soon. Though some have touted him as a potential starting hooker if Issac Luke leaves, Harris-Tavita is a five-eighth and would be a great long-term option alongside Dearden for the Broncos at just 19 years of age.
Canberra Raiders – Danny Fualalo
This was one of the harder teams to choose for as the Raiders competently fill just about every position on the field and have very few off-contract players.
Their backs are loaded with talent and depth which can easily cover for injuries to key men as they have shown this year and they have a strong forward pack, though they could use a sizeable prop with Fualalo’s footwork.
Iosia Solia is 32 years of age and has started to regress, as have his minutes. Fualalo would provide nice punch and depth in the middle.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Harry Grant
Dean Pay has changed his mind about who should be the starting hooker more times then Gus Gould mentions Penrith during a commentary stint so simply solve the issue by starting fresh.
Grant is young Queensland prospect with great potential. He has a clean pass and a clever running game, something the Dogs have lacked. With Cameron Smith playing better than ever and Brandon Smith in line to take his place when he retires, Grant will be wasting valuable years in Q-Cup with the Falcons.
Grant is signed until the end of 2020 with Melbourne which could make this signing difficult. However, should the Bulldogs offload Kieran Foran signing Grant could become possible.
Cronulla Sharks – Kurt Capewell
The Sharks have reportedly tabled a two-year deal to keep him at the club. The fans love him, John Morris – should he stay on – loves him, the players love him and most importantly he wants to be there.
With Gallen retiring at the end of the season, Morris could utilise Capewell’s running and passing game at lock much like how the Rabbitohs utilise Cameron Murray.
Gold Coast Titans – Alex Glenn
Gold Coast need help in just about every position but this signing just makes sense. Glenn is a proven commodity and has emerged as a leader among the Broncos ranks.
He hasn’t looked like slowing down and still offers plenty on the field. The Titans inability to harness the potential of Bryce Cartwright could see him out the club under new leadership.
Sam Stone is a solid signing, but he is quite inexperienced. New coach Justin Holbrook would benefit greatly having Glenn in and around the playing group.
Manly Sea Eagles – Scott Sorensen
Manly don’t need a lot right now to be completely honest, which is a credit to how Dez Hazler has turned the team around.
Sorensen has proven to be a handy option on the edge when given the chance at Cronulla, though could be looking around clubs this off season with Cronulla looking to tie up Capewell.
Manly lack on the edge depth and only extended Joel Thompson for a further year which will keep him at the club until the end of 2020. Sorensen is a capable starter in the NRL and solid bench option.
Melbourne Storm – Ryan Papenhuyzen
This kid is an absolute gun. Frank Ponissi needs to do everything in his power to ensure this kid doesn’t leave Melbourne. He has blistering speed and churns up metres for fun.
In his limited time on the field, Papenhuyzen has added another dimension to the Storm’s already potent attack.
Though I hate comparing young talent to some of the game’s biggest names, I think he is ahead of where Tedesco was at during the same stage of his career in terms of his passing game and ability to turn around defences.
New Zealand Warriors – Danny Levi
Levi is on the chopping block at the Knights after the signing Jayden Brailey on a three-year deal. Levi is still young and has plenty of time to develop his game further and has the potential to become a good starting hooker in the NRL.
Being Kiwi-born this moves makes sense for Levi to go home to New Zealand, especially with all the rumours that Issac Luke is set to leave at the end of the season. His solid passing and clever running game would serve the stale Warriors attack well.
Newcastle Knights – Jack Bird
The poor bloke can’t catch a break in Brisbane, spending more time with the physio than field. Bird is costing the Broncos a significant amount of money and he needs a fresh start.
The Knights have just informed Jesse Ramien not to return and are now in need of a sizeable right centre – and Bird fits the bill. His creativity would serve well outside Mitchell Pearce and would pair nicely on an edge spot with Shaun Kenny-Dowell.
North Queensland Cowboys – Ben Matulino
The Cowboys really need to prepare for the retirement of Gavin Cooper and chase a young back rower – but here this out first. Matt Scott has just retired and leaves a massive void in terms of experience in the forwards, which Matulino can fill.
By signing Matulino, this would allow for Josh McGuire to move back to his favoured lock position and Taumalolo to edge which would hold up defences and allow Morgan to use his running game out wide and create overlaps – something Gavin Cooper no longer provides the Cowboys dire attack.
Parramatta Eels – Jesse Ramien
Though I love the Waqa Blake signing, Michael Jennings and Brad Takairangi are not getting any younger and have lost considerable speed in the last couple of years.
Going after the now available Ramien would allow Blake to move back to his favoured left centre and create a devastating right edge featuring Mitch Moses, Ramien and Blake Ferguson. The Eels need to lock Ramien’s services up for next year – and do it quick.
Penrith Panthers – Sam Verrills
Penrith need a hooker. Wade Edgan and Sione Katoa could not fill the void left by Peter Wallace and I’m not yet sold on Mitchell Kenny.
Sam Verrills is a star in the making, though he is yet to extend his short tenure with the Roosters. Though the Roosters are unlikely to give up their Jake Friend insurance policy, Verrills would be a great fit playing Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai.
South Sydney Rabbitohs – Russell Packer
Wayne Bennett – like his former understudy Craig Bellamy – has a happy knack of turning players careers around. He managed to make Darius play good footy – but on a serious note, Packer needs a lifeline.
His career is stalling at the Tigers – who reportedly want out – and is a shadow of the player we know he can be. The Rabbitohs will need a prop in the likely absence of George Burgess.
St George Illawarra Dragons – Tim Sheens
Paul McGregor must go – his ship has sailed.
There are reports floating around that Sheens could be leaving Hull Kingston Rovers at the end of this season and he is the man to turn around the Dragons after successful stints with the Tigers and the Kangaroos.
Sydney Roosters – literally anyone
Uncle Nick will manage to find some cap space no matter who they sign.
Wests Tigers – Apisai Koroisau
It’s been rumoured for a while now and looks increasingly likely after Robbie Farah announced his retirement.
With the emergence of Manese Fainu, Koroisau is likely to fall down the pecking order should he stay at Manly. The Tigers are always seemingly reluctant to start Jacob Liddle so why not leave him on the bench until he is ready and make this deal happen.