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Opinion

Money ballers: These 23 off contract stars are the value buys in NRL player market

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Expert
26th July, 2021
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3016 Reads

They may not be the household names, or considered marquee players, whose faces feature on advertising boards and commercials.

But they’re the players your team needs to get right – role players who deliver bang for buck.

The term ‘Money Ball’ is thrown around far too often in rugby league circles these days but this is where it applied – signings you want your club to make because they deliver quality on a budget.

NRL clubs are no different to any business. They want a return on their investment.

Looking at the list of players off-contract as of November, there are several quality men without a deal who could help your team go from pretenders to contenders

Let’s start in the middle.

The likes of Ofahiki Ogden, Aidan Tolman, Aaron Woods, Dunamis Lui, Leeson Ah Mau, Dylan Napa, Josh King, Mark Nicholls and Thomas Mikaele are amongst the middles unsigned for next year.

South Sydney prop Nicholls is a worker.

He averages 104 metres per game and has a tackle efficiency of 95 percent. At 31, he’s an experienced head who has been part of some first class systems in Melbourne and the Rabbitohs.

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Like Nicholls, Aaron Woods is Mr Dependable and looms as a wonderful buy for any club in need of an experienced role player.

(Photo by Getty Images)

The same can be said for Raiders’ Dunamis Lui. With 96 percent tackle efficiency and an average of 10 run metres per carry, the 168 gamer has plenty to offer.

Canterbury’s, Ogden, is an interesting prospect.

At the age of 25, he’s nearing 50 NRL appearances and for someone who averages 31 minutes of game time, his output is solid.

Averaging 75 metres per game and a tackle efficiency of 90 percent, he’s not a player you would have to break the bank for but could prove a handy pick-up.

Unsung Newcastle workhorse, King could be another bargain find.

While it took him some time to find his feet in the top grade, this no-nonsense ball of granite is one of the hardest hitters in the game.

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With a 96.9 percent tackle efficiency, the prop has a tremendous work ethic and from a culture standpoint, is one of the loveliest young men you’ll ever meet.

Averaging 25 minutes and 54 run metres per game, he’s played over 70 NRL games and is only improving each season.

If you’re in need of a backrower, how about rolling the dice on Tepai Moeroa.

Remember him? There was a time where he was earmarked as a future NSW Origin representative. Even though he’s spent the last 24 months in rugby, the reality is he’s still only 25.

He has over 100 NRL games under his belt and plenty of good years ahead of him.

The backrower is with Melbourne for the remainder of the season and yet to debut for the club but given he’s not commanding the $500,000 plus a season he once was, he could prove quite the investment for someone in need of another edge.

If we move to the backline, Blake Ferguson is a household name but has become a bit of a forgotten man this year.

In and out of the Parramatta first grade squad, the flyer looks unlikely to remain at the Eels next season. The 31-year-old is also unlikely to command the $500,000 a season asking price he’s previously commanded.

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But he’d be a handy pick-up and is a big body who can start your sets with gusto.

He’s averaging 164 metres per game and a try every two games. In 13 appearances this year, he’s made 46 tackle breaks and set up three tries. His tackle efficiency rating is at 85 percent, the best of his entire 12-year career.

Another winger of note is Jordan Pereira, the Dragons man who has caught the attention of Brisbane.

The 28-year-old was a late bloomer in the NRL and while he’s only made four appearances this season, his stats have shown he has plenty to offer. Last season he averaged 167 run metres over 15 games, while this year in his four matches he’s averaging 136 metres.

Expect the Broncos to announce his signing soon.

Jordan Rapana, Will Hopoate, Will Chambers and Edrick Lee are also off-contract, while The Roar understands North Queensland have some competition chasing the signature of centre Murray Tualagi.

In the halves and utility space, Tyrone Peachey and Connor Watson have plenty to offer.

The Roar understand Peachey is poised to make a call on his future in the next fortnight, while Watson is considering an offer from the Knights.

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Tyrone May, Dylan Walker, Bryce Cartwright and Tex Hoy are also unsigned beyond this season.

That being said, it has been reported that Cartwright is poised to extend with the Eels for another couple of seasons.

It’s easy to get lost in the name or caught up in reputations, good or bad.

But when you look at the stats and even do some projection work on some of the younger players, these signings are in many ways, the most important to get right. They give you the flexibility in your cap and ability to load up in key areas.

With six round remaining before the finals series kicks off, expert the transfer market to get very busy, very soon.

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