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Silly season in the NRL: Who’re the best value free agents of 2022?

Roar Guru
14th November, 2021
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Roar Guru
14th November, 2021
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It’s November and the silly season is here. A host of NRL players are testing the open market or hoping they have a market at all.

The Warriors have been the main players to date, locking up Marata Niukore and Luke Metcalf for 2023.

Apart from some bizarre media articles about players being ‘busted’ meeting prospective employers in public places (shock horror), not much else has happened.

These aren’t the ten best players coming off contract in 2022 – that’s mostly a list of Melbourne and Parramatta players. They’ll get paid and there’ll be a few expensive mistakes among them.

The best value players will probably get comparatively modest contracts and should easily return the investment.

1. Corey Harawira-Naera, Canberra
Canberra’s premiership window appears to have slammed shut and the club has most of its forwards signed for at least the next two seasons.

It doesn’t make much sense to re-sign Harawira-Naera, especially if other clubs are interested and pushing up his price.

Other clubs should be interested. His defence leaves a little to be desired but he makes a big impact carrying the ball on the edge.

If Penrith can’t afford to keep Viliame Kikau, a reunion with their former charge makes a lot of sense. He’d make a lot of sense for Newcastle and Melbourne as well.

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2. Corey Thompson, Gold Coast
Thompson’s one of the most elusive and effective ball carriers in rugby league. A very good winger and a handy fullback if necessary.

He’ll be almost 33 when the 2023 season starts and should be available on a one-year deal.

A Brisbane native, Thompson would be an ideal foundational player for the Dolphins.

Corey Thompson

Corey Thompson is one of the NRL’s most underrated players. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

3. Reimis Smith, Melbourne
Reimis Smith is one of the most fascinating players in the NRL. He’s very good in the right system.

He’ll probably never be Penrith’s or Easts’ cup of tea – they play a different game on the edges.

He really suits teams who play predominantly through the middle, like Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra.

4. Jake Turpin, Brisbane
Turpin was good in 2021. The thing is, he was better in the previous two seasons. Do you bet the over or under?

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I’m betting overs. Brisbane should re-sign Turpin. If they don’t, Canberra or Canterbury could use him.

5. Jordan McLean, North Queensland
McLean’s reported gross salary in 2022 will be $660,000. He’s not bad value compared to some other middle forwards.

McLean just turned 30 and there are several younger and better props currently on the market. He’s going to get a haircut.

If the Cowboys or Sharks could get him for two years at $350,000 per season, it’d be good value.

6. Wayde Egan, New Zealand
The Warriors are reportedly after Brandon Smith and why wouldn’t they be? With living in New Zealand and working in Australia about to become much easier, they might have a chance of signing him.

Whomever misses out on Smith should snap-up Egan. Again, Canberra and Canterbury are the obvious teams in need.

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7. Thomas Mikaele, Wests
Mikaele has mostly been a bench prop for Wests. He’s been very good in the role and, at just 23, has the potential to be much more. Curiously, Wests only gave him a one-year extension recently.

He’s been linked with the Dolphins but would make a lot of sense for many clubs, St George Illawarra and Souths especially.

8. Kieran Foran, Manly
It seems like Foran’s been around forever but he’s still only 31. He’ll almost certainly re-sign with Manly.

His experience and quality would make him a good signing for the Dolphins in their first season.

Kieran Foran scores a try.

Kieran Foran scores (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

9. Tommy Talau, Wests
Talau is essentially Campbell Graham on a bad team. Wests’ priority is Luciano Leilua – and so it should be – but Talau is a key complementary piece.

If I were Easts, Canberra or New Zealand, I’d sign him up.

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10. Anthony Milford, Souths
Anthony Milford and value for money in the same sentence. You read it here first.

When Milford came back from the Queensland Cup at the backend of 2021, he was good. Very good.

He’ll never get the money he was on at Brisbane but if he continues his form at Souths, there’ll be teams queuing up to sign him.

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