Despite what feels like constant comings and goings in Super League at the moment, there are still numerous off-contract players yet to be tied up for 2024.
As we enter the final week of the regular season, over 60 players in the competition are yet to confirm where their allegiance will lie come the start of the next campaign.
We’ve looked through those who are off-contract at each club and picked out the one they should get to re-sign on the dotted line, or at the least who they should have done if departure lists have already been confirmed.
Until a few weeks ago, the situation looked bleak for Cas and they really didn’t know if they were going to be a Super League club next year.
That makes contract negotiations understandably hard for both club and players, which is probably why they’ve still got 11 off-contract to sort out. Club stalwart Nathan Massey is included in that figure, though he’s confirmed he will be departing the Jungle to end a 19-year association.
For us, getting Liam Watts to sign on for 2024 would be a plus point regardless of what happens. The experienced prop is a man who has been there and got the t-shirt in rugby league.
Debuting for Cas in 2007, he returned in 2018 and has remained at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle since then. Bringing up 350 career appearances earlier this year, experience is going to be vital for the Tigers next year as they look to improve on the dice with death they’ve gone through in 2023.
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There are no off-contract Dragons players whose future remains unclear. Australian veteran Mitchell Pearce, the last on the list, confirmed his retirement earlier this month with the hopes of creating history before he bows out.
Tyrone May will join Hull KR in 2024, and Catalans themselves have already tied down veteran hooker Michael McIlorum for another year, as previously tipped by Love Rugby League.
Accordingly, we can only give you the name of the player we think the French outfit should have retained, and the answer to that one is easy, it’s Adam Keighran.
The ex-Sydney Roosters man broke the club record for the most points in a game over the weekend as he grabbed 30 of their 61 against Leeds. He has been a star performer for Steve McNamara’s side in 2023, but will join Wigan on a two-year deal from 2024.
Until earlier this week, Chris McQueen would have been the man on this list for us where the Giants are concerned, and Jermaine McGillvary would have been a close second, but both veterans have revealed that they will retire following Friday night’s home clash with Warrington.
Further, when the club released their departures list on Monday evening, eight names in total were on it including four fresh ones. Jack Ashworth will move on in 2024, and he’ll be joined by the trio of Owen Trout, George Roby and Nathan Mason with the last of those retiring from the game altogether.
Accordingly, only one man remains off-contract, stalwart Leroy Cudjoe. We’re led to believe a new deal is on the cards for the 35-year-old, who has made over 350 appearances for his hometown club already.
The centre made his senior bow back in 2008, and when you talk about mentors for younger players to look up to, he’s the prime example of what you’d want. Definitely one to keep around the place given he can still very capably do a job.
Last week, Hull released their departures list with four fresh names on there including Joe Lovodua to take the tally of players leaving the MKM Stadium up to 11.
Club legends in Jamie Shaul and Scott Taylor will both retire, while try-scoring expert Adam Swift and former Challenge Cup winner Brad Dwyer will also pull on another club’s shirt in 2024.
We’ve gone to the other end of the scale in terms of experience for the player we believe they should have retained though, picking out Ben McNamara.
The playmaker has his prime years ahead of him, and has shown in patches this year just how many problems he can cause an opponent. We thought FC boss Tony Smith would have seen his signature as a priority, especially with Jake Clifford moving on to the NRL, but evidently not!
Across the city, the Robins have seven off-contract stars, though four of those have already been confirmed as leaving including full-back Jack Walker who Leeds fans have called on their club to ‘bring home’.
Of the three remaining, none have exactly set the world alight where KR are concerned this year. Greg Richards has been on a season-long loan in the Championship with Toulouse Olympique, while youngster Connor Moore has been with relegated Newcastle Thunder.
Luis Johnson would be our reluctant pick, though he looks more likely to head for the exit door than put pen to paper on a new deal. The 24-year-old was sent out on loan to fellow Super League side Castleford earlier this year, even lining up against his parent club.
He was recalled, but hasn’t featured since August 4 when Willie Peters put out a much-changed side as they were beaten heavily at Wigan the week prior to the Challenge Cup final. Johnson made the initial 21-man squad under the arch at Wembley, but not the actual match day squad, one of three from that 21 to miss out.
Following some transfer activity in recent weeks, including new contracts for James Bentley and David Fusitu’a, Leeds now have just two off-contract players.
One of those is Liam Tindall, who has already been confirmed as leaving, and the other is Blake Austin, who’s as good as confirmed.
Because it’s not official, we’ll stick with Austin for the sake of this list, but it’s worth noting we don’t believe the Rhinos should have let the half-back go as easily as they did. When Austin wants to turn it on, he can do, and we’ve seen that in some of his performances on loan for Castleford.
The manner of his sudden exit from Headingley mid-season was enough for everyone to see he won’t be going back there, and the player himself has admitted he’s ‘burned his bridges’, but who Rohan Smith has in the halves next year remains an absolute mystery.
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Seven Leopards stars from an impressive first year back in Super League remain off-contract as we enter the final week of the regular season.
Adrian Lam’s side will compete in the play-offs later this month for the first time in the club’s history, and the points scored by Ben Reynolds are a big reason as to why they’re there, crossing for five tries and kicking 86 goals so far this term. He scored eight of their 17 points in the Challenge Cup final triumph over Hull KR at Wembley.
Like many at the Leopards’ Den this term, he’s playing the best rugby of his career, but whereas Leigh have managed to retain the services of most of their influential players already, they’ve got a fight on their hands to keep Reynolds.
Boss Lam at one point hinted Reynolds was close to penning a new deal, but more recently has confirmed negotiations are ongoing with other clubs interested in the 29-year-old including promotion-chasing Featherstone Rovers. The way it’s going, they’ll do well to have him in the team in 2024.
Salford Red Devils
Eight players from the project that Paul Rowley is building at Salford are off-contract come the end of 2023. One of those is Ken Sio, who the boss has already said will be sticking around next year.
Deon Cross – who spoke to Love Rugby League about his future earlier this year – is one of the seven others, and is closing in on 150 club appearances with the vast majority for the Red Devils.
Very much a ‘steady Eddie’, the 27-year-old is Mr. Reliable, and the type of character who would be welcomed into most dressing rooms around Super League.
The centre has also featured on the wing earlier in his career, and lined up in the second row for the Red Devils earlier this season at Wakefield. You’d expect boss Rowley to be hammering down the door of those above him to strike a deal for 2024 if not beyond.
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After Sione Mata’utia’s recent new contract signing, Saints are left with 12 of their squad off-contract, though that does include retiring legend of the game James Roby and fellow stalwart Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, who boss Paul Wellens has already hinted will also be retiring.
A lot of the others on the list are youngsters, including Jake Wingfield, who had impressed this year before picking up an injury which required surgery, ruling him out for the remainder of the season.
Playing in the World Club Challenge triumph down under at the start of 2023, the Leigh-born 22-year-old featured 10 times in total before his injury, adding to 20 last term including a run out in the Grand Final win over Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford.
Boss Wellens has already described him as ‘an important member of the team’, and openly said he wants the forward to stick around. We can’t see him not doing.
Now to potentially one of the trickier choices, for the reason that Wakefield are going to be playing in the Championship in 2024, and that brings up a world of pain when it comes to recruitment.
They’ve secured the services of long-time servant and captain Matty Ashurst already, but still have eight off-contract players including Jordan Crowther, who has spent the second half of this season on loan at Warrington and doesn’t look likely to pen a new deal at Belle Vue.
One man who might do though, and who we think Wakefield should try to retain, is winger Lee Kershaw. The 24-year-old is a one-club man to date in his career, only representing Oldham on loan other than Trinity.
He’s crossed for seven tries this year in just 16 appearances, including two in Friday night’s gut-wrenching golden point defeat at Leigh which saw relegation mathematically confirmed. You get the feeling if Trinity can tie Kershaw down, he could enjoy a lot of success in the second tier next year.
Warrington, like Hull, also released their departures list last week and confirmed that six players will depart the club come the end of the current campaign.
Those included utility Peter Mata’utia, Thomas Mikaele and Greg Minikin, all of whom have come under fire from sections of the club’s support this year amidst extremely poor runs of results.
Scotland international Matty Russell wasn’t named on that list however, and he is off-contract, perhaps hinting at the fact a new deal is on the way for him. If that is the case, we believe it’s smart business from the Wolves, who we know had a one-year clause in his contract on their side which would appear to be in the process of being activated.
Providing depth and experience on the wing, Russell has made 12 appearances in 2023 and scored three tries, competing alongside Josh Thewlis and Minikin for a starting spot. Fellow speedster Matty Ashton has missed just two Super League games to date this year.
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There’s been plenty of contract activity coming out of the DW Stadium recently. As detailed previously on Love Rugby League, Wigan’s recruitment for 2024 is proving mightily impressive, and Matt Peet’s side are going to be a force to be reckoned with once again.
Their ability to retain players is impressive too though, and last week they announced that both Patrick Mago & Willie Isa would be sticking around.
Now, just four off-contract stars remain, and of those the one to tie down for us would be Ryan Hampshire. Known as ‘Rocky’ by most, the utility re-joined the club ahead of this year and has had to be patient in waiting for his chance, playing just three games.
He’s also played reserve grade throughout 2023, proving a valuable character in the squad. With options for both 2024 and 2025, the Cherry and Whites would do well to keep him around, providing he’s willing to stick around that is.