November 1 may be just an average day for many Australians.
But for rugby league tragics, it is usually a day of immense stress and anticipation. The first day of November marks rugby league’s ‘new year’s day’ and freedom for off contract NRL stars to start talking to rival clubs.
Known as the opening of the NRL’s free agency period (or ‘pre agency’), November 1 incites mayhem every year and it will be no different in 2023, with some of the game’s highest profile players up for auction.
Unlike in other leagues like the AFL and NBA, where the free agency period means teams can sign new players for the next season, the NRL’s signing system is quite unique. Players who are off contract at the end of the next season – in this case the 2024 season – enter ‘pre-agency’ and are free to sign brand new contracts, with any club of their choosing.
It’s been a head scratching concept for many fans in the NRL, with cases such as Stephen Crichton playing all of 2023 with Penrith despite being signed to the Bulldogs next year, causing major confusion.
At times we’ve seen it almost backfire, with former Parramatta forward Isaiah Papali’i a recent example; cagy when asked if he would back out of his contract with the Wests Tigers, after signing with the club in the previous offseason. He did end up making the move, of course.
So with that date creeping closer, here’s a list of every clubs’ free agency list and who should be the priority signature going forward.
Off contract NRL players from November 1, 2023
Payne Haas was Brisbane’s main priority during the 2023 season, considering he is arguably the best forward in the game — his effort in the Grand Final was otherworldy. But thankfully for Broncos fans, Haas was extended through the 2026 season.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Adam Reynolds, Billy Walters, Brendan Piakura, Corey Oates (player option), Delouise Hoeter, Ezra Mam, Jock Madden, Jordan Riki, Kurt Capewell, Martin Taupau
Priority signing: Given the age, talent and freshness of his performance in the decider, it’s Ezra Mam. It’s no surprise there’s a stack of interest from around the country.
Hudson Young and Corey Horsburgh are the most recent extensions Canberra has made, with both now committed through 2027.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Ata Mariota, Danny Levi, Elliott Whitehead, Harley Smith-Shields, Jamal Fogarty, James Schiller, Jordan Rapana, Josh Papalii (MO), Nick Cotric, Pasami Saulo, Trey Mooney, Zac Woolford, Brad Morkos, Michael Asomua
Priority signing: With Jack Wighton departing, there’s no question the priority for the Raiders needs to be making sure they have the continuity of Jamal Fogarty lining up at seven.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Chris Patolo, Ethan Quai-Ward, Hayze Perham, Jackson Topine, Jacob Kiraz, Jeral Skelton, Max King, Liam Knight, Reece Hoffman, Iverson Matai
Priority signing: It’s important for the Bulldogs to keep their strike outside backs and none are more exciting than Jacob Kiraz.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Braden Hamlin-Uele, Connor Tracey, Jack Williams, Jesse Colquhuon, Matt Moylan, Oregon Kaufusi (MO), Siteni Taukamo, Tom Hazelton, Toby Rudolf, Tuku Hau Tapuha, Kayal Iro, Niwhai Puru, Max Bradbury (MO)
Priority signing: Cronulla dearly missed Toby Rudolf for a majority of 2023, so it’s hard to go past him as their priority to lock up going forward.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Anthony Milford, Edrick Lee, Euan Aitken, Jarrod Wallace, Jesse Bromwich, Kodi Nikorima, Mark Nicholls, Mason Teague (MO), Ray Stone, Robert Jennings (MO), Valynce Te Whare, Jeremiah Simbiken (CO)
Priority signing: The Dolphins’ recruiting team has stayed active throughout the season, but the side needs to keep ensuring there’s enough on-field leadership to overcome moments of adversity. So that means locking in current captain Jesse Bromwich for at least one more year.
Gold Coast Titans
It was clear the Titans most important move of the season needed to be securing captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui on a monster long term deal, which they managed to tick off in the back half of the season.
More recently, the Titans also managed to extend Moeaki Fotuaika to the end of 2027, after he claimed a second Paul Broughton Medal at the club’s awards night, as the voted most valuable player. Fotuaika also got the honour as a teenager in 2019.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Isaac Liu, Joe Stimson, Kieran Foran, Klese Haas, Tom Weaver, Treymain Spry
Priority signing: Most of the heavy lifting has been done.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Ben Trbojevic, Christian Tuipolotu, Karl Lawton, Lachlan Croker, Zac Fulton, Fletcher Myers
Priority signing: The league isn’t flush with top level rugby league hookers and that is exactly what Lachlan Croker is. Manly should be able to extend without breaking the bank, as they continue developing some promising next-generation options like Gordon Chan Kum Tong.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Aaron Pene, Joe Chan (MO), Marion Seve, Nick Meaney, Reimis Smith, Chris Lewis, Lazarus Vaalepu, Sualauvi Fa’alogo (CO), Tristan Powell
Priority signing: Depth is all the Storm need longer term, but given Ryan Papenhuyzen’s injury concerns, there’s absolutely no harm in looking to keep Nick Meaney on the club’s books longer term. It would make sense for a variety of clubs to inquire, given what Meaney managed to put on tape in 2023.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Bradman Best, Dane Gagai, Enari Tuala, Jacob Saifiti, Krystian Mapapalangi, Mat Croker, Phoenix Crossland, Tyson Gamble, Miles Martin
Priority signing: It’s challenging to find representative caliber forwards and that makes Jacob Saifiti a luxury that Newcastle can’t afford to lose. But the back end of season 2023 has undoubtedly elevated Bradman Best‘s reputation as a game-breaking centre that needs extending as well.
New Zealand Warriors
Off contract at the end of 2024: Brayden Wiliame, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Demitric Sifakula (CO), Freddy Lussick, Jackson Ford, Jazz Tevaga, Josh Curran, Luke Metcalf, Rocco Berry, Shaun Johnson, Tohu Harris, Valingi Kepu, Wayde Egan, Ali Leiataua, Jacob Laban, Zyon Maiu’u
Priority signing: The Warriors have turned a page in 2023 and with so many crucial players off contract, there’s too many to choose from to narrow down to just one player. Shaun Johnson‘s a name that jumps out, but it’s hard to tell how much footy he’ll still have left beyond 2024.
North Queensland Cowboys
Off contract at the end of 2024: Chad Townsend, Coen Hess, Heilum Luki (Player Option), Kyle Feldt, Sam McIntyre, Semi Valemei, Tom Dearden, Tom Chester, Jai Hansen, Jodeci Baker-Tiraha, Kulifeku Finefeuiaki
Priority signing: The Cowboys have worked well for Tom Dearden and the partnership is one that needs to continue long term.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Andrew Davey, Bailey Simonsson, Daejarn Asi, Haze Dunster (MO), Jirah Momoisea, Ky Rodwell, Makahesi Makatoa, Blaize Talagi (Player Option), Jabriel Kalache, Zac Cini
Priority signing: Parramatta unfortunately were picked apart a couple of off-seasons ago by rival clubs and now just need to find stability in their rosters depth.
While building towards a third straight premiership, the Panthers were busy off the field, too, extending fullback Dylan Edwards through 2028.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Jarome Luai, Luke Garner, Matt Eisenhuth, Mitch Kenny, Paul Alamoti, Sunia Turuva, Taylan May, Zac Hosking, Ativalu Lisati
Priority signing: After securing Edwards, attention most likely turns to Jarome Luai. While he’s a polarising player to many fans, he’s got experience in big games and at Origin level, plus appears to genuinely love representing the Penrith outfit.
St George Illawarra Dragons
Off contract at the end of 2024: Ben Murdoch-Masila, Cody Ramsey, Francis Molo, Jack de Belin, Jack Bird (MO), Jaiyden Hunt, Jaydn Su’A, Mat Feagai, Max Feagai, Michael Molo, Moses Suli, Paul Turner, Talatau Amone, Tyrell Sloan, Zane Musgrove, Alec Tuitavake, Jackson Shereb, Josh Coric
Priority signing: When you hear the term ‘pre agency frenzy’, you should immediately think of the Dragons, with a record 18 players off contract and able to speak to rival clubs come November 1. This club needs to clean house, but young, talented fullback Tyrell Sloan needs to remain in the long term plans.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Off contract at the end of 2024: Ben Lovett, Dean Hawkins, Isaiah Tass, Izaac Thompson, Jai Arrow, Josiah Karapani, Keaon Koloamatangi, Leon Te Hau, Michael Chee Kam, Peter Mamouzelos, Shaquai Mitchell, Taane Milne, Tom Burgess
Priority signing: Once again, you’re splitting hairs trying to find the priority signing for South Sydney but considering how young Campbell Graham is, and his potential, you’d hate to see him play elsewhere if you’re a Bunnies supporter. But Keaon Koloamatangi needs mentioning as well; he’s become a top end edge forward in recent seasons and has plenty of great football ahead.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Angus Crichton, Brandon Smith (PO), Daniel Tupou, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Joseph Manu, Joseph Suaalii, Luke Keary, Naufahu Whyte, Nat Butcher, Paul Momirovski, Sitili Tupouniua, Siua Wong, Terrell May, Sandon Smith
Priority signing: The downside of having so many superstars is that you can’t keep them all, and with Suaalii leaving and Tedesco starting to fade, Joseph Manu should be the absolute top priority. But he’s far from the only big name the club needs to move quickly with.
The Tigers’ latest move has been extending Alex Twal, locking him up beyond 2024.
Off contract at the end of 2024: Adam Doueihi, Aidan Sezer, Api Koroisau (MO), Asu Kepaoa, Brandon Tumeth (Player Option), Jake Simpkin, Junior Tupou, Justin Matamua (CO), Rua Ngatikaura, Shawn Blore, Sione Fainu, Starford To’a, Stefano Utoikamanu (MO), Triston Reilly, Brandon Mansfield-Webster
Priority signing: Although he hasn’t come straight in and changed the fortune of the club, Api Koroisau is a top three hooker in the league and no one the Tigers could get come November 1 could replace him.