Plenty of players are being re-signed and extending contracts as is the nature of the off-season but there’s still some huge names unsigned, and some even bigger names out of contract at the end of the 2023 season.
Here’s a list of who each club should prioritise as their number one contract candidate.
Youngster Callum McLelland was on the shortlist here but he has a clause in his contract to extend beyond 2023 for a further two years. Pairing that with the fact he’s yet to actually debut for the Tigers, he doesn’t quite make this list, although is someone expected to be central at Wheldon Road for the future.
Instead the person that Castleford must extend is George Lawler with the 27-year-old looking set to be one of the stalwarts in the Cas pack for the future. The upcoming season should see him come into his prime and with fellow forwards such as Liam Watts, Joe Westerman and Adam Milner all into their 30s and also out of contract then Lawler has to be the man to nail down.
For the French side it’s quite an obvious one as to who should be extended and that’s young French talent, Arthur Mourgue, with the 23-year-old heading into his sixth season and Dragons should seriously prioritise ensuring that he plays a seventh for the Perpignan side.
Mourgue continues to impress in Super League but also did it on the international stage as he performed for France at the World Cup tallying 18 points in their victory over Greece and crossing over in the defeat to England. Only earlier this pre-season did teammate, Sam Tomkins, compare the young star to former Catalans legend Thomas Bosc. Moreover with Josh Drinkwater having left and Mitchell Pearce also out of contract at the end of the season, Mourgue has to be offered a contract to keep him in Perpignan.
Huddersfield have lost one of their brightest young stars with Will Pryce heading to the NRL to link up with another former Giant, Dom Young, who Huddersfield let slip through their grasp so it’s essential they don’t allow this trend to continue. The Giants have already tied down one young forward with Oliver Wilson signing until 2027, but the priority has to be the 23-year-old Owen Trout. He started in the Challenge Cup Final for the Giants and it’s not a fluke that his breakout season also coincided with one of the best seasons in recent memory for Huddersfield. A future England international in waiting Trout is someone who needs locking down to avoid the mistakes of the past.
However, when it comes to the most significant player it is star playmaker Tui Lolohea who made the second most assists in Super League last year with 29. The signing of Jake Connor does raise questions over whether he will stay and George Flanagan’s arrival does so.
The player that Tony Smith and the higher-ups at the club who deal with contract extensions is obvious, it has to be Brad Fash who should be a priority extension to get over the line. Fash took home the triple crown of awards at FC’s end of season celebrations earning Player of the Year, Player’s Player and most importantly Supporter’s Player of the Year. At just 26 the loose forward who has represented England Knights should be locked down and secured beyond 2023.
For KR there are plenty of major names coming off contract including Lachlan Coote, Ethan Ryan and Ryan Hall but one name that they should prioritise is Will Dagger. Two of the three key players going off contract are wingers, the other a fullback, which are the primary and secondary positions that Dagger plays.
Hall is heading into his age 35 season and therefore won’t be part of any long-term plans and whilst Ryan is still only 26 and very talented, the priority should be Dagger who at just 23 has massively impressed and even has the big game experience of playing in the 2021 semi-final defeat to Catalans.
For Rhinos a lot of players that are leaving are more senior and they’ve already made the huge decision to extend their star Cam Smith during the off-season. Now the next priority should be another forward in the form of Sam Walters.
Having turned 22 on Christmas Day the six foot six inch forward is certainly one for the future, and performed well in the Boxing Day friendly against Wakefield. With the likes of Zane Tetevano and James Donaldson set to run out at the end of the season, it’s important Rohan Smith’s side extend the young Walters.
The answer for Leigh, who have recruited in huge numbers for the 2023 campaign, has to be John Asiata with the 29-year-old set to expire at the end of the season which could prompt a return to the NRL.
Asiata offers a versatile profile playing multiple positions but most importantly offers strong sense of leadership and experience for a Leigh side that has lost one of it’s co-captains in the shape of Adam Sidlow.
Salford Red Devils
Salford have a huge number of players coming off contract in 2023 but the one that they will certainly be prioritising, despite it being quite unlikely, is Brodie Croft.
The decision to extend Croft should be a no-brainer considering he won the Man of Steel award last season and is one of the competition’s premier playmakers and is still only 25, however Salford will face a tough task to tie him down with presumably plenty of interest to tempt the Australian back to the NRL.
Saints have done a lot of their business for the extension of players early with the likes of Lewis Dodd and Joe Batchelor both receiving extensions that keep them with the club until 2026 and 2025 respectively.
One man who is slightly more senior than that pair, and as yet unsigned for 2024, is Will Hopoate who missed time in the 2022 season which didn’t give him the best chance to show fans of the Red Vee what he can truly bring. Despite that he’s clearly got the pedigree having represented Tonga and New South Wales during his time in the NRL and Saints should try to keep him beyond 2023.
Wakefield have got an incredibly young squad as well as the youngest coach in Super League with Mark Applegarth, and his first priority should be to extend Lewis Murphy.
Having signed with the first team on a two year contract after progressing through the academy Murphy has been brilliant and even scored four tries against St Helens in round 26, albeit a weakened Saints side, but the 20-year-old winger will be on every team’s radar if they don’t extend him.
Warrington need a bounce back season following Daryl Powell’s first year in charge at the Wire and one man who he’ll trust to get him there is hooker Daryl Clark, with the pair having briefly worked together at Castleford before Clark’s switch.
Clark will turn 30 just before the season opener on February 16th but it’s key that the Wolves extend him beyond that as he’s the most significant player out of contract, with Warrington having already extended the talented 26-year-old James Harrison.
Wigan have been home to plenty of rising stars over their history and the latest one that is leaving them is Kai Pearce-Paul who will head to the NRL following his contract running out in 2023. That’s something Wigan need to prevent happening to Morgan Smithies.
The 22-year-old who is almost certain to be a future England international is out of contract at the end of the season and teams will be circling to snap up the talented youngster who offers plenty of youth to a forward pack that already has plenty of experience.