WITH most teams’ recruitment finalised for the 2023 season, all eyes will now turn to teams’ retention for 2024 and beyond.
A number of ‘big names’ are coming off-contract at the end of the 2023 season, and, with the May 1 deadline always seemingly approaching thick and fast, clubs will be keen to tie down their biggest stars.
Here are five of the biggest Super League names that are off-contract at the end of next season.
Brodie Croft – Salford Red Devils
Let’s start with the reigning Man of Steel and Salford Red Devils star Brodie Croft. The diminutive Australian enjoyed a remarkable first season in Super Lgue after exiting the NRL at the end of 2021. Serving up tries on a platter and generally being a potent threat all around the field, Croft wowed audiences and sometimes his own teammates with his skill and agility. Always one to spot a gap, the halfback scooped up rugby league’s most-prized individual award, but can Salford keep him? Director of rugby Ian Blease has confirmed that the club has offered Croft a new deal, but there is likely to be a number of sides interested.
Sam Tomkins – Catalans Dragons
Sam Tomkins has repeatedly stated his desire to stay and retire at the Catalans Dragons before potentially living in the south of France for retirement. And with his contract ending at the end of 2023, could this be the year that we say farewell to one of Super League’s greatest ever stars? The fullback, who of course began his career in the halves, is now 33 years of age and has struggled with injuries in recent seasons – not least in the latest Rugby League World Cup. That being said, having someone as experienced as Tomkins in your line-up is always important.
Liam Watts – Castleford Tigers
Having been a crucial part of the Castleford Tigers squad since joining from Hull FC back in 2018, Liam Watts penned a three-year deal during the summer of 2019, turning down interest from the NRL to extend with his boyhood club. That deal takes him to the end of the 2023 season with Watts now fighting for a new contract. 2022 wasn’t the best season in Super League experienced by the 32-year-old with a whole host of bans ensuring the prop forward was sidelined for a large chunk of the year. However, with Watts potentially playing for his last contract before retirement, the Tigers may see his best in 2023.
Tui Lolohea – Huddersfield Giants
Huddersfield Giants will surely want to tie Tui Lolohea down to an extended contract before May 1 given his impact and influence on the club since joining last year. At just 27, the Tongan international still has a great number of years left at the highest level, and, with both Lolohea and Jake Connor in the side, Huddersfield could well be a silverware-hunting side for many seasons to come. Of course, there is always the lure of going back to the NRL, but Lolohea has thrived under Ian Watson at both Salford and Huddersfield.
James Bentley – Leeds Rhinos
It hardly seems two minutes since James Bentley put pen to paper on a two-year deal with the Leeds Rhinos ahead of the 2022 season. However, the former St Helens forward is off-contract at the end of 2023 and has already spoken of his desire to try his hand in the NRL. Despite an underwhelming start to his career at Headingley, Bentley improved dramatically as the season went on to become one of the Rhinos’ best performers as Rohan Smith steered Leeds to the Super League Grand Final.