Playing for their future

Last week we looked at some the leading players who still had not obtained a contract for the 2021 season.

Since then, some of the players who featured in that article have found new clubs, including Dec Patton, who has joined Salford Red Devils, Junior Moors, who has joined Featherstone Rovers, and Olly Ashall-Bott, who has signed for Huddersfield Giants.

This week we turn to those players whose contracts expire at the end of the 2021 season, and who will therefore effectively be on the market from May 1st this year.

We have selected one player from each Super League club whose current contract is due to expire at the end of the year.

Jacques O’Neill (Castleford Tigers)
Date of Birth: 8th May 1999 (21 years old)
Position: Hooker/Loose forward

Jacques O’Neill (pictured above) is one of the most exciting young players at Castleford Tigers.
A Cumbrian by birth, he came through the Tigers’ youth ranks, making his first-grade debut in 2019.
Castleford have a good reputation for bringing through young players, but in recent years the club’s junior squads have been less productive, and O’Neill is one of a small number of young players who have progressed through to play for their first team.
Since his first appearance, he has earned a reputation as a small but hard-hitting middle player. The bigger the player, the better for O’Neill, who has said that he picks out the bigger players especially to pick up and dump onto the turf.
Castleford will be hoping they can keep hold of their understudy hooker who was voted the League Express Young Player of the Year in 2020 after cementing a place on the bench last year for the Tigers.

Super League debut: 1st March 2019 for Castleford Tigers – selected on the bench in a 32-16 home win over Hull KR

Super League Club Record

Castleford Tigers 2019-present233--12

Sam Tomkins (Catalans Dragons)
Date of Birth: 23rd March 1989 (31 years old)
Position: Fullback

Sam Tomkins is probably Catalans Dragons’ most important player.
If Tomkins is on form then the team is likely to prevail.
With the news that Israel Folau may not return to the South of France, as well as Lewis Tierney’s move to Leigh Centurions, the Dragons are running low on backs and so the former Wigan player will be even more instrumental for Catalans if they are to challenge for the Super League trophy in 2021.
Tomkins turns 32 fairly soon and so age isn’t on his side, but for any potential suitors he’s still got a few years left in him and is sure to be of Super League quality for a while yet.

Super League debut: 28th February 2009 for Wigan Warriors – selected on the bench in a 24-18 away win over Harlequins

Career Record

Catalans Dragons2019-20203914791215
Wigan Warriors2008-2013, 2016-201821316813610954
New Zealand Warriors2014-201537140056
England2009-2014, 201829211086

Aidan Sezer (Huddersfield Giants)
Date of Birth: 24th June 1991 (29 years old)
Position: Halfback

Another very important player for his team, Aidan Sezer is in the second year of a two-year contract with Huddersfield Giants, his first foray into Super League. And it’s fair to say that he’s done nothing to dampen his already solid reputation.
Sezer joined the Giants off the back of a 2019 Grand Final appearance in the NRL for Canberra Raiders and you get the feeling that NRL teams would be interested in signing him as he enters into the latter stages of his career.
But perhaps a Super League club would perhaps be in a position to offer him a longer deal and the Giants are likely to face competition if they want to keep him.
They will certainly be hoping Sezer impresses this year as much as he did in 2020 but if he does then it may be hard to keep him at the John Smiths’ Stadium.

Super League debut: 1st February 2020 for Huddersfield Giants – selected at halfback in the Giants’ 32-12 win over Catalans Dragons in Perpignan

Career Record

Huddersfield Giants2020177381105
Canberra Raiders2016-20198414235107
Gold Coast Titans2012-201571121565365
NSW City2016106012

Jake Connor (Hull FC)
Date of Birth: 18th October 1994 (26 years old)
Position: Centre/Utility

Jake Connor is one of the most entertaining players in Super League and is entering the prime of his career.
At the end of 2020, he transitioned into the fullback role for Hull FC and had some outstanding games in that position. His utility value would be useful for any Super League club.
But if you take Connor, you are running a risk. He can be the best player on the pitch, but if things aren’t going the right way for his team he can either go missing on the field or not spend much time on it, with dissent a problem for the Halifax-born star.
Connor will be a very important player for Hull FC this season and it will be interesting to see how he pairs up with their new halfback Josh Reynolds.

Super League debut: 7th September 2013 for Huddersfield Giants – try-scoring debut at fullback in a 58-6 defeat away at Bradford Bulls

Career Record

Hull FC2017-202010229973313
Huddersfield Giants2013-2016572421101
Batley Bulldogs201411004
Great Britain201930000

Jordan Abdull (Hull KR)
Date of Birth: 5th February 1996 (24 years old)
Position: Halfback

Jordan Abdull is one of the more underrated halfbacks in Super League, but is perhaps the key to the Robins’ survival hopes in 2021.
Abdull has an exceptional kicking game, both long and short, and is one of the first names on Hull KR’s teamsheet under Tony Smith.
In his time, he’s played for both Hull clubs as well as London Broncos and has topped 100 career appearances before he turns 25 next month.
Hull KR don’t have a huge abundance of experienced halfbacks and so they would probably be reluctant to lose Abdull to another Super League club.

Super League debut: 29th June 2014 for Hull FC – kicked a goal playing at stand-off in a 20-20 draw away at Wakefield Trinity

Career Record

Hull Kingston Rovers2017, 202035151062
London Broncos201928101042
Hull FC2014-2016, 201854107054
Featherstone Rovers201650000

Konrad Hurrell (Leeds Rhinos)
Date of Birth: 5th August 1991 (29 years old)
Position: Centre

Konrad Hurrell is probably the most destructive player in Super League and has had a very successful two years to date with Leeds Rhinos.
He has been named in the Super League Dream Team in both years and has had a successful international career with Tonga after playing with both Gold Coast Titans and New Zealand Warriors in the NRL.
The Rhinos have a good number of centres on their books with Harry Newman having emerged in recent years as a star, while players like Alex Sutcliffe can fill in if needed.
Hurrell could attract interest from the NRL but has, at times, struggled to hold down a regular spot in teams down under, so Leeds may be in a good position to hold on to a player who is an undoubted crowd favourite.

Super League debut: 2nd February 2019 for Leeds Rhinos – selected at centre in the Rhinos’ 26-6 away defeat to Warrington Wolves

Career Record

Leeds Rhinos2019-202038210084
Gold Coast Titans2016-201845140056
New Zealand Warriors2012-2016714100164
Tonga2013, 2015, 2017-2019112008

Ryan Brierley (Leigh Centurions)
Date of Birth: 12th March 1992 (28 years old)
Position: Halfback

Ryan Brierley is set for his third stint at Leigh Centurions after signing a one-year deal with Super League’s new club after leaving Hull KR.
Most of Leigh’s side are on one-year deals, with the possibility of an immediate return to the Championship a real problem for the club when it comes to negotiating new contracts.
Brierley has earned several chances in the top division but so far in his career he has found most of his success playing in the Championship, particularly for the Centurions in his first spell, in which they gained promotion to Super League in 2016.
Brierley is an excellent support player and Leigh is a club that is clearly very close to his heart.
He’s proved himself worthy of a shot for most Super League teams in recent seasons.

Super League debut: 25th March 2016 for Huddersfield Giants – selected at halfback in the Giants’36-22 defeat away at Wakefield Trinity

Career Record

Hull Kingston Rovers20201038028
Leigh Centurions2012-2016, 2019138144595699
Toronto Wolfpack2017-20194026832272
Huddersfield Giants2016-201725152064
Scotland2016, 2018-20197418052

Tui Lolohea (Salford Red Devils)
Date of Birth: 23rd January 1995 (26 years old)
Position: Halfback

Tui Lolohea has been with the Red Devils for a year and a half after moving to Salford from Leeds Rhinos.
It didn’t quite work out for Lolohea at Leeds, his first club in Super League, but he was able to help Salford make the Grand Final later in the season.
In 2020 he helped the Red Devils reach the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley and he would still make a good acquisition for several other clubs in Super League.
After turning 26 last week, Lolohea could look to resume his career in the NRL after spells with both New Zealand Warriors and Wests Tigers, but a continuation of his time in Super League is most likely, whether with Salford or another club.
Salford have struggled to keep hold of their stars in recent years, so if they could hold on to Lolohea it would be a significant statement of their intent to shed their image of being a club that can’t retain its star players.

Super League debut: 2nd February 2019 for Leeds Rhinos – kicked a goal in the Rhinos’ 26-6 away defeat to Warrington Wolves from halfback

Career Record

Salford Red Devils2019-20203313290110
Leeds Rhinos201917319050
Wests Tigers2017-2018195470114
New Zealand Warriors2014-20175217180104
Tonga2015, 2017-20191233018
New Zealand201510000

Lachlan Coote (St Helens)
Date of Birth: 6th April 1990 (30 years old)
Position: Fullback

Lachlan Coote has proved to be a brilliant signing for St Helens.
Ben Barba was set to return to the NRL after winning Super League’s Man of Steel in 2018 and they signed Coote from Penrith Panthers to fill the void.
Coote is a different player to Barba, but has helped Saints be even more successful, winning Grand Finals in both his Super League seasons.
Coote isn’t getting any younger and perhaps has one more long-term contract in him before retirement.
Saints’ decision regarding Coote might depend on how they see the future of their Grand Final hero Jack Welsby.
The young star has progressed brilliantly in recent years and has had to make do with playing on the wing for Saints. But he could move into the fullback role if Coote leaves at the end of 2021.

Super League debut: 31st January 2019 for St Helens – selected at fullback in Saints’ 22-12 home win over Wigan Warriors

Career Record

St Helens2019-202043261901485
North Queensland Cowboys2015-201884160468
Penrith Panthers2008-20138343101193
Great Britain201910000
NSW City2010, 201222008

Jordan Crowther (Wakefield Trinity)
Date of Birth: 19th February 1997 (23 years old)
Position: Back-row forward

Jordan Crowther has been an excellent squad player for Wakefield Trinity since he made his Super League debut in 2014.
He has made 28 Super League appearances in the last two years as he has progressed to play a more important role for Trinity in recent seasons.
He can play both on the edge and in the middle of the field, adding utility value to any side that might decide to take a chance on the young star.
Soon to turn 24, Crowther would add to any squad in Super League and is one of only a small number of players who is out of contract at Wakefield in 2021.
But his coach Chris Chester sees Crowther as a key member of his squad heading into the new season, so Trinity will surely be keen to keep their man so he can add value to their squad instead of going elsewhere in the many years to come in his career.

Super League debut: 2nd March 2014 for Wakefield Trinity – selected on the bench in Trinity’s 46-24 away defeat to Wigan Warriors

Career Record

Wakefield Trinity2014-2020542008
Newcastle Thunder201910000
Dewsbury Rams2017-20182830012
York City Knights20161050020

Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves)
Date of Birth: 1st February 1991 (29 years old)
Position: Halfback

Blake Austin is another huge name on this list as he enters the third and final year of his contract with Warrington Wolves.
After winning the NRL Dally M Halfback of the Year award in 2015, Austin was named in the Super League Dream Team in 2019 as he impressed in the primrose and blue of Warrington.
His partnership with Gareth Widdop rarely hit the heights last year, however, and the success of that halfback pairing could be the difference between another contract with Warrington or having to move elsewhere.
Austin will not have a shortage of potential suitors, both here in Super League and down under in the NRL.
He will turn 30 next Monday, so his career still has some legs. It could well be up to Austin himself whether he moves back to the NRL or stays in Super League with the Wolves or another club.

Super League debut: 2nd February 2019 for Warrington Wolves – made try-scoring debut at halfback in the Wolves’ 26-6 home win over Leeds Rhinos

Career Record

Warrington Wolves2019-2020482705113
Canberra Raiders2015-2018883401137
Wests Tigers20141973034
Penrith Panthers2011-20131528024
Great Britain201921004
NSW City2015130012

Jackson Hastings (Wigan Warriors)
Date of Birth: 4th January 1996 (25 years old)
Position: Halfback

Jackson Hastings completes this list of quality players who will be on offer from 2022 onwards.
Hastings signed for Wigan Warriors after starring for Salford Red Devils during the backend of 2018 and staying with them in 2019, the year in which he won Super League’s Man of Steel award.
His form has continued at a high leven, although he hasn’t stood out quite as much at the Warriors with stars like Bevan French making the headlines. But nevertheless, the halfback has featured in two Super League Grand Finals but has been on the losing side in both.
Hastings will have his pick of the bunch this season as clubs line up to take him on board. The Warriors are signing Jai Field as a halfback for 2021 and how Hastings and Field fit together with Thomas Leuluai could determine whether Hastings will stay with the Warriors or move on.

Super League debut: 27th July 2018 for Salford Red Devils – made a try-scoring debut at halfback for the Red Devils in a 38-22 home win over Leeds Rhinos

Career Record

Wigan Warriors20202190137
Salford Red Devils2018-2019411515090
Manly Sea Eagles2017-20181323014
Sydney Roosters2014-201635131167
Great Britain201940000