NRL 2020: off-contract players, free agents, signings, Cameron Smith retirement, Benji Marshall, Brandon Smith release, Josh Addo-Carr, Stephen Crichton Panthers contract

We may be 10 days out from Christmas but that hasn’t slowed the player market down at all. Clubs are scrambling to finalise their rosters before they break for the holidays while also keeping a close eye on some big names who have become available for 2022.

With new deals popping up every other day it can be hard to keep up so here at we’ve had a look at the state of play of the player market.

We’ve got your full list of players without a club for 2021, those who are signed for next season but could be heading elsewhere before Round 1 kicks off and also the players caught up in a tug of war match between clubs.

We’ve also jumped ahead to look at the 2022 season, the players who have entered negotiations with rival clubs and the big name players whose futures have dominated the headlines lately.

Round 1

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NRL 2020: Transfer centre, contract news, signings tracker, off-contract players, Melbourne Storm

The Penrith Panthers have confirmed the departure of six players ahead of the 2021 season, including three who will link up with new clubs.

Skipper James Tamou headlines the list as he finishes up his time at the foot of the mountains to join the Wests Tigers.

Also making a club switch is Jack Hetherington, who was granted an early release from his contract to sign with the Bulldogs and Caleb Aekins, who was picked up by the Raiders.

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Grand Final

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Veteran Hawk’s “got a decision to make” and the latest on an off-contract Roo

Isaac Smith is weighing up contract offers from Hawthorn and Melbourne.

The Hawks want to keep the triple-premiership wingman and have tabled a two-year deal amid interest from the Demons.

Smith, 31, is an unrestricted free agent and his manager Liam Pickering admits his future remains up in the air as things stand.

“Isaac’s got a decision to make at the moment. Hawthorn have put a contract in front of him as have a couple of other clubs,” Pickering told SEN Breakfast.

“I’m not hassling him too much because he’s trying to have a holiday.

“Everyone’s in the mix at the moment with Isaac, he just needs to make his mind up.

“Melbourne are definitely in the mix as are Hawthorn for him to stay. So really, it’s up to him now.”

Pickering also provided an update on off-contract North Melbourne midfielder Jed Anderson.

“Jed’s out of contract so we’re trying to negotiate our way through a contract with North Melbourne,” Pickering said.

“That’s taking a little bit of time.

“I spoke to Jed last week and it’s really just about his contract. He’s not going to be one that’s going to be rocking the boat but he didn’t say anything to me about being concerned (about North Melbourne as a collective).

“At the moment he’s concerned about making sure the deal is right.”

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Victorian club prepared to table mega deal for off-contract Giant

North Melbourne is prepared to offer out-of-contract GWS star Zac Williams a mega six-year deal, according to Fox Footy’s Tom Morris.

Williams’ future at the Giants remains unclear with Victorian clubs circling the restricted free agent.

The Kangaroos and Carlton have lodged their interest in the 25-year-old who also has a five-year offer on the table from GWS.

Like Williams, out-of-contract star forward Jeremy Cameron has the option of exercising his free agency rights at season’s end.

The Giants will also be looking to resolve the futures of Aidan Corr, Jeremy Finlayson and Harry Perryman.

According to Morris, Corr – a restricted free agent – is attracting interest from North Melbourne, Geelong, Essendon and Adelaide.

As for off-contract pair Finlayson and Perryman, it’s understood club list managers view them as gettable if a suitable offer was forthcoming.

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Off-contract Crow to explore free agency options

Adelaide has announced that Rory Atkins will explore his free agency options once the 2020 season concludes.

Atkins, who is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, told teammates, coaches and staff that he intends on departing West Lakes to seek a fresh start elsewhere.

Crows Head of Football Adam Kelly said in a club statement: “Rory is a quality person, popular and highly respected by everyone at our club.

“We respect and appreciate his honesty in coming to us and putting forward his intentions.

“After a great deal of thought and discussion, we mutually agreed that it is best for Rory to be released from his commitments at the club.”

The 26-year-old midfielder has played 81 games for the Crows but has appeared just four times this season because of a shoulder injury.

The Calder Cannons product was selected with the 81st pick overall in the 2012 draft.

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Newcastle Knights and Gold Coast Titans express interest in off-contract Gold Coast Titans skipper Kevin Proctor after biting saga

Kevin Proctor’s biting drama hasn’t diminished his chances of a new NRL contract, with the Knights and Warriors expressing interest in the off-contract Gold Coast captain.

Proctor was headline news last week after the judiciary found him guilty of biting Kiwis teammate Shaun Johnson. Despite protesting his innocence, Proctor copped a four-week suspension following a marathon hearing at Rugby League Central.

Titans forward Kevin Proctor is a man in demand.Credit:Getty Images

There were fears a lengthy ban would spell the end for his NRL career. However, the Titans want to retain their skipper when his contract expires at the end of the season and other suitors have also emerged.

The Herald can reveal Newcastle and the Warriors are in the mix for Proctor’s services if he doesn’t come to terms with the Titans. Both clubs believe the 30-year-old’s experience would be an asset. A move would allow him to significantly add to the 250-game milestone he brought up against Cronulla a fortnight ago.

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Docker an All-Australian “lock” while off-contract defender looms as trade target

Fremantle’s watertight defence restricted Sydney to their lowest score since relocating to the Harbour City in 1982.

The Swans managed a paltry 2.7 (19) despite winning the inside 50 count 43-34 as Dockers duo Luke Ryan and Brennan Cox excelled in their defensive posts.

Kane Cornes believes Ryan, a mature-age recruit from VFL club Coburg, should be a “lock” in this year’s All-Australian side.

“What about the Dockers? I’m loving their form this year,” Cornes told AFL Media’s The Round So Far.

“Justin Longmuir knows what he’s doing, he’s clearly really structurally sound and tactically really switched on.

“The Dockers are having a terrific year, I didn’t expect them to be as competitive.

“Luke Ryan is an All-Australian so lock him in there, he was magnificent again tonight (Saturday night) with the amount of footy that he wins and how he uses it.”

Cox is out of contract at season’s end and Cornes wouldn’t be surprised to see Adelaide attempt to lure the South Australian home in the off-season.

“(Brennan) Cox as well, five contested marks tonight (Saturday),” Cornes said.

“Now you told me off-air Mitch (Cleary) that he’s out of contract, he’s a South Australian from Woodville West-Torrens.

“I’d be shocked if the Adelaide Football Club aren’t going to have a little bit of a sniff around for him because when Griffin Logue comes back and (Joel)
Hamling comes back and (Alex) Pearce comes back, will he still hold his spot? So he may be looking for other opportunities.”

Cox, 22, has been a revelation in defence after beginning his career as a forward.

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Manly back-rower Corey Waddell says a potential reduction of NRL squads is a “worry” for off-contract players

Off-contract Manly back-rower Corey Waddell fears for his future, admitting it is a “worry” that the NRL‘s top 30 squads could be reduced next season.

Waddell is yet to secure a contract beyond this year, although he has been linked to Canterbury under former Sea Eagles assistant Trent Barrett.

He says he hasn’t heard from Barrett and concedes it is a concern that NRL squads could be dropped from 2021 and beyond.

“I think it definitely plays a part,” said Waddell, who has played 31 games for the Sea Eagles since joining the club from Penrith in 2019.

“I don’t exactly know what the number is going to be next year. It is a top 30 squad at the moment, but if they reduce the numbers it is going to wean out a few players out.

“It is going to be tough for spots.”

Conversely, Waddell can also see the positives of NRL squads becoming smaller.

“It will be more competitive with a high number of quality players there,” he said.

“I guess it is a worry for people, but I’ve just got to be making sure I do everything I can to make sure I get picked up.”

Waddell is focused on finishing the season strongly at Manly to increase his chances of locking in a new deal.

The Sea Eagles sit four points outside the top eight with six rounds remaining this season.

Waddell, who has played eight games this season, wants to help Manly defy the odds and make the finals to impress any potential suitors.

“It is always a tough thing when you are off-contract, but hopefully I’ve done enough now to prove myself to be a regular first grader,” he said.

“I’m still uncertain about that (my future), so at the moment I’m just focusing on playing with Manly.

“I don’t know what is happening next year, but all that stuff will get sorted I’m sure.

“Ever since I got here to Manly, I’ve loved the place and the club.

“I’ll be doing all I can for the rest of the year and next year will sort itself out.”

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Greater Western Sydney Giants coach Leon Cameron’s gut feeling is positive for off-contract stars Jeremy Cameron and Zac Williams

There might be a new financial landscape in the AFL because of COVID-19 but Cameron is no less confident now than last year.

“My gut always tells me they’re going to stay. We’ve been pretty right most of the time,” he said.

Zac Williams celebrates the Giants' win over the Gold Coast Suns last week.

Zac Williams celebrates the Giants’ win over the Gold Coast Suns last week.Credit:Getty Images

“My gut tells me those two boys will be running around in Giants colours for another four or five years. They love the place … I don’t see any reluctance of those guys wanting to explore other avenues because they’re fully entrenched in our program.

“We understand there’s going to be speculation every year, which is not new to us, but I expect them to be here for a long time.”

Two other first-choice players at GWS, Jeremy Finlayson and the in-form Harry Perryman, are also coming to the end of their deals with the club.

A lack of clarity on what the cap will look like in 2021 has added a layer of complexity to all player negotiations, said the coach – who is also out of contract at the end of this year but has been verbally assured by chief executive David Matthews of the job for the long term.

Dialogue’s going well, players are happy and for me that puts us in a good spot.

Leon Cameron

“In terms of the dialogue we’re having with the managers of our players that are unsigned at the moment, that’s all heading in the right direction which is why my gut’s telling me there will be no issues,” he said.

“That finer detail, when you’ve got to get down to the nitty-gritty bits at the end when you need some more detail re: the salary cap, I think that might take an extra few weeks or a month or so.

“But dialogue’s going well, players are happy and for me that puts us in a good spot.”

Meanwhile, Cameron says there will not be wholesale changes for Friday night’s clash with Essendon at Metricon Stadium in reaction to the short turnaround between matches for GWS.


Hamstring injuries to Toby Greene and Matt de Boer in Sunday’s win over Gold Coast will mean at least two players will come into their 22, with former skipper Callan Ward a strong chance if he gets through their main training session on Wednesday.

Ward has had a frustrating year – he made his comeback from a long-term knee injury in round two but has played just four games this season due to a separate knee issue, from which he has made an ahead-of-schedule recovery.

“No doubt his last 18 months hasn’t been the best for him injury-wise. He probably had 10 good years in a row without any injuries and then it hit all at once,” Cameron said.

“History speaks that he’s in our best 22 when he gets up and running. He needs a little bit of luck with his body … [but] he’s got the runs on the board.”

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