$9m of Queensland talent left in lockout limbo
Here is the $9 million of Queensland rugby league talent facing uncertain NRL futures.
The Courier-Mail has discovered 36 off-contract players at the Brisbane Broncos, North Queensland Cowboys and Gold Coast Titans who have been left in limbo by the coronavirus pandemic.
With the NRL season suspended indefinitely and a freeze put on player contracts, a host of the state's biggest stars have been left to ponder what 2021 holds.
Among them is Broncos gun David Fifita, one of the code's hottest talents, and Titans captains Ryan James and Kevin Proctor.
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At the Cowboys, former Kangaroos prop Jordan McLean last month activated an option to remain at North Queensland for a further two years to cement his future.
The NRL's clubs are expecting next year's $10 million salary cap to be cut by 20-30 per cent, which has put a halt to contract negotiations.
The Broncos have been in talks with Fifita, Herbie Farnworth and Tesi Niu (development list player) to extend their contracts, but cannot formalise deals in the current climate.
The Broncos players with contract options in their favour - Anthony Milford, Andrew McCullough, Jack Bird, Jake Turpin and Corey Oates - have until the end of May to activate the deals.
Broncos legend Darren Lockyer said the competition suspension had thrown a curve ball into roster planning.
"It's just a wait and see situation - everyone has pushed the pause button," said Lockyer, a member of Brisbane's recruitment and retention committee.
"From a recruitment perspective, you can still have plans in place before this all happened and you want to work out where that all sits at the end of this.
"We don't know where the salary cap will end up and where this finishes. We don't know how much time we will have to re-sign players.
"There's a lot of uncertainty. We're waiting to see where it all lands."
The Cowboys put a freeze on re-signing players after poor results over the past two seasons and were waiting to see how their squad performed in 2020.
Premiership-winning players Gavin Cooper, John Asiata and Kyle Feldt are among 13 off-contract Cowboys players.
Cowboys football chief Peter Parr said the club would have to make some decisions once there was some certainty around the NRL season.
"You won't be able to wait forever but at the moment there isn't enough clarity to go forward," said Parr, who has been stood down along with most Cowboys staff.
"There will be a tipping point where you have to move, but at the moment we don't have enough information on what everything is going to look like.
"You've also got to take into consideration that people are worried about their futures.
"At some stage we will have to look to secure the roster and give people clarity. It's just a bit early for that at the moment."
New Titans coach Justin Holbrook wanted to get a good look at how the squad he inherited performed before making contract decisions.
But with the NRL season suspended until July 1 at the earliest, the likes of Anthony Don, Dale Copley, Nathan Peats, Tyrone Roberts and Proctor have been unable to present their cases for new deals.
"It will be weighing on their minds just as much as mine," Holbrook said.
"It's a hard feeling for them knowing they want to play and impress but aren't getting an opportunity to.
"That's one of the difficulties we're facing by not playing. The quicker we can get back, the quicker all of that stuff sorts itself out.
"We've got a few guys off-contract who are keen to get a new one.
"That's hard for everyone. If you're a young guy coming through wanting to push for first grade, then all of a sudden they don't get first grade.
"It's no good for everyone."
OFF-CONTRACT QUEENSLAND PLAYERS
Top 30 contracted players
Jack Bird (PO), Herbie Farnworth, David Fifita, Jamil Hopoate, Jordan Kahu, Richie Kennar, Rhys Kennedy, Andrew McCullough (PO), Anthony Milford (PO), Corey Oates (PO), Sean O'Sullivan, Jake Turpin (PO), Ilikena Vudogo.
John Asiata, Gavin Cooper, Reuben Cotter, Mitch Dunn, Kyle Feldt, Ben Hampton (PO), Corey Jensen (PO), Francis Molo, Tom Opacic, Emry Pere, Daniel Russell, Tukimihia Simpkins, Shane Wright.
Dale Copley, Anthony Don, Keegan Hipgrave, Ryan James, Sam Lisone, Nathan Peats, Kevin Proctor, Tyrone Roberts, Treymain Spry (CO), Sam Stone.
*PO = contract includes an option in the player's favour; CO = club option.
Originally published as $9m of Queensland talent left in lockout limbo