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Sport Game Of Two Halves: Analysing the playmaker market following Adam Reynolds decision

09:50  13 may  2021
09:50  13 may  2021 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Adam Reynolds decision to link up with the Brisbane Broncos on a long-term deal has put to bed the speculation over his NRL future.

But what is about to ensue could be one of the biggest halves circuses we have ever seen.

An abundance of high-quality and big-money playmakers are still without deals for 2022 and beyond, headlined by the likes of Mitchell Moses and Shaun Johnson.

Heading into next year as it stands, only half the clubs across the NRL have a set halves pairing - and that means there could be plenty of movement in the coming months.

Here's the full list of off-contract playmakers for 2022:

  • Broncos - Anthony Milford, Tyson Gamble
  • Raiders - Matt Frawley, Sam Williams
  • Bulldogs - Lachlan Lewis
  • Sharks - Shaun Johnson, Braydon Trindall
  • Titans - Ash Taylor
  • Sea Eagles - Kieran Foran
  • Storm - Nicho Hynes, Ryley Jacks, Cooper Johns
  • Knights - Phoenix Crossland, Blake Green, Kurt Mann
  • Warriors - Sean O’Sullivan
  • Cowboys - Ben Hampton
  • Eels - Mitchell Moses, Jordan Rankin, Will Smith
  • Panthers - Tyrone May
  • Dragons - Corey Norman
  • Rabbitohs - Troy Dargan, Dean Hawkins, Benji Marshall
  • Roosters - Drew Hutchison
  • Tigers - Billy Walters

A wealth of talent on that list, isn't it.

Cook implores Reynolds to stick at Souths

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So it begs the question - how are some of these sides with only one or no halves option for 2022 going to shape up?

Let's take a look at their options below.

BRISBANE BRONCOS - ADAM REYNOLDS and ???

The biggest piece of the puzzle that is the Broncos rebuild was signing an elite playmaker, and they got their man in Reynolds.

But for Kevin Walters, his next step is to decide on his five-eighth for next season and beyond.

Internally, strke centre Kotoni Staggs has been touted as a potential No.6 option, while they also still have Brodie Croft at their disposal.

Off-contract they have Anthony Milford , who appears unlikely to be offered a new deal. Tyson Gamble is also off-contract, but if he were to re-sign, it would be as a depth player only.

Looking externally, Nicho Hynes is a name that has been thrown around to either play fullback or five-eighth at Brisbane. He appears to be priority number-one and wouldn't come at a huge price.

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Elsewhere, someone like Tyrone May, Matt Moylan or Kurt Mann could work as a ball-running five-eighth alongside a chief organiser in Reynolds.

CANBERRA RAIDERS - GEORGE WILLIAMS and JACK WIGHTON

This one is pretty simple, as it stands.

There have been rumours about Williams wanting out at the end of the year due to homesickness, but it looks unlikely the Raiders would let him go without some sort of compensation.

If the English import was to leave, they could look at re-signing Sam Williams, or they could chase a younger halfback like Troy Dargan or Phoenix Crossland.

Matt Frawley is also in their squad and is without a deal for next year.

CANTERBURY BULLDOGS - MATT BURTON and ???

This dilemma isn't likely to see the Bulldogs go to the market, but it will pose a tough decision for Trent Barrett when the time rolls around.

Matt Burton is arriving at Belmore as their chief playmaker on a long-term deal, that much we know.

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But fresh off dropping Kyle Flanagan from the first grade side, his partner doesn't look as cut and dry. Jake Averillo is young and raw and could shine with a better halfback alongside him in Burton.

Brandon Wakeham is also there until the end of 2022, while Flanagan of course remains an option. Lachlan Lewis won't be there next year, it appears.

CRONULLA SHARKS - ??? and ???

While every other club has at least one of their halves for next year set in stone, Cronulla have neither.

They lost veteran halfback Chad Townsend to the Cowboys , while Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan and Braydon Trindall are all without deals beyond this year.

Connor Tracey has just extended his deal and while he has great utility value, there are doubts over him as a first-choice halfback or five-eighth.

At this stage, it is completely up in the air. Johnson is no guarantee of staying at the club and would have to take a cut-price deal to do so, while Moylan doesn't look like he will be offered a new deal.

Anthony Milford has been linked with a move to the Shire , Ash Taylor could do with a sea-change, while Nicho Hynes could be another option as a five-eighth.

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Craig Fitzgibbon has his work cut out for him in the next six months.

GOLD COAST TITANS - JAMAL FOGARTY and ???

Fogarty has gained the captaincy at the Titans and is there until at least the end of next year. He's clearly their main man in the halves, and rightfully so.

As for who will partner him next year, it looks like that man could be young gun Paul Turner, who has reportedly signed with the club after being released by the Warriors .

Ash Taylor would have to take a huge pay cut if he were to stay on the Gold Coast, and it would be surprising to see them offer him a deal anyway after they picked up Turner.

Tanah Boyd is also signed until the end of 2022, which could also be a key a factor in Taylor's likely departure. He has a close friendship with star forward David Fifita, and they could work well together.

MANLY SEA EAGLES - DALY CHERRY-EVANS and ???

While it has a question mark there for Cherry-Evans' partner, it's really just a formality at this stage.

Kieran Foran is starting to find his feet at his former club, and has remained injury-free to start the 2021 season ( touch wood ).

The club have an option in their favour for next year, but if he continues to play good footy and stay on the park, it's hard to see Manly letting him go.

If for some reason Foran did leave, Cade Cust is signed until the end of 2022 and could partner DCE.

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MELBOURNE STORM - JAHROME HUGHES and CAMERON MUNSTER

No need to analyse this one.

Hughes is signed until the end of 2024 and is quickly becoming one of the game's elite halfbacks, while Munster will be at Melbourne until the end of 2023.

Back-up options Ryley Jacks and Cooper Johns are without contracts for 2022 and beyond.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS - MITCHELL PEARCE and JAKE CLIFFORD

This remains the likely option for Newcastle next season, despite an injury to Pearce and Clifford struggling to cement a spot at the Cowboys this year.

Adam O'Brien clearly sees something in Clifford, and has signed him to the club until at least the end of 2023 . He will be in the halves next year, you would expect.

Pearce has been out since round 4 due to injury , but has signed a contract extension to remain at the Knights for another year.

At this stage, those two men will be the halves.

Where that leaves off-contract playmakers Phoenix Crossland, Blake Green and Kurt Mann remains to be seen.

NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS - CHANEL HARRIS-TAVITA and KODI NIKORIMA

This is another halves pairing for 2022 that seems rather cut and dry.

Chanel Harris-Tavita and Kodi Nikorima are both signed for next year, have shown glimpses of a deadly combination and are continuing to grow as players.

Reece Walsh has played five-eighth a couple of times since arriving, but he was signed to replace Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at fullback, and it is expected Nathan Brown will stay the course on that.

Sean O'Sullivan is a depth option at the Warriors and is without a deal for next year, but could be re-signed.

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NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS - CHAD TOWNSEND and ???

Chad Townsend has signed a lucrative deal to move to Townsville , and he will be in the halves no doubt.

The other spot will come down to a pre-season shootout between new signing Tom Dearden , and the recently-extended Scott Drinkwater .

Drinkwater has been one of the Cowboys' best this season, while Dearden is struggling to crack to the Broncos side.

Ben Hampton is unsigned for next season, but has shown his versatility and could earn himself an extension despite suffering a pec injury recently.

This one will be very interesting, and Todd Payten will have a bid decision on his hands before the 2022 season kicks off.

PARRAMATTA EELS - DYLAN BROWN and ???

Dylan Brown is there until at least the end of next season - but who is going to partner him?

Most experts are expecting to see Mitchell Moses remain at Parramatta despite interest from other clubs , continuing the halves combination that has brought them some success in the past 18 months.

But rugby league is a funny game, and since they are still without Moses' signature on the dotted line , he is hot property.

If for some reason Moses did depart the club, Jakob Arthur has just been upgraded and extended and has big wraps on him, so he would be a likely internal solution with Will Smith and Jordan Rankin both off-contract at the end of this year.

Externally, the club may look at Shaun Johnson or Ash Taylor to wear the No.7 jumper should Moses happen to leave Parramatta.

It's a big decision for the 26-year-old, and whatever he decides will have a huge implication on the future of the Eels - as well as some off-contract stars.

PENRITH PANTHERS - NATHAN CLEARY and JAROME LUAI

Just as easy as the Melbourne Storm, this is.

Cleary is the best halfback in the game and is signed until 2024, while Luai continues to develop his game to the point where he will be an Origin player sooner rather than later.

Analysis: Are the Broncos a top six team in 2022 with Reynolds, Staggs, Hynes, Hodgson spine?

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No pressure will be on either of those players either, with young gun Matt Burton heading to the Bulldogs.

Tyrone May is off-contract, but has proven to be a great utility option for Ivan Cleary and will likely be offered a new deal.

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS - BEN HUNT and ???

Another internal problem, but the Dragons aren't without options for 2022 and beyond.

Hunt is all-but assured to be the halfback at the club for the rest of his time there, with new coach Anthony Griffin instilling plenty of faith and confidence in the oft-maliged star .

Corey Norman is off-contract at the end of this year, and there are big question marks over his future. If he doesn't re-sign, Griffin has three other genuine halves options at his disposal, which could work against Norman.

Adam Clune has shown he is a steady hand, while young guns Jayden Sullivan and Junior Amone have plenty of upside and are future superstars of the game.

The likelihood is that no decision will be made on Norman's future for a little while longer, with the club also set to make a big decision on fullback Matt Dufty .

If the former Origin pivot was to depart the Dragons, his options would be limited and he would have to take a big pay cut, due to a poor run of form since moving from Parramatta at the end of 2018.

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS - CODY WALKER and ???

The decision to let captain and club legend Adam Reynolds walk away and join the Broncos is one that has left many fans and experts scratching their heads.

Walker is now left without an obvious partner in the halves moving forward, and the way that he and Reynolds complement each other has been a big reason for the Rabbitohs' success.

Benji Marshall will be 37 years old next year and retirement could be looming for the veteran. If he was to go around again in 2022, it's only a short-term fix.

Dean Hawkins and Troy Dargan are both off-contract at the end of this season, while South Sydney also have Blake Taaffe and Lachlan Ilias coming through the ranks.

Even if Marshall plays on, the likelihood is that the Bunnies are going to have to take a gamble on one of those four inexperienced players to wear the No.7 moving forward.

It's a big risk by the powerhouse club, and it might not pay off.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS - LUKE KEARY and SAM WALKER

Keary fell to an ACL injury early this season , and up stepped teenage sensation Walker. Since then, the 18-year-old has proven that he is every bit as good as expected.

Once the three-time premiership-winner in Keary is back on deck, they will form one of the most lethal halves combinations in the NRL after Walker agreed to a two-year extension .

Lachlan Lam and Adam Keighran are both signed until the end of 2022 and will act as utility or back-up options.

Drew Hutchison is off-contract at the end of this year, and would be unlikely to gain a new deal with the plethora of options at Trent Robinson's disposal.

WESTS TIGERS - ??? and ???

Last but certainly not least, we've got the Tigers.

After signing Jackson Hastings on a two-year deal , you would expect to see him take up one of the positions in the halves moving forward.

The big question mark will be who partners him, with multiple options there for Michael Maguire. Unfortunately for Madge, none of them are an obvious selection.

Adam Doueihi has shown plenty of upside, but has been shuffled around multiple positions during his time in first grade . He is signed until the end of 2023 and will be in the mix.

Luke Brooks has been at the club for a really long time now and has had no success, despite continued faith from Maguire and previous coaches. He is also signed until the end of 2023.

Moses Mbye is signed until the end of 2022, but has been open about potentially moving elsewhere and has struggled to lock down a permanent position.

Rookie halfback Jock Madden will be at the club until the end of next year, while Billy Walters is off-contract.

If we were to bank on a partnership for next year, you'd have to think it will be Hastings and Brooks to begin with - but realistically, who knows.

Maguire has got some really tough decisions to make over the next six months.

Analysis: Are the Broncos a top six team in 2022 with Reynolds, Staggs, Hynes, Hodgson spine? .
Could Kevin Walters be on the brink of assembling the star-studded spine that can take the Broncos back to glory? After securing Rabbitohs premiership-winning halfback Adam Reynolds' arrival on a three-year deal from next season, Brisbane are making moves to further bolster their spine, with Nicho Hynes and Josh Hodgson reportedly on the radar. With recently re-signed Kotoni Staggs poised for a move into five-eighth to partner Reynolds in the halves next season, it could immediately address an area of concern that has plagued the Brisbane outfit for the past two years.

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