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NRL set for off contract player frenzy

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/08/2016 James MacSmith and Matt Encarnacion

An incredible 42 regular first graders, or two-and-a-half teams, remain off contract with just three rounds to play of the NRL season.

Current and former internationals Matt Gillett, Tony Williams, Greg Eastwood, Paul Gallen, Zak Hardaker, Benji Marshall, Sam Moa, Ben Hannant, Jeff Lima and Elijah Taylor are among the big names still looking for new contracts in 2017.

Star playmaker Corey Norman is yet to be re-signed by the Eels, while out-of-favour Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah is another in-demand player whose future beyond this year is up in the air.

This smorgasbord of talent is sure to create a feeding frenzy among clubs seeking to strengthen their rosters for 2017 over the last three weeks of the regular season, into the finals and even after the season ends.

That is especially for clubs such as Manly, the Warriors, Newcastle, North Queensland and Wests Tigers who are yet to make any notable additions to their playing squads for next season.

England utility Hardaker is one of the most interesting players available. He has a contract to return to Wigan but is keen to stay in Australia.

He has been sparingly used by the Panthers this year, but remains a part of Anthony Griffin's 17 as they make a push for the finals.

He could be an important inclusion for a number of clubs looking to add some versatility and depth to their ranks ahead of the 2017 season.

"Without a doubt I would love to stay in Australia," Hardaker told AAP.

"The games are tough but that is what I expected and for my personal development that is what I wanted.

"I have played for England, three grand finals back home, two Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge so I am used to the expectation and the media and the fans.

"I am just trying to get as many runs on the board at the moment and hopefully if I play well I can cement a spot somewhere.

"You have only seen a fraction of what I can do, I have only played one full game.

"I would love more game time to show what I am capable of."

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