Anti-Tampering Deadline Draws to Close
by Michael McLucas by
Monday June 06, 2005

It's nearly June 30 and that means that some Broncos' players are about to enter the open market, trying to see whether or not they can land a better deal than they would if they stayed at the Broncos. There are some big names in that group, there are some names that the Broncos' should look to sign for the future and there are some names that the Broncos maybe could do without, although it would be sad to see them leave.

Corey Parker has recently signed a 3-year deal with the Broncos which is great news. Great loyalty was shown by Parker and it hopefully will set an example for other off-contract players, particularly some of the younger ones.

Players that are off contract this year are: Darren Mapp, Tame Tupou, Michael Ryan, Tonie Carroll, Stuart Kelly, Darren Smith, Jamie Simpson, David Stagg, Derrick Watkins, John Te Reo, Tom Learoyd - Lahrs, Shaun Berrigan, Shane Webcke, Tim Rangihuna and Berrick Barnes.

Obviously, Tonie Carroll, David Stagg, Shaun Berrigan and Shane Webcke would be high priority signings. These senior players are essential to the success of the Broncos, and their form this year proves it.

It is hard to imagine any of those players leaving the Broncos, but a lot thought the same about Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Craig Frawley. Although, Shane Webcke and Tonie Carroll have made it clear that Red Hill is where they would like to be playing until the end of their careers, however with Stagg and Berrigan making no such claims, it may be in the back of their minds that their future is out of Brisbane (although it is doubtful).

With Stagg making his mark this year as a player with tremendous potential, a club such as South Sydney or Cronulla (one of the lower profile Sydney clubs) may be looking to use him as a long-term utility player. Afterall, he can cover the back row, centre and could quite possibly stand in as a five-eighth should an injury occur. Shaun Berrigan would be a potential "buy of the year" if he were signed to another club.

The chances of these two leaving the Broncos is unlikely though, so the Broncos need to assess which of the younger players they need to ensure a successful future.

My opinion is that the Broncos need to ensure the signatures of the following players - Michael Ryan, Derrick Watkins, Tom Leoroyd-Lahrs, Berrick Barnes and Jamie Simpson.

Michael Ryan still has a big future as the Broncos' hooker, even though Barry Berrigan is standing in his way at the moment. But Baz is 30 years old now, and a neck injury he suffered last year may well have cut his career short a year or two. In comes a perfect solution in Michael Ryan. He's a tough little player and has been outstanding for Toowoomba this season.

Derrick Watkins has the wraps of many of Rugby League's ardent fans and has been one of the Clydesdales' best players this year. He really is shaping up as a star emerging throughout the next few years or so.

Tom Leoroyd-Lahrs, while he hasn't been in his best form this season for Toowoomba, could be the answer when Shane Webcke decides to hang up his boots. He is a big, fast and strong forward who most certainly has the potential to be a fantastic prop forward. Those are hard to come by, and so are ones that should not be let go easily.

Watching Berrick Barnes playing for Toowoomba is very frustrating. He is very much NRL standard and just can't break through at the Broncos, but who could if Brett Seymour and Darren Lockyer were standing in his way? This is what makes me worried. The Broncos just can't seem to give him any game time. If a club offered him the same amount of money that he is currently on, but guaranteed him a start in the NRL, chances are he would be gone. Unlikely that he will be retained unfortunately.

Jamie Simpson is a player that not many would have heard of, but let me tell you, he is an absolutely tremendous talent. When I saw him playing (at the 2004 Confraternity Championships) he was playing as a ball playing lock forward and played so well that he was named player of the tournament. He is very young and we may not see him in first grade for a couple of years or so, but mark my words, he is one for the future.

Forgive me as I have not seen Tim Rangihuna and cannot assess whether the Broncos need to resign him or not.

The players I have not mentioned are Darren Mapp, Tame Topou, Stuart Kelly and Darren Smith who fall into the category of players we would miss, but could afford to let go. Darren Mapp is a solid player, but I get the feeling that players such as Sam Thaiday and Tom Leoroyd-Lahrs stand in his way at the Broncos. Tame Topou has struggled for form this year for the Clydesdales, but the potential is there. He would be good to retain, but his form would not see him playing for the Broncos any time soon. But all a player needs is time I suppose.

Stuart Kelly is now playing in the halves, so he will not be able to play for the Broncos unless injuries occur. I can't see him staying in Brisbane, although he has been one of the most loyal Broncos over the years. Best of luck to him. And Darren Smith. Oh Smithy, we would love to have you mate, but if you feel that at 37-years your body can't take it anymore, we understand!

Obviously the salary cap could play a big part in who is retained and who isn't, but hopefully most of those players do decide to stay with the Broncos and we can forget about it until June 30 next year.

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