After months of speculation, Cameron Munster has officially put pen to paper on a new four-year deal with the Storm.
The 28-year-old had been heavily linked to a move away from the club, with expansion club the Dolphins seemingly in the box-seat to acquire his services for season 2024 and beyond.
But in a shock twist, Melbourne announced on Thursday night that Munster would remain at the club until at least the end of 2027, likely making him a one-club player for his entire career.
The news will come as a huge blow to Wayne Bennett and his side, who have yet to sign a genuine superstar after missing out on the likes of Harry Grant, Kalyn Ponga and Reece Walsh.
The Dolphins now have an uphill battle ahead of them to turn their attention to a new marquee man for 2024 – but luckily for them, there are still plenty of quality players up for grabs on November 1st.
Here are the top five players Wayne Bennett and the Dolphins should target.
1. Dylan Brown
The most obvious choice on this list, Dylan Brown is one of the most explosive and creative players in the competition and has emerged as a superstar within rugby league.
Still only 22 years of age, Brown enjoyed a career-best year with Parramatta, helping take them to the grand final and finishing with 11 tries and 16 try assists.
The Kiwi international will also play five-eighth in the upcoming Rugby League World Cup, which will be another opportunity to showcase his ability on a big stage.
Bennett will likely be interested in Brown, who is set to hit the open market in November and could attract upwards of $1 million per season.
2. Mitchell Moses
Brown’s halves partner at the Eels, Mitchell Moses, is also technically off-contract at the end of 2023.
The 28-year-old is an established NRL playmaker who has also tasted State of Origin football with NSW, but has an option in his favour at Parramatta for 2024.
Moses is yet to take up his option and would be a no-brainer as far as targets go for Bennett, given he is in the prime of his career and is the type of player you can build a club around.
The No.7 had a fantastic season with the Eels, laying on 23 try assists and forcing 21 dropouts on their way to a grand final berth.
3. Sam Walker
One of the most exciting young talents in game, Sam Walker has already cemented himself as the future of the NRL since making his debut with the Roosters last year.
The 20-year-old remains without a deal long-term at Bondi, and while most are expecting him to remain at the club, the November 1st date is looming large.
Walker is still evolving as a playmaker and has plenty of football ahead of him, which would make him a great fit for the Dolphins on a long-term deal.
Trent Robinson and company will be doing everything in their power to hold onto Walker, but they might have a fight on their hands.
4. Cody Walker
This one makes a lot of sense on a short-term basis.
Cody Walker is still one of the best five-eighths in the competition, and has a strong bond with Bennett from their time together at South Sydney.
The 32-year-old had somewhat of a ‘down year’ for the Bunnies, but still managed to produce 21 try assists and help take them to the prelim final for a fifth-straight season.
Walker is off-contract at the same time as a host of big-name Rabbitohs stars including Latrell Mitchell and Damien Cook, and depending on their salary cap situation, the No.6 could be forced out or look to move on.
5. Jackson Hastings
While perhaps not considered a ‘superstar’ in the NRL just yet, Jackson Hastings has turned his career around completely and has proven himself to be a quality playmaker.
After some early mishaps at the Roosters and Sea Eagles, the 26-year-old returned from a stint in England in 2022 and was easily the Tigers best player when he was on the field.
Hastings is a mature player who would bring a calming influence to the Dolphins, but could also assume a leadership role with relative ease.
Bennett might not have him at the top of his priority list, but depending on what happens with Luke Brooks and Adam Doueihi, there is every chance Hastings may look for a move away from Concord if his desire is to play in the halves.