The North Queensland Cowboys had reacted to their horror season by running an axe through the roster, cutting nine players in a brutal cull.
The Cowboys were four points from making the 2022 NRL grand final but struggled early in the season to crash out in 11th on the ladder.
Watch every game of The 2023 NRL Telstra Finals Series before the Grand Final Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo Sports. Join now and start streaming instantly >
While the Cowboys were in good company with the 2022 grand finalists Parramatta and fellow prelim side South Sydney in crashing out before finals in 2023, the Cowboys have acted to change up its roster.
Centre Peta Hiku signed with the Super League, forward Riley Price signed with the Panthers and veteran James Tamou retired, but six other players have just been cut.
It includes 82-game utility Ben Hampton as well as winger Brendan Elliot, uncapped halfback Jake Bourke, Fijian international Taniel Sadragu, 58-game forward Mitchell Dunn and outside back Gehamat Shibasaki.
The moves are set to be made official at the club’s presentation night on Wednesday
Gus whacks Eels with double blow
Bulldogs supremo Phil Gould has struck two blows against the Eels in quick succession.
The Eels are keen to replenish its outside back stocks after its poor 2023 season which saw the club go from grand finalists to missing the finals altogether.
But not only has Gould stopped a poaching raid, he’s nabbed a promising Eels junior.
Parramatta were sniffing around winger Blake Wilson as the Eels had begun informal talks.
There was no formal offer on extended but the winger has rejected the Eels to stay with the Dogs, where he scored six tries in 11 matches for the club.
Gould then launched a raid of his own, nabbing Eels SG Ball winger Cody Parry, who represented the Australian Schoolboys.
Parry scored 10 tries in five games in the SG Ball this season.
Knights cull 10 as clubs start mass clean outs
Incoming St George Illawarra coach Shane Flanagan has begun his clean out of the Dragons roster, with two players set to leave the club.
Tautau Moga and Nick Lui-Toso will depart the Dragons, while there’s plenty of movement at other clubs in the NRL.
The Newcastle Knights may be heading into finals in red hot form, but they will lose 10 players, including winger Dom Young, who will join the Roosters next season.
Adam Clune, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Lachlan Miller are all heading from Newcastle to the Super League from 2024.
The Warriors have confirmed forward Bayley Sironen won’t have his contract extended, while young prop Valingi Kepu will also depart the club at the end of the year.
The news of the duo’s departure was confirmed at the Warriors’ end-of-season awards.
Ben Murdoch-Masila is heading from the Warriors to the Dragons, and Viliami Vailea is going to the North Queensland Cowboys.
The Dolphins will farewell premiership winner Brenko Lee but are set to welcome Herbie Farnworth and Tom Flegler next season.
Herbie Farnworth (Dolphins)
Thomas Flegler (Dolphins)
Keenan Palasia (Titans)
Ethan Quai-Ward (Bulldogs)
Fletcher Baker (Roosters)
Jarrod Croker (Retired)
Matt Frawley (Leeds Rhinos — SL)
Brad Schneider (Panthers)
Semi Valemei (Cowboys)
Jack Wighton (Rabbitohs)
Simi Sasagi (Knights)
Paul Alamoti (Panthers)
Jake Averillo (Dolphins)
Fa’amanu Brown (mid-season — Knights)
Brandon Clarke (Released)
Andrew Davey (mid-season — Eels)
Kyle Flanagan (Dragons)
Jayden Okunbor (Hull FC — SL)
Tevita Pangai Jr. (retired)
Franklin Pele (Hull FC — SL)
Josh Reynolds (Retired)
Stephen Crichton (Panthers)
Jaeman Salmon (Panthers)
Blake Taaffe (Rabbitohs)
Bronson Xerri (Drug ban)
Wade Graham (retired)
Matt Ikuvalu (mid-season — Catalans Dragons — SL)
JJ Collins (released)
Herman Ese’ese (Hull FC — SL)
Poasa Faamausili (released)
Oliver Gildart (Hull Kingston Rovers)
Brenko Lee (Super League)
Jake Averillo (Bulldogs)
Herbie Farnworth (Broncos)
Tom Flegler (Broncos)
GOLD COAST TITANS
Aaron Booth (retired)
Patrick Herbert (released)
Kruise Leeming (Wigan Warriors — SL)
Ben Liyou (released)
Sam McIntyre (mid-season — Cowboys)
Thomas Mikaele (mid-season — Warrington Wolves — SL)
Toby Sexton (mid-season — Bulldogs)
Keenan Palasia (Broncos)
MANLY SEA EAGLES
Latu Fainu (Tigers)
Samuela Fainu (Tigers)
Luke Brooks (Tigers)
Jaxson Paulo (Roosters)
Tommy Talau (Tigers)
NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Viliami Vailea (Cowboys)
Otukinekina Kepu (Released)
Bayley Sironen (Released)
Valingi Kepu (Released)
Taniela Otukolo (Released)
Chanel Harris-Tavita (Retirement)
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Rugby)
Dominic Young (Sydney Roosters)
Adam Clune (Huddersfield Giants)
Lachlan Fitzgibbon (Warrington Wolves)
Lachlan Miller (Leeds Rhinos)
Simi Sasagi (Raiders)
Hymel Hunt (released)
Bailey Hodgson (released)
Dane Aukafolau (released)
Jack Johns (released)
Jack Cogger (Panthers)
Jed Cartwright (Rabbitohs)
Will Pryce (Huddersfield Giants — SL)
Kai Pearce-Paul (Wigan Warriors — SL)
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS
Peta Hiku (Hull Kingston Rovers)
Riley Price (Panthers)
James Tamou (retired)
Ben Hampton (released)
Brendan Elliot (released)
Jake Bourke (released)
Taniela Sadrugu (released)
Mitchell Dunn (released)
Gehamat Shibasaki (released)
Jake Clifford (Hull FC — SL)
Viliami Vailea (Warriors)
Jake Arthur (mid-season — Manly Sea Eagles)
Nathan Brown (mid-season — Roosters)
Josh Hodgson (retired)
Jack Murchie (Huddersfield Giants — SL)
Mitch Rein (retired)
Jack Cogger (Knights)
Stephen Crichton (Bulldogs)
Spencer Leniu (Roosters)
Jaeman Salmon (Bulldogs)
Paul Alamoti (Bulldogs)
Daine Laurie (Tigers)
Riley Price (Cowboys)
Brad Schneider (Raiders)
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS
Jed Cartwright (Knights)
Liam Knight (Bulldogs)
Hame Sele (Dragons)
Blake Taaffe (Bulldogs)
Jack Wighton (Raiders)
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Jaidyn Hunt (Broncos)
Josh Kerr (mid-season — Dolphins)
Nick Lui-Toso (released)
Moses Mbye (mid-season — St Helens Saints — SL)
Tautau Moga (released)
Jayden Sullivan (Tigers)
Aaron Woods (mid-season — Manly)
Kyle Flanagan (Bulldogs)
Hame Sele (Rabbitohs)
Fletcher Baker (Broncos)
Tuku Hau Tapuha (Sharks)
Matthew Lodge (mid-season — Manly)
Jaxson Paulo (Manly)
Spencer Leniu (Panthers)
Lewis Murphy (Wakefield Trinity — SL)
Dominic Young (Knights)
Luke Brooks (Manly)
Daine Laurie (Panthers)
Ken Maumalo (mid-season — Titans)
Joe Ofahengaue (mid-season — Eels)
Tommy Talau (Manly)
Latu Fainu (Manly)
Samuela Fainu (Manly)
Aidan Sezer (Leeds Rhinos — SL)
Jayden Sullivan (Dragons)
Originally published as NRL off-season news and moves: Cowboys axe nine in brutal roster massacre