DCE tops playmakers list heading to market

Manly's Daly Cherry-Evans heads a list of more than half a dozen top playmakers who will go on the open market before the end of the season.

Rival clubs will be able to begin negotiations with Cherry-Evans, off contract at the end of next year, from November 1. The Manly No.7 headlines a list of star halves available from 2016 including Canterbury's Trent Hodkinson, South Sydney's Adam Reynolds, Brisbane duo Ben Hunt and Josh Hoffman, Gold Coast pairing Albert Kelly and Aidan Sezer and Parramatta's Chris Sandow.

Cherry-Evans' Sea Eagles halves partner, New Zealand international Kieran Foran, is also permitted to test his value on the open market in three months' time and is unlikely to commit until Cherry-Evans' fate is known. Todd Carney, likely to head to France next year, could also be an option for clubs in 2016 if the NRL is prepared to register him.

''I've not seen the likes of it,'' a leading player agent said. ''There's never been this much halves talent up for grabs at one time.''

Cherry-Evans is the biggest name on the list and despite Parramatta's salary cap problems this season, the Eels have identified him as a marquee recruit who can turn them into genuine contenders.

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur, an assistant coach at Manly last year, has a close relationship with the Queensland and Australian playmaker. That could be a factor in their favour as a host of clubs, most notably Brisbane, vie for the Redcliffe product's services.

While it's understood the Broncos are prepared to table a deal worth $1.1 million per season, the Eels will struggle to compete financially due to salary cap restraints. The wooden-spooners are still paying several players who were punted as part of previous coach Ricky Stuart's cleanout, which could limit their ability to recruit aggressively.

If the Eels get their man, it doesn't necessarily signal the end for Sandow. However, the incumbent halfback, on a deal worth $550,000 per annum, would need to take a drastic pay cut.

The Eels haven't won a premiership since the legendary Peter Sterling was the club's halfback. Officials believe Cherry-Evans is the ideal person to lead the young talent coming through the ranks of the blue and golds.

One factor tipping Cherry-Evans towards leaving Manly is his uneasy relationship with the senior playing group. There has been a much-publicised divide between the 25-year-old and some members of the squad, raising the hopes of potential poachers. While the Sea Eagles are keen to upgrade and extend Cherry-Evans' contract, his manager has indicated he will likely test his value on the open market.

While much has been made of the coaching merry-go-round now Wayne Bennett has announced himself a free agent, the abundance of halves talent on offer will make the player market just as competitive. The Broncos have opened dialogue with Hunt's management as a contingency should they miss out on Cherry-Evans, while Hodkinson's stocks have soared after steering NSW to their first series win in nine years.

Reynolds may be forced to move on after the Rabbitohs signed youngster Cody Walker to a squad already containing Luke Keary and John Sutton, while the Gold Coast will have big recruitment and retention decisions to make after commissioning a review of their operations.

Melbourne's famed spine is in need of an overhaul, with Ben Roberts heading to the Super League and youngster Ben Hampton also likely to move on. The Cowboys are yet to find a long-term partner for Johnathan Thurston, while the Sharks are scrambling for a replacement for Carney.

Halfbacks for hire

On the open market in 2015 (rivals can negotiate from November 1):

Manly: Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran

South Sydney: Adam Reynolds

Canterbury: Trent Hodkinson

Gold Coast: Albert Kelly and Aidan Sezer

Brisbane: Ben Hunt and Josh Hoffman

Parramatta: Chris Sandow

*Todd Carney is not a registered player after his contract was terminated by Cronulla

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