The Dolphins have missed out on securing the services of Cameron Munster for 2024 and beyond, with the star Storm, Queensland and Australian five-eighth going against all of the speculation to add four years to his time in the Victorian capital before November 1.
It's something of a crushing blow for coach Wayne Bennett, who has spoken out regarding his level of confidence over securing Munster for the future, having originally been knocked back on the idea of a release for Munster to join the club for their inaugural season.
It was believed Bennett may well have looked at Ben Hunt had he missed Munster, however, the Dragons' halfback re-signed 24 hours before Munster did.
The Dolphins missing Munster (and possibly Hunt) follows a long line of players who have gone elsewhere instead of the Dolphins for the inaugural season.
Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow became the club's latest signing this week following his release from the North Queensland Cowboys, however, the club are skinny for marquee players, especially when it comes to the spine.
That said, the Dolphins will continue to push for an increasing talent list in 2024, and there are plenty of big names who could potentially hit the open market from November 1 unless their current clubs re-sign them in the next three weeks.
With the Rugby League World Cup happening in England, it appears more and more unlikely any players playing in the tournament will be dealing with contracted-related issues between now and then, which means the list of players off-contract on November 1 is unlikely to undergo anything more than minor alterations between now and then.
That said, the Dolphins must add talent, and these are the best five options for the club to chase.
5. Cody Walker
Bennett and Cody Walker are noted friends, and there was plenty of speculation that the star five-eighth would ultimately join the Dolphins for their inaugural season, before he re-signed with South Sydney on November 1 for 2023.
But it was only a one-year extension, and 12 months later, Walker finds himself back off-contract at the end of next season, but this time, without an excellent season under his belt.
There is little doubt that Walker's form has dropped in 2022 without Bennett at the helm, and while he was still a solid performer for the Rabbitohs, the difference between his 2021 season, which led the Rabbitohs to the grand final, and his 2022 season, was night and day.
Whether Walker would entertain not finishing his career as a one-club player remains to be seen, but the lure of playing under Bennett again could be enticing.
His level of skill and off-the-cuff play flourished under Bennett, who clearly let him play his natural game, and finishing his career in Queensland could be how Walker winds up.