The North Queensland Cowboys have more players coming off-contract at the end of the 2024 NRL season than most others as we approach November 1, and have a lot of work to do on the roster front.

While Todd Payten's troops from Townsville endured through a disappointing 2023 season in attempting to back up their 2022 and may be looking to hold out to see if 2024 starts any better.

But the issue that, as it stands, 16 players are abou to become free agents to negotiate with rivals, and a number of them - most namely Tom Dearden - will be targetted by opposition outfits.

While the Cowboys are confident of retaining Dearden, it's unclear who they want to retain out of the rest, and there could be some retirements inbound as well, further complicating matters.

In this series Zero Tackle are running the rule over all 17 of the NRL's clubs and what they will be looking to do from November 1.

Current squad for 2025
Reuben Cotter, Scott Drinkwater, Tom Duffy, Jack Gosiewski, Valentine Holmes, Luciano Leilua, Heilum Luki, Jeremiah Nanai, Griffin Neame, Reece Robson, Murray Taulagi, Jason Taumalolo, Viliami Vailea

Current best 17 for 2025
1. Scott Drinkwater
2. Murray Taulagi
3. Valentine Holmes
4. Viliami Vailea
5. No player signed.
6. No player signed.
7. Tom Duffy
8. Griffin Neame
9. Reece Robson
10. Reuben Cotter
11. Jeremiah Nanai
12. Luciano Leilua
13. Jason Taumalolo
14. No player signed.
15. Jack Gosiewski
16. Heiulum Luki
17. No player signed.

Players off-contract at end of 2024
Emarly Bitungane, Tom Chester, Jake Clifford, Tom Dearden, Robert Derby, Kyle Feldt, Jake Granville, Coen Hess, Zac Laybutt, Sam McIntyre, Mia Pua'avase, Jamal Shibasaki, Wil Sullivan, Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Chad Townsend, Semi Valemei

Here are five players available to negotiate on November 1 from outside of the club the Cowboys could target for 2025 and beyond.


1. Moses Suli

One thing that became more and more clear as 2023 went on was that the Cowboys had issues in their edge defence - big ones.

A large part of that was down to the speed of the players defending, outside a rushing Jeremiah Nanai. With Nanai constantly making errors, it left Chad Townsend, Peta Hiku and Kyle Feldt to make up for things, that they simply couldn't do at the same level as they had done during the previous 12 months.

In attack, that side also struggled in various elements of the game.

Hiku has now exited, and both Townsend and Feldt come off-contract at the end of 2024. It's unclear if either wants to keep playing beyond that either.

It goes without saying however that the Cowboys need new talent in their outside backs, and Moses Suli could be something of a game-breaker for them if they can land his signature.

The powerful centre had a mixed 2023, but at his best, is among the best in the game and holds his own in defence. It's unclear whether he has any interest staying at the Dragons, but the Cowboys are one of a number of clubs who should be queueing up.