Now that Will Hopoate has officially signed with Parramatta, the Eels have the more pressing concern of retaining up to seven senior stars.
Skipper Nathan Hindmarsh is undecided if he will play beyond 2012 and won’t make a decision until next year.
Eels favourite Luke Burt is off-contract at the end of next season, as is Ben Smith, the likeable back-rower many consider to be a future captain of the club.
Fuifui Moimoi – this year’s Ken Thornett Medal winner – Shane Shackleton, Justin Poore and Reni Maitua also have just one year to go.
Casey McGuire will be off contract as well but next season will be his last.
“We’ve got a few off next year, but we had a strategy at the start of the year to keep some of our kids, which we did,” Osborne said.
“Guys like Jacob Loko, Ryan Morgan and Mitch Allgood we’ve signed. Then we started to chase talent. We missed out on Matt Duffie (Melbourne) and Bronson Harrison (Canberra). But we got Chris Sandow, who had been in the pipeline for a few months. It (signings) will all happen in the new year.”
Hindmarsh brought up 300 games for the Eels this season and captained the Prime Minister’s XIII, which proves he has plenty of good football left in him. He was unaware so many players are in the final year of their contracts, but has faith in Osborne and coach Steve Kearney.
“They would have weighed it all up before they signed Hoppa,” Hindmarsh said. “We don’t really talk about contracts among the boys. It will be good to have Hopoate on board. He’s only 19 and has won a grand final.”
One thing working in Parramatta’s favour is the $1.4 billion TV deal the NRL is hoping to negotiate, which will bump up the salary cap for 2013.