New NRL team to have Qld stars in sights

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The NRL's 17th franchise will have a shot at signing more than half of Queensland's State of Origin pack, with Christian Welch and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui headlining the free agents for 2023.

NRL officials are expected to confirm their expansion plans as soon as this week, with existing clubs to be told at a meeting on Thursday.

The Redcliffe bid is likely to be the big winner, with the distance from the Brisbane CBD considered an advantage for the NRL as it aims to achieve diversity in a new market.

The league's confidence in an extra side has skyrocketed in recent weeks, with News Corp set to offer up $100 million in additional TV rights if the game goes to 17 teams.

That money would ensure current franchises do not lose out in club grants, allaying fears they could be worse off with the game's profits split between 17 teams.

It sets up a fascinating transfer market in November, with the new franchise to have more than $9 million in salaries free on the books and Wayne Bennett likely to be named coach.

As many as nine members of last year's Queensland Origin squad could be available for 2023, unless they are re-signed by their current clubs before November 1.

If the new franchise pursues home-grown talent in a bid to draw fans, Welch and Fa'asuamaleaui are among the biggest Queensland names on the market.

Melbourne in particular could face pressure to keep all of their stars, with Felise Kaufusi also off contract and Harry Grant only having an option for the 2023 season.

Storm star Cameron Munster is contracted until the end of 2023, but has regularly been linked to any fourth Queensland side.

Parramatta also have a number of their stars off-contract, and Reed Mahoney is another likely target after injury cost him an Origin debut this year.

North Queensland's Coen Hess and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow are also off contract, while Wests Tigers' Joe Ofahenguae only has an option for 2023.

Kalyn Ponga is another Queensland Origin star not fully locked in for 2023.

Former Maroons Phil Sami, Josh McGuire, and Jarrod Wallace are all off contract at the end of 2022.

Other potential options would include Matt Dufty, Paul Vaughan, Kodi Nikorima, Matt Lodge, Dylan Brown, Clint Gutherson, Ryan Matterson, Api Koroisau, Dylan Brown, Tariq Sims, Cody Walker and Joey Manu.

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