Due to legalities, clubs cannot negotiate new contracts with players until May – but when that time arises, there’ll be a number of clubs placing key names onto the market.
Total Rugby League’s writer Daniel Hunt has identified 16 players who are set to be on the market in just over three months’ time – and among them is Cook Islands veteran second-rower Zeb Taia, of St Helens club.
Australian-born Taia, 35, has represented New Zealand, Cook Islands and the Exiles internationally. He has played for the Parramatta Eels, Newcastle Knights and the Gold Coast Titans in the NRL, and the Catalans Dragons in the Super League.
Taia debuted for the New Zealand national rugby league team at second-row forward in their Anzac Test 2010 loss against Australia.
Later that year, he represented Cook Islands against a New South Wales Country representative side, chosen to captain the side just a week after his 26th birthday.
He made his official international debut for the Cook Islands in 2012 in a match against Lebanon, before going on to captain the Kukis in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
After initially joining St Helens in 2017 on a two-year deal from Gold Coast Titans, as part of a “swap deal” with Joe Greenwood, Taia impressed in his first two years and was granted a contract extension last year.
Zeb’s consistent performances in 2019 meant he was instrumental in Saints’ accomplishments, Hunt says, which saw them lift the League Leaders’ Shield and Super League trophy.
Cook Islands Rugby League president Charles Carlson said all players at Taia's level were strong contenders for the Oceania Cup, if they were available and released by their clubs.