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On the move: Bryce Cartwright, Matt Moylan, Joel Thompson, Jarryd Hayne and Mitchell Pearce.

Why NRL player contracts aren't what they used to be, Ben Barba thriving in the UK and why this pre-season could be the best ever for footy fans.

It's time for a Tuesday feast folks. The barbecue is loaded. Let's talk a little footy.

How much is a contract worth?

I'm surprised no political type from the Greens has hopped on the high horse lately to vent their disgust to the electorate at how NRL clubs are killing trees.

I can just picture the doorstop with Senator Richard Di Natale asking, "This has to stop! Why the excessive waste of paper rugby league, with so many discarded player contracts?"

It seems the NRL player contract is now as useful as the cassette recorder in the car console.

What a crazy off-season this has been for player movements, and so it continued over the weekend.

Bryce Cartwright, star and coveted local junior at Penrith, goes from being a Panther to a Titan, just like that.

What … hang on … didn't he have four years on his contract to run?

Four years!

How far can a fan's loyalty be stretched and tested? Mind you, Panthers supporters have come to be used to the early release of some of their favourites with Matt Moylan and Leilani Latu going out the exit door despite being signed until the end of 2020.

It hasn't been all one-way traffic for Anthony Griffin's team with James Maloney on board after being released by the Cronulla Sharks.

To be honest, of all the player signings announced since last year's grand final, the majority involved releases from contracts with their now former clubs. Cooper Cronk is really one of the only high profile exceptions.

What about Mitchell Pearce, Michael Gordon, Joel Thompson, Jarryd Hayne, Blake Green, Brenko Lee, Moses Suli, Trent Hodkinson, John Olive…

Even the Super League contract is expendable with Peta Hiku on his way back to the NRL after being released by Warrington.

It's a funny business. I understand the salary cap pressures for clubs, but show me the accountant who is doing the numbers and financial forecasts and I'll know who not to take my tax return to this year.

It must be incredibly hard for the marketing departments for clubs as they produce membership flyers and the like for the upcoming season. I could imagine there has been quite a bit of photo-shopping for 2018 out Penrith way.

Former Penrith Panthers back-rower Bryce Cartwright.
Former Penrith Panthers back-rower Bryce Cartwright. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

So from now on (speaking on behalf of the Greens) I propose no more wasting of paper for rugby league contracts.

Just do the final deals in the form of a text message.

That way when the time comes (and it'll probably be sooner rather than later), they can be easily deleted!

The good

Welcome back, Ben Barba!

Did you happen to catch his performance on Saturday morning on Fox League playing for St Helens against Castleford?

It was a five-star display from a fit and happy looking Barba who was man of the match in an eight-tries-to-one smashing of the Tigers.

Barba has a Dally M Medal to his credit from a colorful career in the NRL. By season's end he might also have a Super League Man of Steel gong based on his sparkling round one form.

The bad

Well there is a twist to this one, and again the story comes out of St Helens.

England Test prop Alex Walmsley not coming Down Under is bad news for the NRL. I reckon the big bloke would have proven himself here as one of the premier front-rowers in the game. But his signing a new four-year deal with the Saints is great news for them and the Super League competition.

Pass the sauce

Back in the day, monitoring any sort of pre-season form was a tough task.

I'm going all the way back to the time of the Craven Mild Cup in the 1970s that was played before the real show got underway. It was a legitimate pre-season competition played over a few weeks but with limited television coverage.

Personally I always found the last month before the season proper got underway was as frustrating as hell. You were increasingly desperate for the whole competition to swing into gear, and were just teased by newspaper reports and the odd clip on the television news from trial games.

That's not the story in 2018. I acknowledge the fact I am part of the Fox League team, but I've never known a televised pre-season like this one to whet every fan's appetite, and I'm only too happy to promote it as a fan first and commentator second.

The Super League on our own turf will be shown on Saturday night with Wigan against Hull FC for the Kenny/Sterling Shield.

The World Club Challenge is on home soil. You'll be able to watch the Dragons and the Rabbitohs take on the might of Wigan and Hull.

Throw in the Thurston/Smith testimonial match in Brisbane, a chance to see the new look Warriors in Rotorua and a trip to Mudgee for the Charity Shield – let me declare the 2018 rugby league season is officially starting on TV and it's still summer!

How good is that?

As always, I welcome your feedback on the above topics.

Andrew Voss is a Fox League commentator

Twitter: @AndrewVossy 

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