The great $80m NRL scramble
The race that stops a nation will be run alongside the race for rugby league's best.
Come Friday morning, November 1, more than 200 NRL players coming off contract after next season will officially enter the open market.
Throughout Melbourne Cup week, clubs will be desperately retaining, releasing and recruiting $80 million worth of football talent.
The mad clamber is just 72 hours away.
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Star players off contract in 12 months include David Fifita, Tom Trbojevic, Jake Trbojevic, Jack Wighton, Jai Arrow, Cam Smith, Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell, Tyson Frizell, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jesse Bromwich, Marty Taupau, Josh Jackson and Nick Cotric.
"Clubs that have money are looking to buy and clubs that have problems with their salary cap are probably need to release," said Panthers group general manager, Brian Fletcher.
"It will be an interesting Melbourne Cup. Clubs have to balance the books and balance the rosters."
The biggest names will attract the biggest offers - contracts worth $1m a season.
Fifita could become rugby league $1m kid with 11 clubs ready to pounce. Arrow wants to test himself on the open market. Mitchell's future at Bondi remains unclear while Manly is fighting to lock down the Trbojevic brothers.
Melbourne has 20 players coming off after next season - the most of any club.
"It will allow those clubs that want to plan ahead to go hard at the likes of Dave Fifita and Jai Arrow. Clubs can officially up the ante from Friday," said leading player agent, David Riolo.
"From that perspective, that could make things more interesting. From a club's perspective, November 1 is now a mindful date because (players) are very expensive.
"Clubs will want to move early to know if they can sign these players or if they're not going to get them.
"For example, Jack Wighton can't pop up next August because clubs just can't budget for that. Clubs will want to know early whether they can recruit or retain because these players make up such an important part of your salary cap picture.
"You'd imagine between now and Christmas clubs will be going hard at those players, who will have to choose whether to jump early or sit tight, play next season and then see where they're at.
"Clubs will be more likely to want to get things done really early because they'll want to know how their salary cap is going to look and how they fit those players in.
"If you're a club trying to recruit a Jack Wighton, Dave Fifita, Jai Arrow, or the Trbojevic brothers, if they get them, that would have a fair impact on the rest of your roster.
"Other big money names in your roster may then not be able to command the money they are on at their current club and they may have to look elsewhere. There is a domino effect that can come around pretty quickly."
Clubs have been working on their salary caps for several months to prepare for the NRL's November 1.
"No doubt, come November 1, there will be a lot more discussions around recruitment and retention. The bulk of those discussions have been on foot for some time now," said Bulldogs chief executive Andrew Hill.
"Football and recruitment staff are always monitoring player movement."
Former Test star Mark Geyer offered his advice to rising Broncos star Fifita.
"If he got offered a $1m from a Penrith, Parramatta or the Bulldogs - and I was his manager - I would say 'take it," Geyer told Triple M.
"The time to make money is now. In two years' time, he might have an injury. Next year he could lose form. Take the money while you can."
One rival CEO wasn't overly fussed about the significant player signing date.
"There is a lot of hype around November 1 from the game and media - it creates headlines," he said.
"But, ultimately, it makes no difference. If a club is going sign 'player-X' he is allowed to talk to him before November - he just can't lodge a contract.
"It bursts the myth that we are all waiting until midnight on Friday to go crazy like the old June 30 deadline. It's nothing like June 30."