Sam Burgess.
Sam Burgess. Getty Images Sport - Cameron Spencer

Big-name players missing from NRL action

LEAGUE: A number of big-name players will be missing from NRL action next season after either hanging up their boots, heading overseas or switching codes.

Headlining this year's player exodus are two of the game's best forwards - England international Sam Burgess and Roosters superstar, Sonny Bill Williams, both heading over to the dark side (rugby union) in 2015.

Williams has already played the 15-man game at elite level.

Burgess, a similarly athletic, bold-running, off-loading powerhouse who has been rated alongside former Manly enforcer Malcolm Reilly as the best Englishman to play on our shores, will link with UK club Bath before the end of the year to begin his bold quest to play for England in the World Cup.

Bath coach Mike Ford has confirmed Burgess, who's planning on leaving Redfern with a premiership ring next month, would play inside centre following Williams' successful transformation with the championship-winning Chiefs.

That led him to 19 games for the All Blacks before returning to the NRL in 2013 to win a premiership with the Roosters.

Like Burgess, Williams is hoping to cross the Tasman with another premiership win after the defending premiers finished with the minor premiership for the second year running.

The departing list includes some long-serving players but none more decorated than Rooster's fullback Anthony Minichiello.

The 34-year-old known as "The Count" will join the game's exclusive 300-game club this weekend when he suits up against the Storm in the opening round of the NRL finals.

APN has selected a 17-man squad from the list of more than 30 players leaving the NRL at the end of the season which we believe would take some beating.

What do you think?

No less than 10 of those players - Minichiello, Tate, Tonga, Yow Yeh, Anasta, Bailey, White, Harrison, King and Te'o, played State of Origin.

The 30-odd players leaving take with them almost 3500 games of NRL experience.

But their departures will open doors for a host of exciting young players and future superstars just starting their NRL careers including the likes of Luke Brookes, Luke Keary and Penrith young gun Matt Moylan who has had a breakout season.

The other players exiting the game at season's end are Fuifui Moimoi (Parramatta), Jerome Rapati (Warriors), Junior Moors (Melbourne), Adam Cuthbertson (Newcastle) Richie Fa'aoso (Manly), Michael Dobson (Newcastle), Ben Smith (Parramatta), Bryce Gibbs (Cronulla), Ben Roberts (Storm), Corey Paterson (Wests Tigers), Ken Sio (Parramatta), Liam Fulton (Wests Tigers)

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