Galaxy of stars left in limbo ADRIAN PROSZENKO July 11, 2010 .FORTY-TWO players with Test and/or State of Origin experience remain unsigned for next year as the league world awaits the fallout from the Melbourne salary cap investigation. A total of 108 players are off contract as NRL clubs hold off on the shopping list of talent until Deloitte finally announces its findings this week. Some of the biggest names in rugby league, including Willie Mason, Michael Jennings, Brett Kimmorley, Luke O'Donnell, Ben Hornby, Brett Finch, Steve Matai, Michael Gordon, Frank Pritchard, Carl Webb, Eric Grothe and Mat Rogers are still without a home for next season. The transfer market has come to a grinding halt as clubs await the outcome of a forensic investigation into the extent of salary cap rorting at the Storm. The lengthy process has clouded the futures of superstars, journeymen and rookies alike. While some players are fretting over their future, that's not the case with Mason. It's understood that the North Queensland forward has received interest from four Sydney clubs - Cronulla, Parramatta, Manly and former club Canterbury - as well as Newcastle and the Warriors. Rugby union is also another option. ''When you're concentrating on playing good footy, everything else will look after itself,'' Mason told The Sun-Herald. ''I haven't played rep football for two years and that has really freshened me up. Hopefully I've changed people's perceptions of me, I've been out of sight and out of mind. ''I don't say too much, just concentrate on my footy. I can handle the pressure on me, I backed myself to sign a one-year deal and I'm pretty confident things will sort something. ''I'd give North Queensland first option because they have shown me respect and given me a chance, but if things don't work out I could come back to Sydney. I've grown up a lot here and I still think my best football is in front of me.'' While Mason is happy to bide his time, it's a more anxious wait for other players. Wests Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys reflected the mood of many clubs when he said: ''We are waiting for the Melbourne issue to clear because that will prompt some movement, you would think.'' There are also a number of players who are not on the official free-agent list but could move on from their clubs. For instance, Blake Ferguson will activate a get-out clause in his contract that allows him to follow coach Ricky Stuart out of Cronulla at the end of the season. Former Kangaroos back-rower Anthony Tupou has the same clause in his deal but is likely to stay put. At the Bulldogs, captain Andrew Ryan and fullback Luke Patten are contracted for 2011, but the club has given the veterans permission to explore options overseas as a reward for loyal service. There could also be several players returning to Australia from the Super League, with the likes of Mark Riddell, Paul Whatuira and Steve Bell set to hit the open market. Another former Australian forward, Reni Maitua, is expected to make his return to the NRL next May after he finishes serving a two-year drug ban. The 28-year-old has several clubs prepared to offer him a lifeline. Several NRL clubs have been circling the Storm's Jeff Lima but the Kiwi prop is close to securing a deal overseas. Several other players - including Brett White, Anthony Quinn, Ryan Hoffman and Sika Manu - are among a group who have been given permission to leave or have been offered contracts from rival teams. While most clubs have put off their recruitment plans until the findings of Deloitte's forensic investigation is complete, one leading manager warned that strategy could backfire. ''The only ones waiting for the Storm stuff to settle are the clubs which aren't proactive,'' he said. ''They're the ones that are looking for a bargain but end up paying overs.'' Of most interest to NRL clubs is the fate of Melbourne's ''big four'' - Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis. The vultures are circling in the hope that the club will have to shed at least one of the stars to fit under the cap next year.