A-League was like that for a while though think they've gotten better lately. These codes need to appreciate that more sponsors might mean more money but surely means less merchandise sales? A nice clean jersey and you'd probably get a lot more people buying it.
I am not expecting Sam back in the first half of the year. As you’ve said, back injuries can be debilitating. This has caused him issues since the end of the 2022 campaign, so it says a lot that surgery was the best course of action.
Reasonably surprised that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often, particularly for second or third year players having to front up for another massive pre-season after which they may or may not get games in the seniors. It's a huge effort for potentially not a lot of return and they could then get delisted end of the year anyway.