16 Of The Most Exciting Rookies In The NRL
The NRL have looked at the most exciting rookie at each Club before Season 2017 gets underway. What do you think of their list?
This article first appeared on NRL.com.
A product of the all-conquering Panthers NYC team, Braidon Burns is one of the most promising centres coming through the ranks. The 20-year-old crossed for 20 tries from 20 appearances last season, highlighted by a five-try haul against the Warriors in Round 10. Burns also had 12 try assists in 2016, broke 55 tackles and scored a try in his side's heartbreaking grand final loss.
Special mention: Phoenix Hunt. He might be one of the smallest players in the competition (166cm) but the nimble No.9 can be a nightmare for opposition defences.
Marion Seve (Broncos)
It remains unclear who will feature in the Broncos' back five next season, but one man ready to step up is Marion Seve. The former Wests Tigers centre had a standout 2015 season where he scored 10 tries from 17 appearances in the Holden Cup and also broke 38 tackles. An impressive showing for Ipswich in the Intrust Super Cup had him in line for an NRL debut last year, and if he can continue to impress in the pre-season, he might just do so in 2017.
Special mention: Jamayne Isaako. A versatile speedster capable of playing centre or in the halves, Isaako excelled in 2016, scoring 10 tries from 13 matches and breaking 56 tackles. The Junior Kiwi is an excitement machine ready to take the next step in his footballing career.
Nick Cotric (Raiders)
Still eligible for the Holden Cup, Nick Cotric has the talent to break into Canberra's already formidable backline. The crafty centre has the sort of footwork that leaves seasoned defenders looking silly. He finished the 2016 NYC season with seven tries, 11 try assists and a whopping 135 tackle breaks from 21 matches and was named in the Holden Cup Team of the Year.
Special mention: Daniel Dole. There was a lot to like about Dole's 2016 campaign. The NYC youngster averaged 115 metres and 17 tackles a game last year, but it was his second-efforts and stinging shots in defence that really caught the eye.
Zac Woolford (Bulldogs)
An astute signing from the Raiders, Zac Woolford will be waiting in the wings should anything happen to regular No.9 Michael Lichaa. The son of former Raiders skipper Simon Woolford was one of the Green Machine's best in 2016, finishing with a team-high 144 points and 18 try assists. His all-round game makes him a multi-pronged threat in attack, while his goal-kicking could come in handy for the blue and whites.
Special mention: Jayden Okunbor. He looks a lot like Jamal Idris, and just like the former Bulldogs cult hero, Okunbor has made the move from centre to the pack, playing the final five games last season at prop.
Jayden Brailey (Sharks)
If you follow the Holden Cup then you are well-aware that Jayden Brailey has what it takes to be the next big thing in rugby league. The gifted No.9 has been a standout performer for the Sharks over the years, finishing both 2015 and 2016 with the most try assists at the club. His incredible work-rate coupled with an ability to hit the right man at the right time close to the line saw him named the Dally M NYC Player of the Year in 2016. With Michael Ennis now retired, Brailey will be one of the favourites to wear the No.9 in 2017.
Special mention: Sione Katoa. If there's one position where the Sharks are light on, it's on the wing. Katoa finished 2016 as the club's leading try-scorer in the NYC with 17 from 21 appearances and will come into calculations for a spot in the NRL side.
Ben Nakubuwai (Titans)
He's been dubbed the next Petero Civoniceva, and if the reports are true then Ben Nakubuwai will be one to watch in 2017. The former Storm big man churned out huge minutes and got through plenty of work for the Thunderbolts in 2016. Ironically, his only Holden Cup try last season came against the Titans in Round 3.
Special mention: Tyronne Roberts-Davis. Wouldn't it be great to see him play in the same side as Tyrone Roberts? The versatile outside back has pace to burn, loves scoring tries and can also kick goals.
Brian Kelly (Sea Eagles)
With the futures of club stalwarts Brett Stewart and Steve Matai still unclear heading into 2017, new recruit Brian Kelly could break into Manly's backline sooner than expected. The former Titan scored 22 tries from 36 appearances on the Gold Coast and is the only player in State of Origin history to cross four times in a match; a feat he achieved for the Junior Blues in 2015.
Special mention: Lucas Price. The local junior played from the bench, on the wing, in the centres, at five-eighth and in the back row for the Sea Eagles last year and finished with 12 tries from 20 appearances.
Joe Stimson (Storm)
Stimson captained the Thunderbolts in the 2015 NYC season and also represented the Junior Blues that year in the under-20s State of Origin before going on to play a starring role for the Sunshine Coast Falcons in the Intrust Super Cup where he was named the Storm's feeder club player of the year last season. With Kevin Proctor now at the Titans, expect the hard-working back-rower to come into Craig Bellamy's side in 2017.
Special mention: Brandon Smith. Same last name, same position, but very different playing style to the Melbourne skipper. The nuggety No.9 joined the Storm after two outstanding years at the Cowboys that saw him score 30 tries and set up 38 more out of dummy-half. The Junior Kiwi could play NRL when Cameron Smith is on Origin duty.
Nick Meaney (Knights)
Knights coach Nathan Brown has indicated that there are only two players likely to vie for the club's fullback role next season, but that won't stop Nick Meaney from fighting for a spot in the first grade squad. Meaney led the way for the Knights in 2016 with 2,692 metres and chipped in with four tries and five assists at the back. He also tallied 104 tackle breaks, which was 47 more than Newcastle's next best, and his stellar season saw him named the club's NYC Player of the Year.
Special mention: Braden Robson. The NYC veteran made the permanent move from the centres to the back row in 2016 and was rewarded with several games in reserve grade.
Marcus Jensen (Cowboys)
No other player scored more tries than Marcus Jensen in the Holden Cup last year. The Cowboys winger finished with 27 tries from 25 games including hat-tricks against the Knights and Warriors. While teammates Kalyn Ponga, Gideon Gela-Mosby and Brandon Smith attracted the headlines last year, Jensen quietly went about his business with little fanfare. His exploits didn't go unnoticed, however, with Jensen named in the Junior Maroons side for the under-20s Origin match.
Special mention: Gideon Gela-Mosby. The record-breaking winger can't be far away from an NRL debut. Following on from his absurd 39 tries in 2015 – including four hauls of four - Gela-Mosby added 14 more last season to become the most prolific try-scorer for the Cowboys in the NYC.
Alex Twal (Eels)
While most NYC players catch your eye through their electrifying performances, players like Alex Twal impress the masses with their unwavering professionalism. Having represented the Junior Kangaroos and the Junior Blues, it's clear the young Eels prop is on the right path to a spot in the NRL side. Twal played 22 matches for Parramatta in 2015 and backed it up with a further 13 games last season where he averaged 33 tackles and 178 metres per game.
Special mention: Honeti Tuha. A hat-trick hero for the Knights in the 2015 NSW Cup grand final, Tuha moved to the Wentworthville Magpies in 2016 where he excelled on the wing and at fullback and crossed for a treble against his former club when they met in Round 19.
Viliame Kikau (Panthers)
The Fijian wrecking ball has the potential to dominate opposition defences like no other front-rower in the game. Kikau crashed over for a record 21 tries from 21 appearances at prop for the Cowboys in the 2015 Holden Cup season and was deservedly named in the NYC Team of the Year. With an unprecedented 129 tackle breaks that year, Kikau was also named the RLPA Player of the Year for 2015. If he can stay injury free next season, don't be surprised to see his name on Penrith's team sheet.
Special mention: Any player from their 2015 and 2016 Holden Cup sides. There are simply too many to choose from.
Matt Dufty (Dragons)
He's the name on everyone's lips going into 2017 and rightly so. Blessed with breakneck speed and fancy footwork, Matt Dufty is one of the most exciting players yet to play first grade. The Dragons fullback graduated from the NYC as the competition's leading try-scorer (55 from 65 matches) and set up another 40 tries over the past two seasons. Having already played for the Junior Blues, it won't be long until Dufty earns a spot in the famous Red V jersey.
Special mention: Josh Kerr. The former Thunderbolts star is an attacking weapon in the forward pack and will bolster the Dragons' stocks up front.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Warriors)
Blessed with arguably the best name in rugby league, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has excelled everywhere his rugby league journey has taken him. Two impressive seasons with the Storm in the NYC saw him named the club's Back of the Year in 2014. The 21-year-old has already represented the Cook Islands, scoring the opening try in their World Cup qualifier against Lebanon. He is also eligible to play for New Zealand and Norway, and was named at centre in the Intrust Super Premiership Team of the Year in 2016.
Special mention: Having already represented Samoa at Test level, it won't be long until Erin Clark gets a crack in the NRL. The talented playmaker spent time at five-eighth and lock in the NYC last season but can also play halfback or hooker.
Taniela Paseka (Wests Tigers)
Fresh from a phenomenal first year in the Holden Cup, Taniela Paseka has been promoted to Jason Taylor's extended first-grade squad for 2017. Still only 19-years-old, Paseka is listed at 199cm and 124kg and is still eligible for the NYC. The powerhouse prop forward ran for 2,411 metres last season, scored five tries, broke 74 tackles and played for the Junior Blues in the under-20s State of Origin. His strong work-ethic saw him named the club's Holden Cup Player of the Year and he's now on track to take the next step in his already exciting career.
Special mention: Watson Heleta. After graduating from the NYC through to NSW Cup in 2016, the try-scoring utility back is a strong chance to make his NRL debut.
Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck (Roosters)
Could JTS be the next RTS? It would be unfair on Johnny to compare him to his brother Roger, but the younger Tuivasa-Sheck is starting to live up to the hype. With 29 tries from 49 appearances over the past two NYC seasons, the winger has shown he has no trouble finding the line. Furthering his claims for an NRL berth were his match-winning tries against the Dragons in the preliminary final, and then a week later against the Panthers in the Holden Cup decider.