The NRL is full of tremendously talented young kids, all vying for an opportunity to play in the NRL and make the most of it. Some have been afforded a brief chance and shown glimpses, whilst others wait with bated breath for one opportunity to show the world what they can do.
Every club has at least one talented kid that is ready to burst onto the scene and in this article, we’ll cast our eye over that very young player and why they should play in the NRL at some point in 2015. All are talented and based on their known abilities, all are expected to succeed when given a chance.
So, without further adieu, here are the young players to look out for at each respective club:
Brisbane Broncos – Joe Ofahengaue.
Broncos fans will tell you just how good Ofahengaue is and with good reason. The bullocking prop dominated the NYC last season in many respects putting on a show on almost a weekly basis and chalking up the high numbers for fun. With successive finals games in 2014 that saw him surpass 200m, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett rates the youngsters highly and at only 19, he is still growing and developing his game – a scary thought for any rival team. Whilst the Broncos boast an impressive forward pack, if injuries or suspension strike, Ofahengaue is a chance to play and when he does, the fans of any club should take notice.
Canberra Raiders – Mitch Cornish
Perhaps the youngster with the greatest pressure on his shoulders heading into 2015 is Mitch Cornish. The young local Raiders half has big shoes to fill in the team, set to become the main focal point of the club’s attack after the departure of veteran, Terry Campese. He has the ability and skills to take on the role of key-playmaker but with limited minutes in 2014 and public pressure and expectation weighing on his mind, making a successful transition will certainly not be easy. A player of his ability should handle it, though, and with the overall game to guide the Raiders attack when required, knowing what he is capable of as a player, Raiders fans will be quietly confident that he is the man to direct their side around the park.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Lloyd Perrett
The young, gun prop has already played first-grade and will have Bulldogs fans chomping at the bit to see him improve and get even better. A powerful player, Perrett has made great strides and inroads and was thus rewarded with an opportunity at the back end of 2014 by coach Des Hasler to show the NRL his talents. He showed them alright and let no-one down, as he highlighted just how good he can be and the potential he has to spearhead the Bulldogs forward pack moving forward. Highly rated in many circles, Lloyd will only get better and better as a player and as a person, two very good signs for the Bulldogs.
Cronulla Sharks – Valentine Holmes
Bursting onto the scene in 2014, it was a matter of when and not if, for Sharks fans to see Valentine Holmes in action. He certainly did not disappoint, showcasing the talent that had many fans raving at his ability, consistency and general play. Recently committing to Queensland and Australia at representative level, the future is bright for him in that regard, with the young winger’s potential to succeed astronomically high. It became quite clear that Holmes was simply too good for the Holden Cup and the NSW Cup and so the Sharks coaching staff in 2014 were forced to give the youngster a crack in first-grade where he excelled.
Gold Coast Titans – Kane Elgey
When a player has talent, it is evident no matter who they play for and for Kane Elgey at the Gold Coast Titans, despite the team not playing particularly well across the Holden Cup, he shone consistently. Perhaps their one consistent player throughout, Elgey showed why he has all the potential in the world to succeed in the NRL, on the back of a masterclass of skills and abilities in the 2014 Holden Cup. With the halves depth somewhat limited at the Titans, an opportunity may not be too far around the corner for the live-wire half and if he gets that chance, he will have deserved every bit of it.
Manly Sea Eagles – Jake Trbojevic
One of the best youngsters Manly has ever seen in their front-row stocks, Trbojevic has an opportunity to feature more at the club after the loss of some forwards and with the arrival of Willie Mason, he has a perfect mentor to guide him in his transition to the NRL. Those who are yet to see Trbojevic in action, when he has played both NSW Cup and the Holden Cup, he has led from the front for the Manly side with his big runs, big carries and big metres. With a player of his ability, Trbojevic will only get better and when he does, he has the makings of an elite prop in the NRL at both club level and representative level.
Melbourne Storm – Nelson Asofa Solomona
Solomona can be summed up in just four words. The kid can play! Solomona is absolute dynamite at all levels he has played in so far and the footage is there to prove it. Barging, fending, side-stepping, you name it, the hulking back-rower can do it all with ease and with style. Although he may not feature in first-grade straight away, with his ability, skill and potential to get even better and become even more destructive, Storm fans will be hoping that his development is executed to perfection, so that a first-grade opportunity is not too far down the track.
Newcastle Knights – Danny Levi
One of the best young talents to come out of the Knights ranks in recent times, Levi leads from the front both as a captain and as a leader. A natural play-maker despite playing most of his Knights career so far at hooker, Levi’s direction and level head has been just one of the reasons behind the Knights solid Holden Cup seasons over the last few years. With uncertainty over some positions at first-grade for the Knights, there is a chance that Levi can get a start earlier than expected, though some cards would have to fall his way for that to be the case.
North Queensland Cowboys – Javid Bowen
The surname may ring a bell and if you guessed a relation to one of the Cowboys’ greatest players in Matt Bowen, you are indeed correct. Bowen, who can cover any spot in the back-line from fullback to wing to centre, is earmarked for a first-grade opportunity and for success. With successful stints for both the Cowboys Holden Cup side and the Northern Pride in the Intrust Super Cup, Bowen has made himself known to Cowboys officials through his form and with talent like his, playing in the NRL is only a matter of time.
Parramatta Eels – Fabian Goodall
Equally adept as a centre or a winger, Goodall is the epitomy of a modern day winger. Big, fast, powerful and hard to stop. When he runs, he does so like a man on a mission and with nothing to lose and is hard to stop when in full flight. In many ways, in terms of likeness to a current player, he is similar to Manu Vatuvei. Both run hard, hit hard and have speed to burn. Although Goodall is not about to feature in first-grade from the get-go, he will come into contention if his NSW Cup form is good and if there are injuries in the Eels back-line. Either way, like the others, he has the potential to succeed in first-grade.
Penrith Panthers – Waqa Blake
Some quality backs have come through Penrith over the years and the club is grooming another one destined for NRL stardom and first-grade opportunities in Waqa Blake. Quickly making his mark on both the Holden Cup and the NSW Cup, the utility back is slowly proving his worth and putting his hand up for a possible surprise first-grade inclusion. Although that may not happen, he is the sort of player that will continue to work hard, play hard and do what he has to, in order to get a first-grade spot. When he does, the NRL may want to look out.
South Sydney Rabbitohs – Cam McInnes
Opportunity is nigh for McInnes, who Souths fans have been quite impressed with over the last couple of seasons for many reasons. With the departure of Koroisau, it opens up a reserve spot for McInnes and with his talent – that he has and has already shown in first-grade – he might just nab that spot on the bench. If not, what works in his favour is the fact that he will be second-choice hooker and come in if Issac Luke is injured or suspended. Whenever he does get his opportunity, McInnes will prove that it was a worthwhile decision to have him play.
St George Illawarra Dragons – Euan Aitken
With comparisons already being made to Mark Gasnier by some, the development of Euan Aitken at the Dragons will be crucial if they are to find the next big thing to play in their back-line. Aitken is a talented and versatile player and has shown his worth during the Holden Cup over the last couple of years, despite some injury issues. Not the biggest centre going around, he makes up for it with deceptiveness, zip and a smart approach to the game. His work ethic is quality and if given a chance in first-grade, his talents will certainly be on show.
Sydney Roosters – Jackson Hastings
His surname is synonymous with the Roosters but if you let that trick you into believing that Hastings Jr. cannot cut it in the NRL, think again. Blessed with a natural ability to play the game – much like his father – Jackson Hastings is a young player that Roosters fans expect to see excel moving forward. With uncertainty over some positions for 2016 especially, many feel as if that would be the perfect time to blood Hastings full-time. Versatile across the park, Hastings is quick, nippy and creative, and is equally at home at fullback and five-eighth mainly.
New Zealand Warriors – Tuimoala Lolohea
The chance to see him play arose at the 2014 Auckland Nines, as well as in first-grade late on in the 2014 season and gee whiz, did Lolohea make an impact! When you watch him play and strut his stuff on a rugby league field, it is easy to see why both the Warriors fans and the Warriors franchise rate the utility so highly. Equally adept at both fullback and five-eighth – not to mention any other position in the back-line, really – his development is crucial. Whilst he ended 2014 with injury, Lolohea is sure to start 2015 off with a bang, with the view to once again playing first-grade in 2015.
Wests Tigers – Manaia Cherrington
Knowing that Robbie Farah will not be able to play forever, contingency plans are required. In a sign that the Tigers want to continue their tradition of quality hookers at the NRL level, they have spent a lot of time investing in one player in particular – Manaia Cherrington. Making the spot his own over the last couple of years in the Holden Cup, Cherrington is a player that is highly rated by many Tigers fans and one that they have earmarked for NRL success. As he continues his development over the next couple of years, it is only a matter of time before he gets a chance to showcase his talents in the NRL.