Record 16 to make NRL debut

Pre-season injuries and suspensions have led to a record wave of rookies being selected for the opening-round of the NRL.

Sixteen players are poised to make their NRL debut in round one, the most since the ill-fated advent of Super League led to 27 rookies appearing in the opening week of the split competitions.

Seven of those players get their chance through injury and suspension, with Newcastle and under-siege Sydney Roosters topping the lists with four and three rookies respectively.

Sunday’s clash between the Roosters and South Sydney will see both sides piloted by a uncapped youngsters, with Jayden Nikorima’s Roosters debut brought forward by the misbehaving Mitchell Pearce.

Opposite him at five-eighth for the Rabbitohs will be Cody Walker, who could keep the No.6 jersey over the suspended Luke Keary if he impresses in the local derby.

Suspensions to Dene Halatau (Wests Tigers), Luke Douglas (Gold Coast) and David Klemmer (Canterbury) combined with injuries to Brisbane’s Jack Reed (shoulder), the Titans’ Nene Macdonald (knee) and the Roosters’ Boyd Cordner (pectoral) have paved the way for youngsters to get their first chance at their clubs.

A number of players are there off their own bat though.

Exciting Roosters prospect Latrell Mitchell will debut on the wing, while Englishman Elliot Whitehead enjoyed his best season Catalans in the English Super League before move to Canberra over the summer.

Nathan Brown’s new chapter at the Knights is also largely responsible for the NRL-era record.

Brown has selected forward David Bhana, centre Pat Mata’utia and fullback Jaelen Feeney for the first time, while the Saifitis could become the first twins to debut together if Daniel is called off an extended bench to join brother Jacob.

St George Illawarra’s Tyrone McCarthy and the Roosters’ Joe Burgess and Mitchell Frei have also been named on extended benches for their clubs.

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