YOUR CLUB’S PREDICTED 2016 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
BRISBANE – JAI ARROW: Departures of Mitchell Dodds and Mitch Garbutt leave room for the 19-year-old on the bench. Ran more than 150 metres in 18 of 23 National Youth Cup (NYC) matches last year. Plays the free-running style Wayne Bennett likes from his big men.
CANTERBURY – MARCELLO MONTOYA: It’s unlikely many young pups will get much NRL time in 2016, but Montoya could be tough to catch if he does get a run. The Fijian broke the line 23 times in the NYC last year, scoring 14 tries in 17 games.
CANBERRA – TEVITA PANGAI-JUNIOR: The Raiders are looking for some starch up front and the 19-year-old provides it in bucketloads. Averaged almost 10 metres a run in the NYC last year and represented the Junior Maroons and Kangaroos in 2015.
CRONULLA – HARRISON MULLER: A heavy workload is the key for any youngster looking to impress the NRL coach and Muller is no stranger to it. The front-rower averaged 25 tackles a game in the NYC last year, while also topping the magical 10-metres-a-run mark.
GOLD COAST – GREG LELEISIUAO: If you got to a Titans game early this year and saw someone streaking down the sideline in the under-20s, it was probably Leleisiuao. The Samoan winger scored seven tries in the final five games of the year.
MANLY – LIAM KNIGHT: Aside from the flying Tom Trbojevic, Sea Eagles fans can get excited about the hard working Knight. The 20-year-old averaged 193 metres and 35 tackles a match in last year’s NYC, prompting the club to fight off potential buyers in the off-season.
MELBOURNE – LATRELL ROBINSON: If there’s an opening in the Storm line-up it’s in their backline and the club’s 2015 NYC player of the year might hold all the aces. The younger brother of Travis and Reece has all their speed and can play at wing or fullback.
NEWCASTLE – LACHLAN FITZGIBBON: Made his NRL debut in round 21, but dominated in the Knights’ NSW Cup-winning side. Winning the club’s player of the year award as a second-rower in a senior side shows his potential.
NORTH QUEENSLAND – BRADEN UELE: A determined forward who made almost 12 metres per run in the NYC, and earned a call-up to the Queensland Cup. Played Junior Kiwis this year and has matured since moving to Townsville from the Roosters.
PARRAMATTA – TYRELL FUIMAONO: A dynamic second-rower who has the ability to bust through the line or get away a tight offload. Still eligible for under-20s in 2016 but last year averaged 167 metres per game and threw 25 offloads.
PENRITH – TYRONE MAY: Prefers to play at fullback or five-eighth but the Panthers may use him elsewhere in the backline. Set up 21 tries and broke through 65 tackles in the NYC last season and would be an asset anywhere on the field.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA – MATTHEW DUFTY: Only a matter of time until the talented back gets a crack in the NRL. Impressed in some NRL trial action last year for the Dragons before crossing for 11 NYC tries.
SOUTH SYDNEY – DAMON GOOLAGONG: The nephew of Aussie tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley has all the athletic ability you would expect of his pedigree. After playing NSW Cup in 2014 for the Wyong Roos, the classy outside back scored 13 tries in 17 NYC games last year, breaking the line 15 times.
SYDNEY ROOSTERS – LATRELL MITCHELL – The No.1 rookie to watch in 2016. Tipped to take Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s spot at fullback, the 18-year-old has played Australian Schoolboys and has been labelled `the next Greg Inglis’.
WARRIORS – BUNTY AFOA: His free-flowing hair gives the impression of heavy contact every time he hits the ball up, and he’s also pretty hard to stop. Was named Warriors’ NYC player of the year last season and should follow in the footsteps of Sam Lisone and Albert Vete.
WESTS TIGERS – JJ Felise: Ran at least 175 metres six times in the NYC last season, including a mammoth 280-metre effort against Newcastle in round 23. All but purposely eliminated his effective offload from his game last year, showing maturity and discipline above his years. Might be the forward the Tigers need.