40 hours ago
NRL Prospects: Are These Five Players The Next NRL Superstars?
Cameron Smith, Jonathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk are now all 34 years of age and their glorious careers are firmly in the twilight phase.
Soon it will be time for a new generation of NRL superstars to come to the fore and battle it out for Dally M awards. Here are the some of the leading young contenders to take the league by storm for years to come:
The 20-year-old Melbourne Storm star is Cronk's heir apparent and last season he dazzled when stepping in for the great man. He scored a hat-trick and had two try assists in a 44-12 win over the Newcastle Knights in just his fifth game, and he also scored an extra-time field goal to secure victory over the North Queensland Cowboys. Now that Cronk has gone he is ready to become the main man at the Storm, who are joint favourites to successfully defend their premiership crown this season, priced at $5.50 with the bookmakers on Oddschecker. Further evidence of his vast potential was provided in the World Cup Challenge earlier this year, when he put English team Leeds Rhinos to the sword with a try and three try assists in an extremely assured performance. He got the better of Thurston this week as he helped the Storm to a thumping 30-14 win in their NRL grand final rematch against North Queensland. He should have a glorious future ahead of him and the Storm can count themselves fortunate to have secured his services.
The 6'5, 120kg hulking Fijian is an absolute juggernaut and he lit up the World Cup with a string of eye-catching performances. He has barrelled into the season like a one-man wrecking ball and his powerhouse exploits inspired the Panthers to two straight wins, leading many to speculate they could go all the way this year. Aged just 22, he is already earning comparisons with Penrith legend Tony Puletua, which is high praise indeed. His magnificent try and all-round performance inspired his team to a comeback victory over Parramatta and he looks set to terrorise plenty more opponents for years to come.
The highest paid teenager in NRL history did not take long to start repaying his hefty salary as he crossed for a superb try within three minutes of his Newcastle debut. Matty Johns branded Ponga's signing "the deal of the century" for the Knights, and the club must be delighted to see him delivering on his promise. He drove his team to a nervy victory over the Sea Eagles in week one and set up to tries in week two to inspire the Knights to another win over the Raiders. He has been tipped for Dally M awards already and he certainly looks destined to exist in the elite bracket for the next decade.
The Canberra starlet enjoyed a phenomenal breakout season last year as he played all 24 games and scored 16 tries for the Raiders. He was rewarded with the Rookie of the Year gongs at the Dally M Awards and Mal Meninga Medal Awards ceremonies, and NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler said he was the pick of the NRL's left flyers in 2017. He is likely to be targeted more by opposition sides going forwards, but if he handles the pressure he will surely have a fine career. He is strong, quick and agile, and teammates describe him as level-headed and determined, so he should continue on an upward curve this year.
The 20-year-old Roosters utility has already filled in for captain Jake Friend at hooker, and he can also play at lock or in the backrow. That makes him an attractive option for any coach, and his potential his huge. He wowed fans in the 20s and Junior Kangaroos with a string of sensational performances and he has already looked remarkably assured in the first grade. Radley could do with nailing down a preferred position - he looks really well suited to lock - but for now he will take game time wherever he can get it. He is earmarked for greatness and he will soon become a household name.