Lots of cash cow articles fall into the trap of writing about talented youngsters without considering what role they could possibly fill. These articles are still useful because it could make a NYC, NSW Cup or QLD Cup match a little more interesting and it’s never too early to start scouting for 2018 or 2019 fantasy. And of course, since these players are pretty good a few will force their way onto NRL sides at some point in the season.
Last year’s list of prospects included: Angus Crichton, Liam Knight, Toafofoa Sipley, Jai Arrow, James Fisher-Harris, Nat Butcher, Jazz Tevega, Ata Hingano, Will Pearsall, Kalyn Ponga and Latrell Mitchell who would all end up playing in the NRL and only one of them started in round 1.
So, the following list are the players who impressed in Holden Cup last year and have yet to debut in the NRL, and although they could end up playing in the NRL this season they probably won’t from Round 1.
Edwards was superb at fullback for the Panthers last season. In 17 games he scored 12 tries and setup 14 more. He also broke 148 tackles, had 17 line breaks and 11 line break assists. The Panthers’ back line depth isn’t stellar so he might get a run at some point.
Papalii is a freak. Last season he played for the Junior Kiwis, Junior Warriors and was one of the best players in the Mt Albert Grammar Frist XV who won the New Zealand secondary schools competition. He’s also a champion power lifter. He works harder than anyone and in five years’ time he might be one of the best forwards in the NRL.
Smith is the heir apparent to Cameron Smith at the Storm. He comes over from the Cowboys where he made the Holden Cup team of the year at hooker last season. His fantasy average of 64.54 is comparable to CS9 but that might be where comparisons ends. Brandon Smith is a much more attacking oriented player than Cameron Smith and that also means he doesn’t have the same level of consistency.
Saitaua is an explosive hooker who managed to have 128 tackle breaks last season. He’s good a good step and can get to full speed in a split second. Put up a fantasy average of 59.05 with a PPM of 1.022 last year.
Marsters was one of the hardest forwards to bring down last season as he broke 101 tackles on his way to a fantasy average of 57.06. He’s a big unit tipping the scales at 110 kilos and offers the Tigers’ an attacking dimension they don’t currently possess from the second row.
The Sharks seemed set to hand over the starting hooker role to the reigning NYC player of the year but the (potential? Is that happening? Who knows) recruitment of James Segeyaro might have put paid to that. The Sharks have Mortimer and Cherrington too, but I don’t see them as being anything better than place holders. Brailey has averaged over 55 in both the last two NYC seasons with PPMs above 0.7 so he could go well even in a limited role but he’ll be competing with Daniel Mortimer’s utility value for an interchange spot.
Dufty is small but he’s also very slippery as shown by his 157 tackle breaks last season. He scored 23 tries in 22 games and also had a further 22 try assists. Dufty will probably make a debut sooner or later as the Dragons are the same team that played Adam Quinlan four times last season, Dufty will fill that role better than Quinlan.
Alex Twal managed to make the Holden Cup team of the year in 2015 and 2016, he’s also made the Prospects list in 2016 and 2017, so he’s got a shelf full of honours. Twal is a big work rate prop rather than a block buster prop. He gets through a lot of tackles and hit-ups, although he’s not going to break lots of tackles.
The Warriors seem to produce a lot of halves through the under 20’s and Erin Clark is the next one. He only played 11 games last season but he had 9 try assists and 4 tries of his own for a fantasy average of 53.55.
Fuimaono is equally at home in the second row or at centre and played for the Junior Kangaroos in 2015 and 2016 and made the Holden Cup team of the year last season while with the Eels. He’s a strong defender and attacker.
Shibasaki emerged as a bit of a cash cow du jour when an article about him debuting this season popped up on NRL.com. Those sorts of bold claims might seem a little bit premature considering the Broncos would likely turn to some alternatives before the 19-year-old but he was very good in NYC last season breaking 122 tackles.
May made the Holden Cup team of the year at five-eighth last year but he was also great as a lock in 2015. His utility value might get him on the NRL field sooner rather than later but I’m not sure what his 80-minute role in the NRL will be.
Herbert had 165 tackle breaks last season, the most in the NYC competition. He dotted down 20 times and is a nice speed/power combo.
Pauga is a block busting centre that would make a scary centre partner with Solomone Kata. He had 127 tackle breaks last year and also was a pretty solid defender.
There’s been some speculation that Field is battling Shaun Nona and Josh McCrone (I refuse to put Kurt Mann here too because that’s just ridiculous) for the halfback spot this season. It shouldn’t come as a surprise because Field had a great 2016 season scoring 15 tries, creating another 18 and breaking 85 tackles. He also kicks some goals.
Dargan was the Holden Cup team of the year halfback thanks to his 28 try assists. His biggest issue is his defense as he missed 20% of his tackle attempts, a number that would probably get worse in the NRL.
After a ridiculous 39 tries in 2015 GGM was always going to struggle to match that in 2016. He managed to add 14 more tries but was probably over shadowed by Marcus Jensen on the opposite wing who led the comp with 27 tries. GGM still made the Holden Cup team of the year though so it wasn’t all a let-down.