Brad Fittler has named an emerging New South Wales Blues side with plenty of strike power. Included in the side, brought together with a view to the future of the side, are monster forwards, lightning backs and a couple of young halves who could represent their state sooner rather than later.
The emerging Blues (and Maroons) side is always chock full of talent but I can’t remember an emerging squad with such talent and experience being named.
Of course being named in this training squad does not guarantee future caps at rep level, I’m sure than at least a handful of those named will be in the reckoning very soon.
Below are, in my opinion, the stand out prospects for a future spot representing the Premier state:
Victor Radley: The Roosters hit man played himself from bench utility into genuine superstar within the space of the 2018 season. He became a cult hero with Roosters fans via his big hits and tough runs, and became a cult hero to the wider rugby league fan base with his post-match Grand Final celebrations.
At only 20 years of age, perhaps a 2019 Origin debut may be a step too far, but you could not count Radley out of contention. The Blues require a big hitter off the bench and Radley could provide that very role.
Make no mistake, the former Junior Kangaroo is much more than just rushing out of the line to put a hit on. He has a football mind well beyond his years and experience, and seemed to improve his attacking game with every single week.
He made 25 appearances in a title-winning season for the tri-colours this season. At 20 his confidence would be sky high and he still has plenty of improvement in him. He’s still probably four years from developing fully too in a physical sense.
Curtis Scott: I was quite surprised that Scott’s name wasn’t brought up in contention for a run in 2018. Honestly I think the Blues got it 100% spot on with James Roberts and Latrell Mitchell, but had one gone down with injury, I suspect Scott’s name would have been mentioned.
A premiership winning centre at 21 years of age, Scott added extra aggression to his game in 2018. That wasn’t always a positive but it’s safe to say Scott will not be intimidated by any player in the game despite his young age.
15 tries in 37 games sees Scott emerge as one of the better attacking centres in the game. I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see his name up in lights in the early rounds of 2019 with an eye to Origin selection.
I was shocked to read that Scott is only 6 foot 2 and a tick under 90 kilos. He plays as though he was a lot bigger. Keeping in mind that he’s only 21, he’s still got size to add and skills to learn. Scary.
Jesse Ramien: I’m calling it now; Ramien is a future Origin centre. We’ve seen plenty of players burst onto the scene with a big season only to fall away, so it’s far from a certainty, but Ramien is a special player.
He’s only 21, and will be tipping the scales at 100 kilos come round one, 2019. I can’t remember seeing a player not named Latrell, swatting away defenders with such ease at such an early point in his career. Ramien is a tackle busting machine with incredible acceleration.
He will have to work on his defence to complete his game if he’s going to feature over Roberts in 2019, but I see plenty of rep caps in his future. I’d say by 2020 Jesse Ramien’s name will be on everybody’s lips.
Payne Haas: I’m a huge fan of this kid. I say kid, but there aren’t too many 18 year old kids running around at almost two metres tall and 120-odd kilos of muscle and bulk.
The Blues have always had good cattle up front but Haas will push the big boys in years to come. Again, 2019 may be a year or two early, given that he’s only played three NRL games, but this is a selection with a firm eye on the future.
I can’t remember seeing a forward coming through with this much hype since the early SBW days, and I’m really hoping he can get his body right over the off-season and tear into 2019. One to watch.
Kyle Flanagan: As a Sharks fan I had to sneak this one in, but the son of Sharks premiership winning coach Shane Flanagan has plenty of pedigree and the talent to match.
The highest ever points scorer in a single season in the NYC competition, Flanagan made the jump to NSW Cup this season and even made a successful debut in the top grade in 2018.
He was the NSW Cup halfback of the season at just 20 years of age. He has junior rep honours at almost every level. Simply put he could not have done more to push his case for a first grade birth with his efforts in the junior leagues and reserve grade.
Obviously it is a huge jump from NSW Cup to the NSW Origin team, and he won’t be there in 2019 or 2020, but this is another one to watch for the future.
Luke Brooks: The most experienced of those on this list and the most likely to push for an Origin birth in 2019. Brooks is the current Dally M halfback of the year and continues to improve year on year for the Tigers.
He will, FINALLY, have a settled deck to play with in 2019 after the announcement of Michael McGuire as head coach. He should be joined by Josh Reynolds who had a horror 2018 with injuries.
If he can continue to develop like he did in 2018, there is every chance he’ll push Nathan Cleary all the way before next season’s series.
I certainly wouldn’t be looking to change a winning side, but if they do opt for a change, or an injury does occur, I’d be looking forward to Brooks rather than back to Pearce.