There’s been quite a few shocks and surprises with the first team lists of the season. A number of players have been selected as injury replacements and have an opportunity to prove their worth in the team while they can. There are also players who have just narrowly beaten fellow team-mates to a particular position, and have to work hard to keep it. Here’s five players with a big opportunity in Round 1 to stay in the team.
Hughes is an exceptional talent. He found it easy to fit in Melbourne’s lineup whether he was at fullback or in the halves when he had to cover crucial injuries. Hughes has played just 17 NRL games, scoring six tries and this season he has the chance to cement a permanent spot in the Storm side following Billy Slater’s retirement. Ryan Papenhuyzen and Scott Drinkwater are still waiting in the wings for their opportunity so Hughes will have to be on his game.
Roache has had a rough couple of years however he has finally recovered from the ACL injury that cut short his 2017 season. Now, the young utility gets to start in the Warriors’ side for just the fourth time as Issac Luke sits out the opening round with a shoulder injury. With Luke likely to leave the Warriors potentially after this season, Roache has a chance to earmark the no.9 spot as his own, with Jazz Tevaga and Karl Lawton both hungry for more first grade.
Dylan Brown – Parramatta Eels
After Corey Norman’s departure from Parramatta, the Eels looked to their youth to see who would become Mitchell Moses’ new halves partner. Jaeman Salmon made his NRL debut late last season in the halves however Brown has been backed by coach Brad Arthur to succeed in first grade as he plans to make his first grade debut against Penrith on Sunday. The 18-year-old has featured prominently in their trials and already sparked up a solid combination with Moses.
In just his sixth season at the top level, Brendan Elliot is already at his fourth club. The utility back started his career with so much promise after nine tries in nine games for the Roosters before a further 10 tries in 26 appearances for the Knights and then the Titans. Elliot now makes a switch to Manly and gets a shot in the first round at fullback with Tom Trbojevic still recovering from a hamstring injury.
Luke Garner – Wests Tigers
The 23-year-old back-rower from Dubbo only played six times for the Tigers in his debut season but he has already snared a starting gig for the opening game of 2019 ahead of the likes of Robbie Rochow, Michael Chee-Kam, Matt Eisenhuth and Josh Aloiai. While Garner will most likely drop to the bench once Chris Lawrence returns from injury, he’s been given a huge opportunity by Michael Maguire to prove that he deserves a starting spot.
Thomas Flegler, Jaydn Su’a (Brisbane Broncos), Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (Canberra Raiders, Reuben Garrick and Kane Elgey (Manly Sea Eagles), Adam Keighran (New Zealand Warriors), Maika Sivo (Parramatta Eels), Jack Hetherington and Sione Katoa (Penrith Panthers), Jacob Host and Mikaele Ravalawa (St George Illawarra Dragons), Tevita Tatola (South Sydney Rabbitohs)