BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 09: Tevita Pangai Junior of the Broncos is tackled during the NRL Elimination Final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Suncorp Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Each and every year, a stand out few NRL players rise from the pack. They finally find that coach who inspires them, or that diet that enables peak performance, or that special something that sees them realize their potential.

In 2018, Valentine Holmes became a genuine superstar. The potential and talent had always been there, but the positional play and ball playing skill seemed to blossom, making Holmes one of the game’s elite.

Damien Cook went from fringe first grader to the number one number nine in the game. All he needed was a coach that believed in him and let him play his natural game.

Latrell Mitchell pushed the who’s who of centres aside in ascending to the position’s top player. His fellow Rooster in Luke Keary ended the season as arguably the competition’s form player.

We all know about the rise of Kalyn Ponga.

2017 saw Coen Hess graduate from decent forward to absolute wrecking ball. He now has a closet full of Origin jumpers and plenty more in the future. Tommy Turbo burst onto the scene in a big, big way.

So who will it be in 2019?

It’s suuuuper early, and plenty can happen between now and the start of the season next year, but as it stands here are the top five players I expect to become genuine superstars in 2019.

For the point of this, I don’t mean break out stars, or rookies to make names for themselves. I’m referring to first graders who will elevate into genuine superstar status.


1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Panthers):

The New Zealand national team captain has developed immeasurably during his time at the helm of the Kiwis. He was best on ground in the recent win over the Kangaroos and has again been brilliant against England.

With Dylan Edwards set to return for the Panthers, a discussion will need to he had about the future of the number one jersey at the foot of the mountains.

For mine, DWZ plays his best football in the custodian role and for the Panthers to make a real impact their best bet is to unleash the brilliantly in form DWZ at fullback.

At 23 years of age and with 96 games under his belt, 2019 is the season young Watene-Zelezniak realises his full potential and becomes a genuine star of the game.

Whether at fullback or on the wing, hopefully at fullback, there are big things ahead for the new Kiwi skipper in 2019.

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 30: Dallin Watene-Zelezniak of the Panthers in action during the round 16 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Manly Sea Eagles at Panthers Stadium on June 30, 2018 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

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