SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 17: Blake Lawrie of the Dragons runs with the ball during the NRL trial match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and Hull at ANZ Stadium on February 17, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

With a massive crowd and big television numbers recorded for the recent Intrust Super Cup (or NSW Cup) Grand Final a few Sundays ago, there can be no doubt that interest in the competition is at an all time high.

Brilliant coverage by Channel 9 each Saturday afternoon at 1pm added to the weekend of rugby league and helped introduce us to generation next of NRL talent.

It was very difficult but I’ve managed to narrow it down to nine current ISP players I expect to make an impact at NRL level next season.

To make it a little more interesting I’ve selected players who the general punter may have heard of, either from seeing them briefly in first grade, or having seen them represent rep teams.

Of course there is a plethora of talent plying their trade in the division, and QLD cup also, but the below nine are my best picks for 2019 break out seasons.

Kyle Flanagan: (Jets/Sharks)

If you’re anything more than a passing NRL fan than there’s a huge chance you’ve heard of Kyle Flanagan. Commentators for Sharks games mention him at every opportunity. The son of current Sharks coach Shane, the younger Flanagan has talent in spades. The all time leading under 20’s point scorer, Flanagan was selected at seven across multiple rep teams this season. He was also the NSW cup halfback of the year and had a gem of a Grand Final in defeat for the Jets. Made just the one NRL appearance in 2018 but is a near lock to play more games in 2019. The future of the Shire club.

Blayke Brailey: (Jets/Sharks)

Another name you may have heard of is Jets number nine Blayke Brailey. Younger brother of current Sharks rake Jayden, Blayke is nipping at his brother’s heels in a big way. With James Segeyaro on his way to the Knights, it will be an all Brailey affair in the number nine for the Sharks for the next decade. The NSW Cup’s premier hooker, he has played all levels of footy with halfback Flanagan from their juniors to NSW Cup, with many rep teams in between. Plays in the same style as big brother but with a far advanced running game. One to watch if he can put on some size in the off-season.

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Sione Katoa: (Jets/Sharks)

If not for a horror jaw injury and a return to form of the likes of Sosaia Feki and Edrick Lee, Katoa would already have 20 NRL appearances to his name. Katoa’s incredible Grand Final try capped off a wonderful season for the Jets’ strike weapon. He will be best remembered for his controversial try against the Raiders in the top grade but the Tongan whippet is a highlight machine. Watch out. Will likely be first choice winger for the Sharks in 2019.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 16: Sione Katoa of the Sharks makes a break during the round 15 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Brisbane Broncos at Southern Cross Group Stadium on June 16, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Bronson Xerri: (Jets/Sharks)

Rounding out the Jets/Sharks quartet is the ridiculously talented 18 year-old Bronson Xerri. He made just the one appearance in NSW Cup for the Jets, scoring three tries on debut. He should have had four if not for a lazy defender and a late step causing a contentious obstruction. Scored a try for the Sharks Flegg team in their Grand Final win over the Panthers. With Jesse Ramien and Ricky Leutele having left the club and speculation over the future of Josh Dugan, Xerri’s path to first grade looks open.

Kaide Ellis: (Panthers)

22 year-old Kaide Ellis already has six NRL appearances to his name but will very likely add to that in a big way in 2019. Having lost the likes of Tyrone Peachey and CHN, the Panthers need some size and ability off the bench. At six foot four and over 105 kilos, the 22-year-old is a weapon. He dominated the NSW Cup for the Panthers and was a stand out in a very handy side that won the minor premiership with weeks to spare.

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Renouf To’omaga: (Bulldogs)

A member of the NSW Cup and combined state cup title Bulldogs side, the 23-year-old big man has put his name in the discussion for the Dogs’ bench next season. Despite a pretty handy pack of forwards on the books, To’omaga looks likely for a bench spot in round one. He currently has four NRL games to his name. Named at prop in the ISP team of the season he was immense in the big games at the end of the season.

Blake Lawrie: (Dragons)

Another member of the ISP team of the season was Dragons lock Blake Lawrie. With NRL games to his name, Lawrie is the most experienced of the list here despite being only 21 year’s of age. Although he’s not the biggest dog in the fight, he has plenty of fight within his still massive frame. The Dragons have an all Origin back row but Lawrie will add to his 15 games in 2019, I have no doubt.

Luke Garner: (Magpies/Tigers)

In late June, Garner was upgraded to the Tigers’ full time squad and it’s easy to see why. Named in the ISP team of the year, the 23-year-old is sure to feature for the Tigers again in 2019. Having debuted and played six games in 2018, Garner has put his name in the reckoning for round one. I like this kid, a lot.

Tom Amone: (Blacktown Workers/Manly)

Recently named as the player of the year for Blacktown, Amone was also named in the NSW Cup team of the season. He was named on the bench for ISP team of the season but would have looked right at home in 11 or 12. Incredibly there is some contention as to whether or not he has been upgraded to the Sea Eagles top 30, but I guarantee if he isn’t then plenty of other clubs will be there ready to sign the hulking junior Kiwi.


  1. What a surprise.
    Australia’s worst players in the first half have been Both Tobogaverage brothers and DCE. LOL
    Once Keary went off we had no structure in attack as both Hunt and DCE offer nothing.
    Now Keary has failed his HIA and won’t be back, we are stuck with Hunt and dud Evans.
    Kiwis will win this.

  2. Wow what a surprise, Nicholls starts off an article singing the praises of a bunch of sharks players (most of whom will amount to nothing). Objective journalism fail.

  3. I noticed that certain Sydney clubs seemed to get on the Box a lot more than others.

    If you are looking for genuine players from the Reggies to step up to NRL level then at the Rabbitohs there are a few players that spring to mind for 2019.

    Tracey Connor, Mawene Hiroti and Keaon Koloamatangi.

    It will be difficult for these guys cracking into the Rabbitohs team though.
    Tracey a 5/8 and Hiroti an outside back Utility are in our Top 30.
    They do have plenty of competition for spots.

    Keaon Koloamatangi is an Edge/Prop and was in our U20s in 2017 and our Reserves this season and he is Training with the Fulltime squad.

    It is up to them if they want it bad enough to be selected!

    Next Season the Rabbitohs will get some time on TV now that we have Pi$$ed off the Amateurish Bears, what a bunch of losers they are.
    They really are the Perennial Cellar Dwellers.

    The RORTS can have them.

  4. As if you wouldn’t include Morgan Harper in this list! He’s a fantastic young player and is very likely to play FG next year

  5. Penrith dominated a lot of that ISP season & only missed the Grand Final with a 2 point loss to Cronulla. Yet most of the story is about Cronulla .
    Penrith lost both halves Luai & May for different reasons & had to put Coleman, Keighran in the halves . Still won the minor premiership by a mile. Must of had more than one good player? Mika Sivo had injuries shortening his season, but was the best winger to play ISP. Now going to Parramatta.
    He’s just one of many not mentioned in your Cronulla story.

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