6. Will Smith - Panthers
At 23 year of age, Panthers utility Will Smith probably should have more than just the 20 games in his NRL career. He has become Mr Fix It at the foot of the mountains, filling in where needed, usually at fullback, but also in the halves. With a regular gig, Smith could prove himself at the top level.
7. Kodi Nikorima - Broncos
22 year-old Kodi Nikorima has 30 NRL games to his name as well as three New Zealand caps. His talents are well known and I’m surprised his name has not been linked to many clubs struggling at six, seven or nine. I have no doubt he has a future at the Broncos, however with McCullough, Hunt and Milford ahead of him, I can’t see him starting any time soon unless there is an injury.
8. Patrick Kaufusi - Cowboys
The Cowboys big man, at 22, has only played the five NRL games after being stuck behind one of the true elite forward packs. His chance may come with the likely departure of James Tamou to the Panthers, however no matter what decision Kaufusi makes with his upcoming contract, I expect his games at NRL level to rocket over the next few seasons. I would also not be surprised to see him add to his single cap for Tonga. The former Junior Kiwi isn’t so junior anymore.
9. Manaia Cherrington - Tigers
Manaia Cherrington looked as though he was going to be the Tigers number nine going forward, however the decision to keep Farah and sign Ballin has seen him slip down the pecking order. At 21 years of age, Cherrington has plenty of footy ahead of him, and may look to move away from the Tigers to secure a regular spot. With 16 games at NRL level he has experience yet plenty of improvement left in him.