Last season saw the emergence of some great young players. The resurgence of some experienced superstars and the elevation to superstar status to other least expected players. Who will emerge from the pack and stand out and rise to new heights in 2019?
2018 unearthed new talent Alexander Brimson a tough skilled utility from the Gold Coast. Lachlan Lewis nephew of King Wally produced some amazing skills of his own late in the season something the Bulldogs can be excited about as they build in 2019.
Victor Radley, a rare Sydney Roosters junior, played his way into a Chooks Premiership side, a hard uncompromising skilled forward with ball-playing abilities.
Radley was outstanding in the Roosters Premiership run he surly played the style of football needed to be in representative calculations in 2019 to add to his 2018 Premiership ring.
Kalyn Ponga and Latrell Mitchell moved from potential to new stars of the game. Both have yet to fully expose their full powers. Something to look forward to in 2019 to see these two young starlets rise to superstar status.
South Sydney’s running rabbit Damien Cook exceeded even his own expectations and became a star of the NRL and State of Origin. Can he be stopped in 2019? How many clubs will try and emulate him?
So, who are the players to watch in 2019?
The vacant fullback spot at Melbourne is up for grabs and the two most likely to attempt to fill the massive boots of Billy Slater are Jahrome Hughes and Scott Drinkwater should Cameron Munster remain at five-eighth.
Hughes has been the man to fill in at both fullback and in the halves but his best position is in the number one jersey. With a taste of NRL over the past two, years Hughes has shown to be an exciting ball runner safe at the back.
Drinkwater has been plying his trade in the QLD Intrust Super Cup with East Tigers where he has been an absolute standout. The exciting prospect made his debut in round 25 last year scoring in his only NRL appearance.
Another Fullback Caleb Aekins from Penrith Panthers is another player to watch. Named the NSW Intrust Super Premiership player of the year in 2018. Aekins broke through to the NRL in round 18 last year making a superb debut.
Unfortunately for Aekins, he is third in line behind Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Dylan Edwards. The Panthers are blessed with young talent. Another, Jarome Luai a very skilled ball playing half will be putting pressure on Maloney and Cleary after showing his talents in Cleary’s absence last year.
One Panther that got away to get an opportunity is Adam Keighran. A goal-kicking utility who played mainly in the halves for the very successful Penrith Panthers NSW Intrust Super Premiership side. Keighran has moved to across the ditch to seek elevation to NRL with the Warriors.
With the incredibly surprising departures of New Zealand superstar Shaun Johnson to Cronulla and his understudy, Mason Lino to the Newcastle Knights the door is open for the very talented Keighran to make his mark.
Jake Clifford and Cameron Murray are two players needing to step up to the next level after finding their feet in last years Competition. Clifford has an unenviable task of guiding the North Queensland Cowboys minus the arguably the GOAT Jonathan Thurston.
Clifford did an admirable job last season in the 6 games he played. The former NYC player of the year in 2017 looks a great prospect. His 6 games caught the eye of big Mal Who selected him in the PM’s XIII squad against PNG at the end of last season. With the guidance of Paul Green and Michael Morgan Clifford should make the halves position his in 2019.
Like Clifford, Cameron Murray has come through the NYC cup and has made a great impression. Making his debut in 2017 Murray has had to play the bench or utility role for the Rabbitohs over his 34 game career.
Now with Angus Crichton defecting to arch rivals the Roosters, Murray looks like the ideal replacement for the breakout State of Origin Star. Most good judges rate the South Sydney Junior very highly.
Former teammates Jacob Liddle and Mitch Moses are seeking to re-establish themselves in the NRL. Both players with high expectations who have yet to live up to their incredible talents.
Liddle a very cagey and skilled dummy half has by all reports added considerable muscle to his frame during the offseason. The Gosford juniors NRL career has been hindered by injury, cap restrictions and the return of Wests Tigers legend Robbie Farah.
2019 is shaping to be Liddle’s year to hold down the dummy half spot to add to his 27 appearances. Farah will most likely be the starting hooker but at age 35 Farah has his work cut out to keep the former Australian schoolboy’s hooker from taking his place. Sound familiar? For Tigers fans, they hope Farah has the Cook formula to transcend Liddle to new heights.
Mitch Moses, once a star on the rise left the Tigers with great expectations when he joined the exodus from Wests for a chance to play semi Final football in 2017 with the Parramatta Eels.
On arrival at the Eels, he looked as though he would lead them back to winning ways and live up to the hype he has carried since playing through the Tigers lower grades and his then 67 NRL appearances.
Moses was a standout in the later part of 2017 and hopes were very high the Eels Would build on a successful 2017 season. Unfortunately, the Eels were extremely disappointing in 2018 picking up the wooden spoon.
Moses was understandably singled out by media and fans for his mediocre season. So low had Moses fell he was told he was free to talk to other teams by the Eels. Moses was saved from being discarded when halves partner Corey Norman decided to move clubs to the Dragons in 2019 a move to cover the eventual loss of Dragons playmaker Gareth Widdop in 2020.
Mitch Moses is now free to control the Eels attack. Brad Arthur and the Eels have taken the gamble that Moses will play his natural game without Norman. He will need a true half in the vain of his old Tigers partner Brooks if he is to return to the player Eels fans desperately need in 2019. For long-suffering Eels fans, I hope he does.
Others of note to watch are Andre Savelio from Brisbane a 23-year-old forward with English Super League experience previously playing with St Helens and Warrington. Hotly pursued by Super League and NRL clubs Savelio was signed by the master coach Wayne Bennett. Unfortunately, he missed the entire 2018 season through injury.
Zac Lomax looks like he will see a considerable amount of NRL this year after his impressive 4 games in the top grade with the Dragons. With the retirement of Jason Nightingale and Kurt Mann moving to the Knights Lomax who can cover all positions in the back line should cement a starting place in 2019. Lomax looks like he has that something special. Definitely, one to watch.
So, these are the players I will be keeping an eye on in 2019. Players on the rise or rising again. For every player the game might lose for ill-discipline, others come along to remind us how great the game is.
Who are the players you think will electrify the NRL in 2019!
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