Every NRL season we see rugby league legends retire. But with every retiring player in the NRL, another player debuts. Next season is set to be no different, as we analyse your team’s best youngster yet to debut.

Brisbane Broncos – Marion Seve

Seve joined Brisbane at the start of 2016 after spending his Holden Cup career with the Wests Tigers. Known for his lightning speed, Seve is a bolter for Jack Reed’s vacant left centre spot, though he’ll need to contend with new recruits David Mead, Tautau Moga and Benji Marshall for a backline spot.

Canberra Raiders – Kato Ottio

Kato Ottio is a rugby league oddity. Despite failing to feature in the NRL so far in his career, Ottio has played for his country, Papua New Guinea, on two occasions. Spending the entirety of 2016 in the Intrust Super Cup, the winger scored 28 tries in just 21 tries. Despite Canberra having a strong backline, the exit of depth players Brenko Lee and Sisa Waqa opens the door for Ottio to debut in 2017.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – Brad Abbey

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 20: Brad Abbey of the Bulldogs is tackled by Marika Koroibete and Tohu Harris of the Storm during the NRL Trial match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Melbourne Storm at Belmore Sports Ground on February 20, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Renee McKay/Getty Images)

Brad Abbey was touted as ‘the next big thing’ in the Holden Cup during his time with the New Zealand Warriors. Originally heralded as being the Bulldog’s first proper fullback since Ben Barba, with Sam Perrett and Brett Morris filling in over the 2014 and 2015 season. Instead, the late signing of Will Hopoate saw Abbey languish in reserve grade last season. With the exits of Sam Perrett and Curtis Rona, the door is open for Hopoate to return to the centres and Abbey to earn the custodian role.

Cronulla Sharks – Jayden Brailey

Jayden Brailey looks destined to feature in the NRL in 2017 after claiming the Dally M Holden Cup Player of the Year this season. The retirement of Michael Ennis coupled with the departure of Matt McIllwrick opens the door wide open for Brailey to battle it out with new recruits Dan Mortimer and Manaia Cherrington, which should see Brailey feature at some part of the season for Cronulla.

Gold Coast Titans – Ben Nakubuwai

It’s not often someone gets compared to Petero Civoniceva, but Ben Nakubuwai is set to etch his own name into rugby league in 2017. After making his international debut in 2016, featuring in two matches for Fiji, Nakubuwai will aim to play in his maiden first-grade grade next season after departing the Melbourne Storm for the Gold Coast. Standing at 194cm tall and weighing in at 108kgs, Nakubuwai is short odds to feature in the NRL in the near future.

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Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Brian Kelly

Manly have pulled out a pre-season coup by snaring Brian Kelly from the Gold Coast on a two-year deal. The revolving door of player movements continues to go in full swing at Brookvale, with the expected retirements of Manly legends Brett Stewart and Steve Matai to open the door for a backline spot next season. With Jorge Taufua not guaranteed to be at the Northern Beaches next year, the door is wide open for the speedster to begin his NRL career in 2017.

Melbourne Storm – Brandon Smith

Another season gone, another year older. That’s the case facing Melbourne’s ‘Big Three’ in 2017, but Brandon Smith may be the last piece of the puzzle for the Storm. With Cameron Munster a more than able replacement for Slater and young Brodie Croft tipped to replace Cronk when they retire, the Storm has pulled off a big coup by snaring Smith from the Cowboys to replace their own Smith, the Melbourne, Queensland and Kangaroos skipper. While Cameron Smith rarely gets injured, Brandon will have his opportunity come Origin time, with Melbourne fans set to get their first glimpse to the future.

New Zealand Warriors – Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad

It’s not often Melbourne lose a player they want to keep, but the Warriors managed to accomplish that rare feat by poaching Nicoll-Klokstad at the start of this season. While Solomone Kata has a lock on the left centre spot, Kata’s centre partner is yet to be determined with Blake Ayshford and Tui Lolohea both jostling for the spot. If Nicoll-Klokstad does manage to snare the spot, he’ll look to continue his combination with David Fusitu’a that he formed in the Intrust Super Premiership, where he was named in the competition’s team of the year.

Newcastle Knights – Luke Yates

After a horror 2016 season, it’s hard to find a youngster around the club that hasn’t featured in first-grade yet. A year that saw them only pick up a singular win, the Knights debuted over ten players in 2016, but young lock Luke Yates surprisingly remains uncapped heading into the upcoming season. While he’s a little small for a modern-day forward, 92kgs and only 180cm tall, his work rate can’t be questioned. With former international Jeremy Smith having retired, the race for the starting lock spot is wide open.

North Queensland Cowboys – Gideon Mosby-Gela

Gideon Mosby-Gela

He holds the record for scoring the most tries in a Holden Cup season, and Gideon Mosby-Gela looks set to premier his talents on the big stage. Scoring 39 tries in 25 games in 2015, Mosby-Gela was able to show off his lightning feet at the Auckland Nines earlier this year. While the Cowboys have a highly regarded backline, the loss of Tautau Moga, Matthew Wright and Jahrome Hughes as well as Kalyn Ponga announcing that he signed with Newcastle, Mosby-Gela is sure to move several spots up the wrung and right in line for a debut.

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Parramatta Eels – Alex Twal

A Parramatta junior, Alex Twal has been fairly successful so far in the Eel’s juniors system. A sizeable prop, Twal has featured for both the Junior Kangaroos and the U20 NSW Blues in recent seasons. With the shock retirement of Danny Wicks, Twal is in line for a bench spot come Round 1.

Penrith Panthers – Viliame Kikau

Viliame Kikau, also known as ‘Bill’, moved to Penrith at the start of 2016 from North Queensland, arriving as yet another player to for his country (Fiji) before playing first-grade. Weighing in at 120kg and standing 196cm tall, he’s a big bopper. Despite his size, Kikau was a notable try-scorer in the Holden Cup, scoring 32 tries in 42 games for the Cowboys. The departure of Chris Grevsmuhl and Jeremy Latimore is enough for Kikau to move up the pecking order in hope of debut.

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Tyrell Fuimaono

Poaching this young back-rower from Parramatta could be a masterstroke from head coach Michael Maguire. With the size of a second-rower and the speed of a centre, there’s no wonder that Fuimaono has represented the Junior Kangaroos and U20 NSW Blues in back-to-back seasons. As Maguire looks to resurrect South Sydney from their bottom eight finish, Fuimaono could be the man to lead the resistance.

St George Illawarra Dragons – Matt Dufty

If your club has Josh Dugan in their squad yet fans wants an uncapped youngster at fullback, you know he’s special. After finishing up his Holden Cup career in 2016, Dufty may emerge a legitimate contender for the Red V’s fullback spot if Josh Dugan does decide to move to the centres. While Dugan has an excellent running game, his passing game is lacking, assisting only one try in 2016. Dufty has no such problem, opening the door wide open for him to push his name for first-grade in 2017.

Sydney Roosters – Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck

Roger the dazzler, Johnny the brute. They have the same last name, but they sure aren’t alike. While older brother Roger was using his feet to run around players, Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck runs through them. A hulking winger, ‘JTS’ scored the match-winner against Penrith in this year’s Holden Cup Grand Final. With Daniel Tupou under pressure to retain his spot in 2017, we could see fans of the tricolours chanting ‘Here Comes Johnny!’ by seasons end.

Wests Tigers – Esan Marsters

Esan Marsters of the Junior Kiwis is tackled during the International Rugby League match between the Junior Kangaroos and the Junior Kiwis at Pirtek Stadium on May 7, 2016 in Sydney, Australia.

A Cook Islands international representative, Marsters also featured for the Junior Kiwis in 2016 in a sign there are big things to come for this kid. Big for a second-rower at 110kg, Marsters can also play lock as well as centre, versatility sure to see the kid feature in the NRL soon.


  1. Ottio, Abbey, Brailey, Kelly, Smith, Nicoll-Klokstad, Gela-Mosby, Twal, Kikau, Fuimaono, Dufty and Tuivasa-Sheck are all future stars. Most should get a look next year, however Smith (will probably only get a shot through Origin unless he pushes for a bench spot), Gela-Mosby, Twal, Kikau, Fuimaono and Tuivasa-Sheck will probably have to wait another year unless their respective clubs are hit hard by injuries.

    Looking forward to seeing Brandon Smith play. He is supposed to be a young and exciting hooker and playing under one of the best, if not the best, hooker in the game will help his game a lot. Munster, Smith, Croft and Scott Drinkwater are supposed to be our spine when the Big 3 retire I think. Will be interesting to see how they all go with youngsters like Addo-Carr, Curtis Scott and Vunivalu out wide and the likes of Asofa-Solomona and McLean and Harris in the middle (although I think we do need some younger depth in or pack).

  2. Also looking forward to seeing Braidon Burns as well as Tyrell Fuimaono. Angus Crichton should go up a gear as well. I think he will have a big year in 2017.

  3. We also have a few other young guns. There is one local junior called Jayden Okunbor. That kid is a real talent and he plays in the centres. Looks exactly like Jamal Idris but much leaner and much fitter haha. Abbey should get a shot at fullback with B Morris and Lee as the wingers and J Morris and Hoppa as the centres. Abbey should switch positions with B Moz during matches ala RTS and Minichiello. Okunbor should get a run sometime too.

      • Yeah he did swap. I think he might play there before centre for first grade because of Klemmer and Jackson going away for the Blues. He needs to put on a little more size first and turn it into muscle if he’s going to become a permanent prop.

  4. So many talented juniors going around Curtis Scott is outstanding and Nick Cotric aswell though the players their stuck behind are very good.. Nat Butcher is absolutely amazing for Roosters

    • Grant Garvey as well looks the goods for you guys in the Holden Cup Grand Final (before he was injured). There was also another forward who was an absolute beast alongside Butcher in the final (don’t remember his name though)

      • Nat Butcher and Grant Garvey are “stolen” Souths juniors that were signed in contravention of a long standing agreement between the clubs (see the link at the bottom), and we want them back. That was a “Slick Sick Trick uncle Nick”. Like that one Rabbits? 🐰

    • It was good Souths juniors kicked out Easts teams in our junior comp after they pinched Nat Butcher “who is abosuletly amazing for Easts”, Easts who don’t spend a zac on junior league just go out and get other teams best juniors and then call them their own , most of Easts legends in the past were bought up at other clubs then called a legend of Easts , Brad Fittler a prime example, why Penrith ever let that guy anywhere near their club is mind boggling, they should have told Fittler to go and f..k himself years ago.

      • @penso I’m not to familiar with the Deal that went on there but it sounds like Souths failed to point out their talent and when they start dominating the Holden cup they all of sudden starting whinging… Also you mention Brad Fitter… Name me a South Sydney local legend that’s under 50? You can’t all the current players were bought
        Inglis (Storm)
        Burgess boys (England)
        Isaac Luke (Bulldogs)

        The only players worth mentioning is a 2 cap for NSW player in Adam Reynolds but hey all to their own opinion and @trollz878 I think it may have Jackson Frei out second rower

        • We have to remember that the Juniors Club at Kingsford was up in arms about Nat Butcher and Grant Garvey but not necessarily the Senior Club the Rabbitohs.

          At that time Souths had money invested in other players such as Angus Crichton, Zane Musgrove, Jack Gosiewski and Siosifa Talakai all who have since made their First Grade debut.
          PLUS Cameron Murray and Toby Rudolf who are ready for First Grade NOW
          Nat Buther wasn’t at that stage!

          Nat Butcher was poached out of our S.G.Ball side but he never ever played U20s for Souths. As 17-year old Butcher was signed to a massive long-term contract.
          There is NO Salary Cap in the Harold Matthews U16s and/or G.G.Ball U18s.

          Another thing is “Positions” availability and NEEDs are very important
          For example, Nat Butcher is a Lock, middle player, Souths have an abundance of middle players

          Grant Garvey is a Hooker but at that stage, we had Issac Luke and Cameron McInnes who was the Australian Junior Kangaroos Captain both ahead of him.
          Garvey went to the Rorts because he didn’t see himself making Souths First Grade team at that time.
          As Hookers before him, George Ndaira, Beau Falloon, Nathan Peats, Apisai Koroisau and James Segeyaro all left Souths for the same reason.

          In 2016 and Beyond Souths need Fullbacks and Wingers mostly that is why Souths have now invested money into players such as
          Fullback Dylan O’Connor, NSW CCC, Mascot Jets
          Wingers: Campbell Graham, Aust Schoolboys, Coogee Wombats
          Tyrone Taukamo, NSW CIS, Emerging NSW Blues, Matraville Tigers,

          Tyrone Taukamo is that Massive winger/Centre who played in the Australian schoolboys with the Cowboys/Knights Kaylen Pongia!

    • “Nat Butcher is absolutely amazing for Roosters”

      Don’t push it H2R. You know the fact that he is a recently poached Souths junior is still a sore point for all Rabbitohs supporters.


      “why Penrith ever let that guy anywhere near their club is mind boggling”

      You forget the history mate. The big Super League war when Murdoch tryied to destroy the ARL to control the game. The Panthers jumped ship to Super League and Gus Gould and Brad Fittler stayed loyal to the ARL (along with Rabbits Warren, Sterlo and Fatty Vautin). This is one thing that Fittler got right and I can respect him for it. Deep down I think you can as well. 😉

      “Name me a South Sydney local legend that’s under 50”

      @H2R, the sad truth is mate that the changing demographic of the inner-city suburbs where the Rabbitohs and Roosters draw their boundaries mean that there are fewer and fewer young families than there were in the past as they all move to the outer suburbs. Penrith, Parramatta, Campbelltown, these outer areas are the big winners for burgeon junior talent. Feeder clubs that have no geographic ties to the regions they support are the current way forward so it is unlikely there will be many more future champions grown in either of our backyards. Even less likely for the Roosters if Souths no longer support their junior development. Just a thought…

      • SSTID, thanks for clearing up the Fittler thing, but are you sure that is the real reason and not Easts money that turned him there? Didn’t super league start way after Fittler went to Easts? please explain, if what you say is true the i have a whole new respect for Fittler.

        • I gained a new respect for not only Fittler but also Sterlo, Fatty Vautin, Ray Warren and Phil Gould who were all very vocal at the time against the whole SL concept. It could have gone the other way and they would have found themselves out of the game but they took a stand and never waver.

        • penso, I answered this under another post (along with link (URLs) to support this:

          3hats January 10, 2017 at 8:55 am
          Brad Fittler joined the Roosters in 1996.

          but this post is currently awaiting “moderation” so I will summarise…

          SSTID_1970 January 10, 2017 at 9:50 am
          Your comment is awaiting moderation

          Just to clarify, Fittler may have joined the Roosters in 1996 but it was as a direct result of the Panthers decision to join Super League which did not happen over night but began way back in April 1995!

          “Penrith signed (to join Super League) on 3 May (1995).”

          “A new competition, to be called Star League, was announced on 1 April 1995”

          “(Fittler was) Penrith’s most capped Test player but chose to leave the club when the Panthers joined Super League in 1995.”

          The Super League war began in earnest back in November 9, 1994 when, “ARL sends five-year loyalty agreements to clubs for urgent signing by players.”

          “meetings took place between News representatives and those clubs on 13 and 18 April 1995.”

        • Thanks SSTID appreciate you letting me know this as now i do have more appreciation and respect for Fittler.

          PS the level of people who think Souths won’t be any good this year astounds me, sure everyone deserves an opinion, and that is what this site is about, but seriously look forward to saying to them, i told you so, and that will be most satisfying.

        • In addition to this, I am sure Fittler went to the Roosters as his ARL club due to the fact that Gould was there and had coached him at Penrith. While money would have played a part, he was loyal to Gould, along with the ARL.

          When you talk about loyalty, you cannot forget the Johns brothers. Fittler and the Johns brothers proved to be the biggest gets for the ARL at the time, with the Johns’ knocking back big money to stay with the ARL. All three of these guys have gone on to be pretty ‘loose’ in their post footy careers, and people are divided on their opinions of them, but you cannot deny that they showed tremendous strength of character during the Super League war.

      • Souths Juniors at Kingsford Invest $3M into Junior Rugby League development, overall.
        The majority is in our own territory plus Souths also invest into schools in the Campbelltown Area, Mullumbimby, Coffs Harbour and also in some schools in Brisbane.
        Souths also invest in many of the Aboriginal communities in NSW Country areas.

      • Brad Fittler joined the Roosters in 1996.
        The ARL started to sign Individual Players to playing contracts in 1995.

        By 1995 Fittler was the world’s highest-paid rugby league player, reportedly earning $1.05 million for the season.
        This was during the period of the Super League war when player payments rose to previously unheard of levels as both the Australian Rugby League (ARL), backed by media billionaire Kerry Packer, and the rebel Super League (SL), backed by News Ltd., signed up players for (in some cases) double or triple their previous contracts.
        Fittler signed with the Australian Rugby League, as Penrith as a club signed with Murdock, Fittler then joined the SCUM of the earth!

  5. Thanks for clearing a few of the points up for me @SSTID as I had little knowledge of the “why’s” when it comes to Roosters, Bunnies junior base. And I may be wrong but what year did Roosters poach Butcher… 2014? Or 2015

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