Valentine Holmes

Following what was unfortunately a negative thought last week regarding the new and ‘improved’ World Club Challenge series, I wanted to counter with a more positive piece.

The following are ten young players I am personally looking forward to seeing play NRL football this season.

Although there is no set criteria, I opted not to include the likes of 22-year old Boyd Cordner, whose talents we are all well and truly aware of, but instead to focus on players you may have heard of, but those who will improve their stock in 2015.

I believe all the below will at some stage play NRL this season, although perhaps not right away. This is not a list of the ten best youngsters in the game, but the top ten I will be looking out for this season.

Of course many will miss out, and we’d love to hear who you believe will tear it up in 2015.

10. Tevita Pangai (Raiders)

The 19 year-old, second rower, is likely to make his NRL debut at some stage this season after a strong nine’s campaign. The younger brother of Moses Pangai represented the junior Kangaroos against the Junior Kiwis late last season and has drawn comparisons with fellow Raider wrecking ball Josh Papalii.

9. Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles)

If not for a horror run with injury, the 21 year-old almost certainly would have added to his one NRL appearance for the Sea Eagles. A massive unit despite his young age, the former Australia schoolboy could force his way into the Eagles pack this season after the retirement of Jason King and departure of George Rose.

8. Tepai Moeroa (Eels)

Look for 19 year-old Moeroa to feature early for the Eels this season. Although he has played nine NRL games, there are much, much bigger things in this exciting youngster’s future. A member of the 2014 Holden Cup team of the year, he could be one of the young stars in 2015. Will likely play from the bench, but look for a huge impact from this equally huge second rower.

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7. Euan Aitken (Dragons)

Was overlooked for World Club Challenge duties, but should feature at some time in 2015, either at centre or on the wing. A member of the Junior Roos, Aitken did more than enough in the Charity Shield to suggest he is ready for an NRL spot this season. Has some pretty big wraps, but his form in pre-season indicates he may just be worth it, and then some.

6. Jack Bird (Sharks)

Announcing himself with an excellent Auckland Nine’s campaign, 19 year-old Jack Bird is set for a huge season in the Shire. A back rower in the juniors, he’s likely to play centre if called upon at the Sharks, although his future may lay in the backline once he matures physically. Dragons’ fans are still furious the club allowed such a talented youngster to cross the bridge. Has represented NSW and Australia at multiple junior levels.

5. Mitch Cornish (Raiders)

Canberra may have missed out on some big-name signings last season, but in 22 year-old Mitch Cornish, they have a real potential star on their hands. He showed enough in his eight NRL appearances in 2014 that he has the tools to be something special. If allowed the time to develop and form a partnership with Blake Austin, Cornish could be a jewel in the long-term crown in the capital.

4. Bryce Cartwright (Panthers)

Cards on the table, I am a big fan of Bryce Cartwright. At only 20 years of age, this young second rower could be anything. Played seven games in 2014 before succumbing to injury, he is almost certain to be there in round one, if fit. The 2013 NYC player of the season, Cartwright big, fast, and super athletic. A huge season awaits the Panther’s junior.

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3. Sione Mata’utia (Knights)

It’s hard to imagine just how good this kid can be, being that he has already represented the Kangaroos despite only playing seven NRL games. 18 year old Sione Mata’utia has a try for every NRL game he has played, to go along with his three Kangaroo caps. A former Australian schoolboy’s captain, Mata’utia has it all. I Just hope he can keep his mind on the footy as his contract is up at the end of the season, and he’s sure to be in big demand, especially at Belmore.

2. Solomone Kata (Warriors)

If you hadn’t heard of 19 year-old Somolone Kata prior to the Auckland Nines, well you certainly have now. A possible centre combination with Konrad Hurrell is downright scary, especially considering Manu Vatuvei will be on the wing. Man of the match in the Warrior’s NYC Title win last season, Kata will play NRL this season, it’s just a matter of when. Will be brimming with confidence after his efforts at the nines that earned him a team of the tournament spot.

1. Valentine Holmes (Sharks)

There is some amazing talent on this list, but in my view, none is more exciting than 19 year-old Valentine Holmes. The junior Kangaroo scored three tries in his six NRL appearances in 2015, and had a hand in a few more. Should start on the wing in round one of the Sharks after a brilliant Nines campaign. A potential combination with fellow Junior Kangaroo Jack Bird could eventuate at some time during the season. Possibly the most exciting youngster to emerge from the Sharks junior ranks in many, many years. Will score some highlight tries this season.