Newcastle Knights – Jaelen Feeney
Last season the Newcastle Knights won the NSW Cup thanks to the guidance of Jaelen Feeney. Feeney is a classy half with speed to burn. His tactical thinking and vision of the game set up a bundle of tries throughout the season. Feeney is third in-line for the first grade picture; behind Jarrod Mullen and new recruit Trent Hodkinson. The Knights will be looking to better their team in 2016 after “winning” the wooden spoon in 2015.
Canterbury Bulldogs – Tyrone Phillips
Where do I begin! This man is an athlete. Tyrone Phillips oozes first grade potential; fast, agile, strong and a menacing defender. In last year’s season Phillips scored 24 tries topping the tally for any player in 2015. The Bulldogs would love to see him play first grade but it will always come down to Des Hasler’s decision whether he will be picked in his specialist spot of right wing. Ahead of Phillips is International superstar Brett Morris.
North Sydney Bears – Cody Walker
The South Sydney Rabbitohs have a lot to cheer about when John Sutton decides to retire as the Bears have a cheeky half that shows immense skill with the ball. Cody Walker was instrumental last season for the Bears earning themselves a top 8 finish and finals berth. Walker’s kicking game is brilliant. He earned plenty of 40/20’s and beautifully placed his kicks for his wingers and fullback to score points.
Wyong Roos – Mitch Williams
Nick-named Captain Courageous, Williams personifies leadership. He is a classy hooker with a very high work rate. He has an efficient tackling technique and averages 25-30 tackles a game consistently. His season with the Roos was inspirational as they made their maiden grand final appearance. The Roosters on the other hand have a hooker that deserves to wear the number nine jersey when Cameron Smith retires – Jack Friend.
Wests Tigers – Kurtis Rowe
The flying winger had a great outing for the Tigers in the 2015 season. Kurtis Rowe ranked number two for the highest try scorer for the regular season behind Tyrone Philips. In 2016 Rowe has all the credentials to become a first grade player; he has great turn of foot, shows terrific footwork and knows how to find the try-line no matter the circumstance. First grade coach Jason Taylor will certainly be watching closely when the season starts in March.
Illawarra Cutters – Shannon Wakeman
The Cutters missed out on the eight last season. Their hardest worker Shannon Wakeman has the potential to become one of the best forwards in the game. He is consistent with his hit-ups and makes plenty of go forward every match. Wakeman works for most of the 80 minutes. He leads the forwards around with the experienced Russell Packer and hits hard in his tackles. The Dragons could certainly use another forward with the loss of Trent Merrin.
New Zealand Warriors – David Bhana
This man is what the Warriors need! David Bhana is a big, strong and mobile forward that can tackle and make plenty of metres. He is skill-full with the ball and can pass the ball to the left and right. Under the coaching tutelage of Warriors legend Stacey Jones, Bhana has been very dominating and hard to handle with his offloads and could be dangerous if he would make first grade for Shaun Johnson and new recruit Roger Tuivasa-Sheck playing off him.
Newtown Jets – Todd Murphy
Todd Murphy is certainly one of the standout players in the NSW Cup. Murphy has what a halfback needs: his great kicking game, elusive running game, electric passing game, quick thinking and great support play. The Cronulla Sharks should keep an eye on him when James Maloney possibly goes into origin duty in June. In 2015 Murphy had 15 try assists and 34 goals.
Penrith Panthers – Tupou Sopoaga
The Cook Island born, Tupou Sopoaga has added a lot of spark to the Penrith Panthers NSW Cup side since coming from Cronulla previously. This year the 23-year-old will look to play for Penrith in the first grade division. Sopoaga is very elusive, strong defender and is very good on his feet at his specialist position of lock. New first grade coach Anthony Griffin will certainly be watching intently if he impresses this season once again.
Wentworthville Magpies – Daniel Alvaro
Despite the Magpies finishing in last position last season, Daniel Alvaro was a shining light in the forward pack. The Parramatta Eels could certainly use him in their first grade side. Alvaro made 183 runs and 594 tackles for the NSW Cup season. In 2015 Alvaro had a taste of what it’s like as he played seven matches for the Eels. Alvaro’s performances last year in NSW cup proved that he deserves to be there permanently.
Manly Sea Eagles – Dom Reardon
Dom Reardon is an extremely underrated fullback. He deserves to fill the spot when Brett Stewart retires in a few years time. Reardon last year was extremely explosive with his kick returns and can show an amazing turn of foot. Reardon provided a great spark for Manly and helped to get his team into the eight in very difficult circumstances. Manly started the season with plenty of losses but managed to miraculously come back to secure a finals appearance. Manly were dominantly defeated by Newcastle in the first week of the finals.
Mounties – Stewart Mills
Winning the minor premiership last year, Mounties were dominant but when they got to the finals they couldn’t get it done. Mounties couldn’t do it without their experienced winger Stewart Mills. Mills a carpenter in his spare time has played first grade before for numerous other clubs. Mills can score plenty of tries and shows amazing athleticism. Ricky Stuart will certainly be watching where Mills could fit in the Canberra Raiders side for 2016. – Jesse Mullens