Most of the talk this off-season has been about the coaching changes as well as high profile players swapping clubs, stepping closer to the pre-season trials with a few upcoming young players poking their heads into the starting sides. We take a look at the five best young talents that will feature in the NRL for 2019.
5. Albert Hopoate
A new coach (Des Hasler) and a new make-up of the backline is imminent for the Manly Sea Eagles going into this season. A few headaches involving a lot of quality young talent that has been groomed through their ranks have now put a lot of existing backs for the Sea Eagles on notice. Albert Hopoate is one of the young stars that has come from a rugby union and a junior league background, with the famous last name to potentially line up for Manly in 2019; primarily a fullback at lower grades his speed and brutal tackle-breaking ability like his siblings has him in a prime position to take a wing spot in an evolving northern beaches outfit. We will no doubt see Hopoate feature this season with the concerns for depth at the club, but also the sheer X-factor that Albert possesses will be hard to ignore.
4. Bronson Xerri
Having represented the Cronulla Sharks in grades leading up to the Intrust Super Premiership, Bronson Xerri was earmarked by former coach Shane Flanagan as a starting side player this coming season. Moving into the Sharks’ top 30 squad for 2019 and with departures in veteran and key players at the club, there is no better season for Xerri to make his debut in first grade; he’s a booming centre prospect that could push for a spot in even the second row or bench with a hard edge running style that records many tries, linebreaks and tackle busts. A few players with more experience are touted as better options if a backline role becomes available but don’t be surprised if Bronson makes his claim in the squad in the early to later rounds if injuries or form slumps occur.
3. Dylan Brown
After a horrible 2018, a fresh-looking halves pairing is taking shape for the Parramatta Eels this season. Dylan Brown has made his claim for the five-eighth role alongside halfback Mitchell Moses to try and lead the Eels back to more winning ways. In the first hit-out of the season, he produced some promising signs that fans can begin to be excited about. Brown’s running game is a constant worry for the opposition in the lower grades and against the Raiders in their trial, but what also is impressive is the composure of his kicking game and the options he takes with what’s in front of him on the field. Dylan will start the season with Moses as an assisting playmaker to help guide the Eels out from the trenches of previous years.
2. Adam Keighran
The New Zealand Warriors are another NRL side coming into 2019 with a new halves pairing, with Adam Keighran being picked up from the Penrith Panthers ISP side to now play alongside veteran Blake Green. This young talent has played with Nathan Cleary and Cameron Murray in Australian Schoolboys but has yet to start in first grade until this year. Keighran will assume the role of five-eighth; last season in reserve grade he scored 10 tries while also converting 81 goals as a left foot kicker – with the departure of Shaun Johnson they will be desperate for an experienced kicker. Don’t be surprised because of his slightly longer journey to the NRL that he handles himself quickly and helps the Warriors’ fortunes earlier than many other rookies would have.
1. Corey Allan
A Brisbane product, Corey Allan has been within the Broncos system from under 20s through to playing club footy for Souths Logan Magpies last season. In a remarkable turn of events, Allan was picked in the Prime Minister’s XI end of the year in 2018 having not played a single NRL game; soon after he was wrapped up by South Sydney to help bolster their fullback and backline for the coming season, under none other than former Broncos coach Wayne Bennett. The best attributes of Allan at fullback is his strong and hardball running close to the line off shifting plays from the halves; he can also produce tackles on the goal line or edges which will be valuable for the Rabbitohs. Allan will no doubt be seen in South Sydney colours this season with questions surrounding the fullback spot, but also with wing positions yet to be decided it’s a great opportunity that this new rising star will likely take with both hands.