2015 definitely had a fair share of players busting out and stamping their mark on the NRL – bustling forwards such as the Dragons’ Tyson Frizell made claims for an Origin jersey while the quick feet of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck were able to literally step past any barrier, and do it in style. 2016 brings with it a crop of new big performers, from playmakers who want to step out of their partner’s shadow to young guns all ready to fire. This article is a four-part look at one player from each team ready to break out of the shadows in 2016
Kodi Nikorima has played for his country after barely playing ten minutes a game for the Broncos in 2015. This was not for his extreme performance in these ten minute stints, though by no means was he below the first grade standard, it was for a lack of depth in the New Zealand playmaking department. With Ben Hunt looking to get a spot in the Queensland team locked and with Anthony Milford not too far behind him, Nikorima should get a chance to string some games together in the number 7 for Brisbane.
Moses Mbye is going to have one of the more up in the air jobs in 2016: the halfback of the Bulldogs. Kris Keating and Trent Hodkinson have both come up short in recent grand finals, outplayed by the ultimate professional Cooper Cronk and challenger for state representation Adam Reynolds, respectively. This is not only a huge test for any player, but it is an especially huge test for a rookie with a halves partner as hot and cold as Josh Reynolds. Mbye will have to be at his best, providing he is then the Bulldogs are in the premiership mix. The fate of the club in 2016 is heavily on him.
Edrick Lee is perfect as an example of the modern winger – not only is he a giant but he is quick and powerful, surprising some with his selection as 18th man for the last State of Origin game for Queensland. His performances at the club level have ranged from “so close” to devastating and if he can find more of the devastating and less of the near misses he can go to the level of Semi Radradra as one of the league’s prime wingers.
Chad Townsend was not a strong performer during his time with the Warriors and was often criticised for not being a very good finisher or a closer of games; this was a prevalent issue for Warriors fans when their star playmaker, Shaun Johnson, was injured. Now with a more controlled playmaker, James Maloney, looking as the possible halves partner, Townsend’s control and all-round cool head should be able to be used how he’d like to, with a much more stable halves partner.