Predicting the career of the next great NRL superstar
Love it or hate it, one of the great features of Rugby League Live 4 is the opportunity to choose a current NRL player and play out their career. The current competition features an array of young talent who have the opportunity to drive the game forward and become the next generation of superstars. However, who will be the player that when all is said and done we will look at as being on the same level as today’s legends Cameron Smith, Jonathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk?
It is impossible to talk about the future greatest player without talking about the man who is currently considered to be the 2017 rookie of the year.
Nick Cotric has set the league on fire with his dominant running game, his ability to find the try line and his safe hands under the high ball. These skills were all on display in last rounds game against the Rabbitohs where he scored his 13th try for the year and ran for an impressive 115 metres. With the ability to play anywhere in the back three, he has a chance to dominate the game for many years to come.
But will this be at Canberra?
Cotric’s dominant displays on the field mirror those of past Raider’s juniors Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson, both players who left to play elsewhere. Could Cotric be the next player to break his hometown’s hearts? Or will he become a Canberra legend and lead his side to future success?
One of the most interesting careers to track will be that of North Queensland young gun Kalyn Ponga.
The 19 year old became just the sixth player since 1987 to make his NRL debut in a finals game when he ran out for the Cowboys in 2016.
Ponga showed he was not overawed by the situation producing a number of flashy plays and helping the team progress in the finals. In one of a few chances he has had in first grade in 2017, he turned in a man of the match performance scoring two tries against the Newcastle Knights, a team he will link with next year.
Ponga’s signing with the Knights could be the make or break of his future greatness. Having the opportunity to work alongside and be mentored by Jonathan Thurston surely would have given Ponga a headstart for future success. Instead, he has signed a lucrative contract with the Knights a team on the build and where he will have more responsibility as one of the club’s leaders and where his performance will have a massive bearing on his club’s success.
Could this pressure at such a young age be the making of Ponga? Or will it prove to be too much?
If you were looking at the safest bet of the current crop of young talent to hit super stardom, my money would be on Ashley Taylor.
Matthew Johns has even come out and labelled him as the man who will take the baton from Jonathan Thurston as the next great halfback.
In his first full season in the NRL, Taylor managed to guide the Titans to the finals when many league experts believed that a finals spot was well out of reach for the side before a ball was kicked that year.
In that first year and now in the current season, he has proven to be one of the most consistent players in the competition and his ability to rise under pressure is in a class of its own.
The question won’t be will Taylor have future success it is where that success will occur. He currently faces the tough decision to pledge himself to the Titans and look at guiding them to a maiden NRL title in future years. Or return to play under the master coach Wayne Bennett who has a history for getting the best out of his players. Which option will be more influencial in guiding the future career of Ash Taylor?
Just as when one picks Lotto numbers, forecasting the weather or playing Keno it is impossible to decide with confidence just who will be the next best player in the NRL.
There are so many factors that influence a player’s career and so many things that can go both right and wrong to building success as an NRL player. The beauty of the NRL is that the next great player may be someone who we haven’t heard of toiling away in reserve grade waiting for their break.
Or it could be a young rookie who will burst on the scene when a side is facing an injury crisis. One thing that is for certain is that we are all blessed to follow a game that keeps producing such a tremendous levels of talent!