Caleb Aekins (top left), Reece Robson (bottom left) and Gehamat Shibasaki (right) are set for breakout seasons.
Caleb Aekins (top left), Reece Robson (bottom left) and Gehamat Shibasaki (right) are set for breakout seasons.

SuperCoach NRL: Top 10 young guns revealed

EVERY year the chase to unearth the NRL's hottest rookies gets more intense.

Last summer we told you about the likes of Jesse Ramien, Zac Lomax and AJ Brimson waiting to make their mark.

So who will it be in 2019? Paul Crawley rates his Top 10 young guns - excluding those who have already played more than three NRL games.

 

COREY ALLAN (South Sydney)

SuperCoach price: $168,100

No wonder Alex Johnston was nervous about what position he'd be playing in 2019. Not only does Johnston have Greg Inglis to look out for, but some of the best judges in the game agree 18-year-old Allan could be anything in the next few years. Came down from Brisbane on a three-year deal and is like a stick of dynamite waiting to explode. Mal Meninga thought so highly of him that he gave Allan a start in the Prime Minister's XIII even before he had made his NRL debut.

Corey Allan is a talented fullback.
Corey Allan is a talented fullback.

CALEB AEKINS (Penrith)

SuperCoach price: $217,100

The Panthers production line just keeps rolling them out. Aikens is awesome in the back field but the question is going to be how Ivan Cleary fits them all into his team. Aikens played one NRL game in 2018 and ran for a staggering 277m, and he averaged 190m a game on his charge to the Intrust Cup player of the year. There is one slight problem: Dylan Edwards is still to return from injury and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will have something to say about who wears the No.1 jersey in 2019.

SCOTT DRINKWATER (Melbourne)

SuperCoach price: $219,400

We first mentioned this former Australian Schoolboys halfback in our rookie list coming into 2016, but perhaps we got a bit ahead of ourselves. He has had only one NRL start to this point but the fact the 21-year-old was off contract in 2019 yet decided to stay at the Storm tells me Craig Bellamy has plans for him now Billy Slater has retired. That could be at fullback or five-eighth, depending on where Cameron Munster wants to play. He has explosive speed and all the skills. A good judge reckons Drinkwater is the most naturally gifted young half in the game.

Scott Drinkwater on debut for Storm last year.
Scott Drinkwater on debut for Storm last year.

STEFANO UTOIKAMANU (Parramatta)

SuperCoach price: $168,100

This is out of left field but I have it on good authority this teenage prop is ready to rumble with the big boys. If you want an idea of how he plays, think Billy Kikau from Penrith. They say he's a little bit loose in defence, but get out of his way when he runs the ball. Massive and mobile, he weighs 115kg - and it's not puppy fat. Missed the best part of his senior years at high school due to two shoulder injuries but stood out in NSW Cup this year at 18, playing in the middle.

Parramatta Eels rookie forward Stefano Utoikamanu.
Parramatta Eels rookie forward Stefano Utoikamanu.

REECE ROBSON (St George Illawarra)

SuperCoach price: $181,100

This is how it was told to me: there are two young hookers coming through to keep an eye out for - one is Blayke Brailey from the Sharks and the other is this Robson kid from the Dragons. Not unlike Cam McInnes in that he is as tough as nails and gives great service from dummy half. But the trouble for the Dragons is this Junior Kangaroo is so promising the club is going to have to make a decision on whether they keep him or McInnes in the not-too-distant future. And they love McInnes. Several clubs are already sniffing around Robson, including the Eels.

BLAYKE BRAILEY (Cronulla)

SuperCoach price: $168,100

Imagine the Brailey household at Christmas. You've got two kids who want the Cronulla No. 9 jumper and someone is going to end up disappointed. Take in out to the backyard, boys. I'm telling you, while Jayden has been outstanding for the Sharks, he's going to be up against it trying to keep his kid brother at bay. A bloke who really keeps a close eye on the young footballers describes Blayke Brailey as "Josh Hodgson-esque". Enough said.

Blayke Brailey for Newtown Jets, Cronulla’s feeder team.
Blayke Brailey for Newtown Jets, Cronulla’s feeder team.

GEHAMAT SHIBASAKI (Brisbane)

SuperCoach price: $196,900

Grew up in Townsville wanting to be the next Greg Inglis. He was the Junior Kangaroo centre partner of Zac Lomax in 2018 after making his debut for Brisbane against North Queensland. We already know that the Broncos have some really outstanding young forwards coming through - and Shibasaki leads the charge in the backs.

DYLAN BROWN (Parramatta)

SuperCoach price: $168,100

You know how they always joke about Parramatta still chasing a halfback to step out of Peter Sterling's shadow … well, that's how it was put to me recently when it was revealed the Warriors were chasing young Brown to be Shaun Johnson's long-term replacement. That Brown finally could be the one. Of course, he plays nothing like Sterling. Originally hailing from New Zealand, he came to Australia as a 15-year-old. Super-fast and skilful, he has a great show-and-go and left-foot kick. Don't worry Eels fans, Brown is contracted until the end of 2020.

ALBERT HOPOATE (Manly)

SuperCoach price: $168,100

Watch YouTube clips of this young Hopoate in action and it's no wonder people are saying Albert has the potential to go past where his older brother Will was at the same age. With size, strength and athleticism, this teenage sensation has already won a spot in Des Hasler's top 30 squad for 2019. Now the word coming out of Manly pre-season is Albert is lifting jaw-dropping weights in the gym, and one thing that won't hold him back is a fear of mixing it with the men. The debate is when, not if, Albert busts his way into top grade.

JOCK MADDEN (Wests Tigers)

SuperCoach price: Yet to be added

We already know about the potential of young halves such as Kyle Flanagan, Jake Clifford and Sean O'Sullivan, and here's one to write in your black book. Not for 2019 but more likely 2020 and beyond. Madden was captain on the recent Australian Schoolboys tour and what he has in common with the great playmakers is that rarest of gifts - time. Grew up in the Hunter Valley town of Scone and was really starting to make an impression in the junior reps at Newcastle before the Tigers swooped with an NRL development contract.

 

News Corp Australia


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