The Roar
The Roar


The real NRL rookies shining in 2016

The Roosters take on the Titans in the final round of the NRL. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Roar Guru
7th August, 2016
1406 Reads

The NRL Rookie wrapped up last week, with 24-year-old Lou Goodwin winning a contract with the Canberra Raiders.

While it was good to see a number of talented footballers pushing hard to achieve a second chance, the 2016 season has been playing out its own reality show, with a number of first-season stunenrs.

Here’s a look at some of this season’s shining first-years, some who are so good, you will have forgotten they are rookies.

Cody Walker (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
At the start of the year, if you were told Souths would unearth a player who would push Greg Inglis out of his fullback spot and Luke Keary out of the starting team altogether, you wouldn’t have believed it.

Sure, circumstance and poor form of other players presented Walker with an opportunity, but since coming into the team he has been sparkling in attack and tenacious in defence.

In a team where attitudes have been questioned, this is one player who has consistently put in 100 per cent effort.

Suliasi Vunivalu (Melbourne Storm)
Vunivalu has 17 tries from 13 games. What else do you need to know? And these haven’t been scored by catching the ball and falling over the line, either.

He’s great in the air, has blistering speed, and the ability to break a tackle before going on a long-range score.

Melbourne are known for turning rocks to diamonds, but Vunivalu has been a gem right from the start.


Ash Taylor (Gold Coast Titans)
When last year’s boom rookie Kane Elgey went down with an ACL injury in preseason, many were chalking the Titans up for the spoon by a long way.

Enter Ash Taylor.

Yes, I know he played ten minutes of a game last year before busting his hand, but I’m choosing to ignore that. In his first proper season, Taylor has shown game management skills beyond his years. An excellent short kicking game and a willingness to take on the line has seen this No.7 steer his team into finals contention.

No wonder the Broncos were sorry to see him go.

Latrell Mitchell (Sydney Roosters)
When Roger Tuivasa-Sheck departed for the Warriors, the Roosters pinned their fullback hopes on this teen sensation. He lasted one game on the wing (RTS had a whole season getting used to first grade on the flank) then into fullback.

Mitchell is a damaging back-field runner and devastating if presented with a broken defensive line. While his positional play needs some polish, and he’s now back on the wing, he remains a dangerous attacking prospect.

Imagine how hard he will be to stop when his body matures a little more.

James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers)
While most of the rookie wraps have gone the way of his teen teammate Nathan Cleary, Fisher-Harris has been quietly becoming a gun second-rower.


Hard hitting in defence, he has also scored four tries this year due to an ability to run a good line and showing fearlessness when meeting the defence.

In a game where forwards develop more slowly, Fisher-Harris has looked the goods from the start.

Other notable debutants include Nathan Cleary getting plenty of wraps at Pentrith, John Aloiai becoming a fixture in the pack for the Tigers, and you could name half the Knights side, starting with the Saifiti brothers.

2016 has unearthed some fabulous first-year footballers. So Roarers, who are your favourite NRL rookies?