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The NRL's young guns

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15th August, 2020

I recently posted an article about the NRL’s golden oldies and was surprised to find there are currently around 60 players aged 30 or over running around in the NRL. These guys are the survivors.

But I was equally surprised to see there is only about half that number of players currently aged 20 or under who already have first-grade experience. Interestingly, nearly two-thirds of these young guns play in the backs.

Obviously to make it as a forward at that age requires a considerable amount of physical development and maturity just to survive. The backs have it a little easier.

Here’s a team of young guns with NRL first-grade experience who would pose a problem for any opposition.

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1. Tex Hoy (20)
A very talented player who has come through the Knights system and NSW under-20s to be now knocking on the door for a permanent spot in first grade.

2. Xavier Coates (19)
An absolute flyer and one of the biggest wingers in the game. He has already represented PNG.

3. Bradman Best (19)
A Woy Woy junior who already has eight first-grade tries for the Knights to his name. An absolute attacking weapon.

4. Zac Lomax (20)
A classy attacking centre and goal kicker who has played around 30 first-grade games. One of this year’s few shining lights in the Dragons team.

Zac Lomax of the Dragons warms up

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

5. Stephen Crichton (19)
Another big body who has exceptional footwork and the ability to find the line. He could be anything.

6. Dylan Brown (20)
Now in his second year in the first grade and plays well above his years. He is New Zealand born, so expect to see him in a Kiwis jersey in the near future.

7. Tom Dearden (20)
A talented halfback who now appears to have established himself in the Broncos first-grade side.


8. Payne Haas (20)
One of the biggest forwards in the game, and he can also play big minutes. Incredibly he has already notched up appearances for Australia and New South Wales as well as some 40 first-grade games for the Broncos.

9. Cory Paix (20)
A clever hooker who also has experience in the halves.

10. Moeaki Fotuaika (20)
incredibly he is now in his third season in the first grade for the Titans, with some 50 appearances in first grade. Moey sure does take some stopping!

Moeaki Fotuaika

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

11. David Fifita (20)
An absolute freak and possibly the next superstar. He runs like a back and has terrific footwork for such a big unit. He has already represented Queensland and has racked up around 40 first-grade games for the Broncos. The sky’s the limit.

12. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (20)
Another absolute giant. Tino has already represented Samoa, played around 20 first-grade games for the Melbourne Storm, and will be linking up with David Fifita at the Titans next year.

13. Tom Gilbert (20)
A likely customer who has cracked the Cowboys first-grade team this year after representing Queensland at under-18 level.


14. Matt Burton (20)
A rangy, talented back from Dubbo currently in the long talent queue at the Panthers. He can play!

15. Oregon Kaufusi (20)
An Australian junior representative with a big future who made his first-grade debut for the Eels in 2018.

16. Teig Wilton (20)
Impressive Sharks back-rower who has represented Australia at the junior level and has captained NSW in the under-20s State of Origin.

17. Tom Flegler (20)
Another giant with a big motor who is in his second season with the Broncos with nearly 40 first-grade appearances to his credit.

These players have all the size, skill and pace required for long and successful NRL careers, and it will be exciting to watch their future development.

No doubt there will be another batch to take their place next year, so the future of the NRL looks assured as long as this production line continues.