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Opinion

Your club's rookie to watch in 2022: Part 4

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Roar Pro
3rd January, 2022
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With my list complete, tell me, what do you think of the players selected and who have I over looked?

Click here to see Greg’s first three parts of the series. This is Part 4.

St George Illawarra Dragons – Michael Molo
The Dragons are the club that I’m most looking forward to seeing the young cubs develop in 2022. The likes of Tyrell Sloan, Junior Amone, Jayden Sullivan and the Feagai brothers all have limitless potential. They have also all had five or more first grade game and are thus no longer considered a rookie.

There is actually only one rookie player in their top 30, and another couple on development contracts. None of which I’d expect to see in first grade this season, nor do I have particularly high hopes for an overly successful first grade career. So, I have simply chosen the player I believe the most promising of the three, Michael Molo.

Younger brother of former Cowboy and fellow Dragons’ recruit Francis, Michael also plays in the front row. The 24-year-old was signed on a development contract for 2022 after a standout performance in the Norths Devils 2021 Q Cup premiership.

After several years as a bit player in the competition Molo capped a career best year, where he averaged 118m and 23 tackles with the match winning try in the grand final. If the Dragons forwards depth is tested in 2022, Molo is capable of doing a handy job for them.

South Sydney Rabbitohs – Lachlan Ilias
The departure of club captain and halfback Adam Reynolds from last year’s grand final side leaves a massive hole in the Rabbitohs’ side. The man tipped to fill the position is Lachlan Ilias.

Ilias was a standout junior in both rugby codes. He was an Australian Schoolboys rugby prodigy and member of multiple underage NSW rugby league teams.

Relationships with his former club Wests Tigers soured after complications following a serious broken leg at the end of 2017 saw the Tigers withdraw their offers to Ilias.

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 Lachlan Ilias of the Rabbitohs

Lachlan Ilias of the Rabbitohs (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Three months later Ilias was signed to the Rabbitohs. The following year he was playing alongside Blake Taafe and Josh Cook in their 2019 Jersey Flegg grand final triumph.

Despite COVID limiting Ilias to just 13 games since then, his development has not slowed and Ilias earned his NRL debut in Round 25 last year.

Not unlike the man he has replaced, Ilias is a smart controlling half, with a deceptive change of pace and an astute kicking game. A student of the game, Ilias reportedly made the most of the opportunity to learn from two of the best in Reynolds and Benji Marshall last year and will take those lessons in to 2022.

Sydney Roosters – Moala Graham-Taufa
After an injury-ravaged 2021 season, all the Roosters top 30 have first grade experience. A few of their younger players, only promoted into the 30 for this season, however retain their rookie eligibility.

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It may however take a similar injury toll for any of them to feature in the NRL this year. The player I have chosen most likely is Moala Graham-Taufa.

19-year-old Graham-Taufa is the least experienced Rooster, with just two minutes of first grade experience after getting on the field in round as the 18th man in Round 24 last year.

A quick, athletic winger and acrobatic finisher Graham-Taufa scored four tries in his five NSW Cup appearances for North Sydney in 2021. He does not shy away from the hard work, average 113m per game, but will need to further increase this work rate.

Despite the retirement of the Morris brothers and Ikuvalu changing clubs first grade opportunities will be hard to come by. Graham-Taufa will start the season behind the highly rated Suaali, and Smith, premiership recruit Momorovski as well as staples Tupou and Manu. Graham-Taufa will still be competing with veteran recruit Naiqama should an opportunity present itself.

Wests Tigers – William Kei
It is the host of young Wests Tigers forwards that excite me most however the ones likely to feature in 2022 have all played at least five games while others are probably still a year or two away from first grade.

The rookie Wests Tigers backs are a lot less exciting but with Adam Doueihi and Tommy Talau injured to start the year Zac Cini, Luciano Leilua and Moses Mbye all being moved there will be opportunity for a young back to step up. William Kei is one player who potentially could.

As a young player in the Eels system Kei was tipped for big things as a part of junior NSW sides. He is yet to fulfil that early promise while progressing through the Tigers’ Jersey Flegg and NSW Cup sides.

At 5’10 and 100kgs with deceptive pace and a strong fend Kei is a quality attacking centre. He will be competing with Asu Kepoa, James Roberts, English recruit Oliver Gildart and union convert Junior Tupou for a spot in the Tigers centres.

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