Top 13 players to watch closely during the 2019 NRL season

As an already action-packed Super League season gets into full swing, we turn our attention slightly to Down Under as the 2019 NRL season gets underway. 

Another year that all but certainly looks to provide even more breath-taking excitement. We have put together a list of players who will be worth keeping an eye on as the season continues…

John Bateman (Canberra Raiders)

The bruising second-rower joins a Canberra side that certainly has a few issues coming into the new season.

The unavailability of winger Jordan Rapana and the departure of Blake Austin to Warrington will certainly leave huge gaps within the Raiders. However, alongside England team-mate Elliott Whitehead and prolific centre Jarrod Croker, Bateman will certainly look to be the man that can help revitalise this side and take on this new and exciting challenge.

Shaun Johnson (Cronulla Sharks)

It is fair to say that seeing Johnson not in a Warriors jersey will probably take a good amount of time to get used to but good things must always come to an end as they say.

The New Zealand international recently joined 2016 NRL winners, Cronulla and it will be certainly interesting to see how well the half-back maestro fits into this new system.

Ryan Hall (Sydney Roosters)

Another new boy to the NRL but just like Bateman, has all the experience and talent necessary to make an instant impact down under.

The 2019 season will see the former Leeds winger sport the shirt of reigning champions, Sydney Roosters and seeing him slotting in alongside the likes of Boyd Cordner, James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, looks to be more than good enough to make a good few teams feel pretty nervous.

Kalyn Ponga (Newcastle Knights)

Now, where do we begin with this selection? A possible bonifide superstar in the making who joined the Newcastle Knights at the start of the 2018 season with what followed being nothing short of sensational.

After only one season with the Knights, Ponga cemented a spot at the full-back position providing a great deal of sheer offensive firepower that his opponents found hard to contain. The 2019 season brings with it a move to the halves and it will certainly be worth noting how a player with an already wildly talented skillset adjusts to this new role. The sky is certainly the limit for the youngster.

Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

A much-improved season from South Sydney in 2018 saw Cook provide the biggest of sparks with his creativity and dazzling runs from the dummy half position.

After helping the Rabbitohs reach the Grand Final last year, the 27-year-old will look to go that one extra step alongside his South Sydney team-mates and put forth more exceptional performances that saw him collect the Provan-Summons Medal alongside being included in top 10 votes for the Dally M Award in 2018.

Jamayne Isaako (Brisbane Broncos)

The 2018 Dally M Rookie of the Year made a stunning a start to his career with the Brisbane Broncos.

A blistering beginning that was so good it forced Darius Boyd to even switch to the centre position. The Broncos look to have a new star on their hands here as he will look to emulate his electric performances and accuracy with the boot over the course of the coming season.

Angus Crichton (Sydney Roosters)

A new year and a new Sydney club for the tough young forward who recently joined reigning champions Sydney Roosters from rivals and Grand Final opponents South Sydney.

The 23-year-old is stupidly talented and has all the tools necessary to play a major factor in the Roosters second-row with a great edge running ability. Overall, it is worth keeping an eye on how well he slips into a Sydney set up already boasting its line-up of stars.

Latrell Mitchell (Sydney Roosters)

We have already mentioned one potential superstar in the making but if this man’s 2018 was anything to go by then expect more fireworks during this new season.

It is fair to say the 21-year-old would not have exclusively been on many expert’s radar going into last season, but the Sydney Roosters’ goal kicking centre became hot property for the NRL Grand Final winners more and more as the season progressed.

Tom Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)

Now, many rugby league fans will already know Tom’s older brother and team-mate Jake, who has been an integral part of the Sea Eagles team since 2013 but the younger of the two has also proven to be a revelation since joining Manly in 2015.

A great 2018 season saw the 22-year-old earn his first call up to the NSW side, providing to be a crucial piece within the Blues squad. The combination ‘Turbo Tom’ has with his brother could most certainly be a crucial catalyst for Manly’s hopes this year.

Jesse Ramien (Newcastle Knights)

It may have come as to shock to many when the 21-year-old announced his intentions of signing for Newcastle before a ball was even kicked in 2018 but the promising centre went on to become one of the leagues hottest young talents in his final season with Cronulla.

Now, as Ramien begins life with the Knights could he take his game to a whole new level as he comes in besides the likes of Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce. Is 2019 the year that the league fears the Newcastle Knights once again?

Chanel Harris-Tavita (New Zealand Warriors)

The departure of Shaun Johnson from the New Zealand Warriors leaves not necessarily a hole but more a space the size of Yorkshire to fill.

However, it does mean the number six shirt is there for someone to claim. Although, Harris-Tavita faces competition from fellow rookies Hayze Perham and Adam Keighran many have dubbed the Junior Kiwi as Johnson’s potential successor. The 19-year-old displayed a freakish amount of talent during last years’ Intrust Super Premiership, showcasing a great deal of creativity and flair.

Bronson Xerri (Cronulla Sharks)

A player who can cause of a lot of trouble for an opposition’s defensive line made a name himself during Cronulla’s Jersey Flegg Cup win last year, with 12 tries in 17 appearances.

The Sharks coach, Shane Flanagan did suggest he would have handed him his debut last season but due to age restrictions was unable to do so. Now, 18, Xerri could easily slip into a vacant wing position for the NSW based team and even if by round one he isn’t able to secure that backline spot, it will still be a question of when and not if we will see the youngster in the NRL this season.

Zac Lomax (St. George Illwarra Dragons)

A St George side with no Jason Nightingale and Reuben Garrick will leave questions asked of the Dragons this upcoming season but it does mean that it is now much more plausible that Lomax will get starter duties out on the wing.

The 19-year-old is an incredibly versatile player, logging in time at the wing, centre and full-back positions and remains one of the most talked about rookies coming into the new year.

Notable mentions

Anthony Milford (Brisbane Broncos)
Luke Brooks (West Tigers)
Reuben Garrick (Manly Sea Eagles)
Adam Keighran (NZ Warriors)
Jake Clifford (North Queensland Cowboys)
Mitchell Pearce (Newcastle Knights)

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