With the new Super League season just over a week away, Love Rugby League has looked at a player from each club who could enjoy a breakthrough year in 2024.
Every year we see players handed their first team debuts after progressing through the academy ranks at their respective clubs, and some we see thrive on the Super League scene a couple of years after making their first appearances.
Below, Love Rugby League have picked out a player from each club who we think could be in for their biggest and best year yet in first team rugby.
Castleford Tigers – Cain Robb
Robb has been in Castleford’s first team for a couple of years now, having made his debut in 2021.
The 21-year-old, who has 14 Castleford appearances to his name, is an exciting hooker who adds plenty of zip and energy to the Tigers attack when he enters the field.
Robb may be behind skipper Paul McShane and Papua New Guinea international Liam Horne in the pecking order at the start of the season, and may even head out on dual-registration for some game time, but his talent is undoubted.
Catalans Dragons – Cesar Rouge
Rouge is regarded as one of the most exciting prospects in French rugby league right now.
The 21-year-old half-back is highly thought of at Les Dracs, having made his first team debut in 2021 after progressing through the youth ranks.
Rouge, who had a short spell on loan at Hull KR last season, made his international debut for France in 2022, representing his country in the World Cup that autumn.
With 12 first team appearances for Steve McNamara’s side under his belt, Rouge could be set for more regular game time in 2024 following the retirements of Sam Tomkins and Mitchell Pearce.
Huddersfield Giants – George Flanagan
The Giants signed George Flanagan Jr from Bradford for an undisclosed fee on a four-year contract ahead of the 2023 campaign.
Flanagan, who can play half-back or full-back, came through the ranks at the Bulls, making his first team debut at the age of just 17, where he played alongside his dad George Flanagan Sr.
The 19-year-old, who has been given the No. 32 jersey by head coach Ian Watson, has yet to make his Huddersfield debut, but we reckon he’ll have a good chance of pulling on the claret and gold this year.
Hull FC – Denive Balmforth
Balmforth is another player who has been around the first team environment for a couple of years, so it’s probably easy to forget he’s still only 20 years of age.
The Leeds-born hooker joined Hull from fellow Super League side Warrington in the early stages of the 2022 season, and has made four first team appearances for the Black and Whites so far.
Balmforth spent last season in the Championship on loan at Newcastle Thunder, making 26 appearances as the north east outfit suffered relegation to League 1.
Balmforth is a highly rated youngster in the game, so could we see him get more minutes for Tony Smith’s side this year?
Hull KR – Leo Tennison
The towering prop made his first team debut for Hull KR last August against Wigan following an impressive three-match loan stint in League 1 with Cornwall.
Tennison has been given the number 30 shirt by Robins coach Willie Peters for the upcoming season, and could well build on his solitary appearance in the KR first team.
The 19-year-old has a bright future ahead of him, and will gain a lot from training alongside seasoned pros in Jesse Sue, George King, Elliot Minchella and the like.
Leeds Rhinos – Alfie Edgell
The talented full-back has been with his boyhood club Leeds since he was 14, landing a first team contract ahead of the 2023 season.
Edgell was handed his first team debut by Rhinos boss Rohan Smith last September as well as being the 18th man on three occasions.
The 19-year-old has been handed the No. 29 jersey for 2024, and it’ll be interesting to see how he goes if given the opportunity this season.
Leigh Leopards – Ben McNamara
McNamara is one of the more experienced players in this list, with 33 Hull appearances to his name.
The 22-year-old made his first team debut for the Black and Whites in 2020, but will don a different coloured jersey this year after making a move to Challenge Cup winners Leigh in the off-season.
McNamara is expected to fill the void left by Joe Mellor at the Leopards, being used as a utility option from the bench as a hooker or half-back.
2024 could be a real breakthrough season for McNamara as he looks to become an established Super League player.
London Broncos – James Meadows
The 24-year-old half-back or full-back was part of London’s last team in Super League in 2019, but he was only a youngster back then, and this time he will be one of the most important players in Mike Eccles’ side.
It’ll be interesting to see how the mercurial playmaker gets on in the top flight this year.
Salford Red Devils – Amir Bourouh
The Yorkshireman, who is of French and Algerian heritage, is in for a huge year after being given the No. 9 shirt at Salford following the departure of England international Andy Ackers.
The 23-year-old is a hard-working hooker who gets through plenty of work in defence, and it’ll be good to see how he goes as Salford’s main hooker this season.
St Helens – Jake Wingfield
It feels a bit strange putting Wingfield in this ‘breakout’ feature given the fact he’s won a Grand Final – but 2024 could be the year the no-nonsense forward becomes a mainstay in the Saints pack.
The 22-year-old, who can play anywhere in the forward pack, has played 38 games in the Red V since making his first team debut in 2020.
Wingfield, who hails from Leigh, was limited to 10 appearances last season due to a shoulder injury. He is back fully fit and raring to go now though ahead of the new season so keep an eye out for Wingfield: he could make 2024 his own.
Warrington Wolves – Connor Wrench
Wrench is another player who many rugby league fans may know and be familiar with. The 22-year-old has scored 13 tries in 30 games for Warrington since making his first team bow in 2020.
The England Knights international has had a rough time with injuries over the last couple of years – but his talent can’t be questioned. If he can stay injury free, then Wrench could have a massive season for Sam Burgess’ side.
Warrington star and current England captain George Williams is also backing Wrench for a big year, saying: “He’s so good! I think when he realises how good he is, that’s when we’ll see Connor Wrench.
“This is a big call, but I think he’ll have a breakout year, and then we’re talking about an England centre, he’s so good, honestly. It’s a big rap, but I see it everyday, he can do things… He reminds me of Harry Newman a bit; explosive, fast. He’s talented, he just maybe needs a bit of confidence and a run of games.”
Wigan Warriors – Jacob Douglas
Douglas has yet to make his Wigan debut, but the 19-year-old winger has already spent time on loan in the lower grades with Whitehaven and Oldham.
The Lancashire Academy representative will more than likely start the season as a back-up to starting wingers Abbas Miski and Liam Marshall – but he has impressed in the recent pre-season friendlies.
Douglas, who hails from Oldham, is highly thought of at the Warriors, with his athletic build, speed and aerobic endurance already at a high level.