Here are six players who made a serious impression during their first season in Super League.
Lachlan Coote (St Helens)
With two pieces of silverware and a place in the Super League Dream Team to his name, it’s safe to say that 2019 has been an impressive year for Coote. The Scotland international showed his quality right from the start and proved to be a key component in Justin Holbrook’s title-winning side. The 29-year-old produced 14 tries and 22 assists in Super League; only team-mate Jonny Lomax had a higher combined total last season. The Great Britain end-of-season tour may not have gone exactly to plan for Coote, but it did nothing to detract from what a superb year it has been.
Luke Yates (Salford Red Devils)
Despite London suffering relegation to the Betfred Championship, there were still a number of players who stood out, none more so than front-rower Yates. The Australian made 1,211 tackles in Super League last year – bettered only by Hull FC veteran Danny Houghton – and also came second for marker tackles in 2019. The workhorse may have been unable to help keep the Broncos in the top division, but he will still be in Super League next year after signing a deal with Salford.
Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves)
As far as debut seasons go, Austin couldn’t have hoped for a much better introduction to life in England. The Great Britain international scored on debut against Leeds back in February, and went on to add a further 17 tries and 12 assists. The 28-year-old was crucial for Warrington’s hopes of silverware, and his presence was sorely missed when he was sidelined with an ankle injury. Having Gareth Widdop join him in the halves for 2020 will surely give Austin the platform to continue showcasing his talents going into the next campaign.
Konrad Hurrell (Leeds Rhinos)
Hurrell burst onto the scene with a serious of powerful displays early on in the season, and quickly developed into one of the toughest and most fearsome centres in the English game. The Tonga international bagged seven assists and 14 tries – four of which came during an impressive solo display against Hull KR in April – and also produced 138 tackle busts, fourth highest of anyone in the competition. To top off a standout debut season in Super League, Hurrell was selected at centre in the Super League Dream Team.
Kevin Naiqama (St Helens)
When Naiqama opened his Saints account 93 seconds into his debut against reigning Champions Wigan, it was only a sign of things to come. The Fijian flyer scored 17 tries in his first Super League season and ended the campaign with a place in the 2019 Dream Team. Naiqama also appeared in both major finals and helped Saints complete the League Leaders and Grand Final double.
Trent Merrin (Leeds Rhinos)
His time in the English game only lasted a season, but Merrin certainly made an impression, developing into a real enforcer in the Rhinos pack. After a slightly shaky start, the former Penrith Panther scored four tries in 28 appearances in all competitions and recorded a further 60 offloads, bettered only by Castleford’s Liam Watts. The Rhinos were clearly keen to retain Merrin’s services, but he will now return to Australia on compassionate grounds, having linked up with St George Illawarra Dragons on a two-year deal.