80 young guns: Future Maroon stars revealed
Queenslanders are basking in the glory of watching a young 27 man squad littered with State of Origin rookies claim a series win over favourites NSW.
But behind his crop of thrilling prospects, who are our teens on the rise?
Queensland has NRL youngsters like Corey Horsburgh, 22, Ronaldo Mulitalo, 21, Enari Tuala, 22, Tom Gilbert, 20, Rueben Cotter, 20, Ethan Bullemor, 20, Tanah Boyd, 20, Jake Clifford 22, Xavier Coates, Pat Carrigan and Reed Mahoney, 22, already progressing, but what of the next generation of stars?
Below we present two lists, one the top tier prospects and a second list full of brilliant teenagers.
THE TOP TIER ROOKIES ON THE RISE
HAMISO TABUAI-FIDOW (Cowboys)
Paul Green's parting gift to the North Queensland Cowboys - and the Maroons - was daring to blood a lad first year out of the Kirwan SHS system. In an era of ultra conservative selections when it comes to rookies, good on him for having the bravery to pick Tabuai-Fidow.
SAM WALKER (Sydney Roosters)
The Ipswich Grammar School halfback is touted to be fast-tracked into the Sydney Roosters top squad at stages next season. From the famous Walker brothers' family, young Sam has all the skills and speed, but give the youngster time to develop. He may be from Ipswich, but not everyone is Allan Langer.
TOM DEARDON (Brisbane Broncos)
A little like Broncos team mate Tesi Niu (see below), Brisbane fans have not seen the best of the rookie No.7 given the unsettled nature of the side in the last two season. But rest assured he is a rookie on the rise, along with Titans TANAH BOYD who was really warming to the dummy half role with a developing Titans squad late last season.
JACK HOWARTH (Melbourne Storm)
Brisbane Boys College old boy Jack Howarth looks the real deal. A centre, he has success written all over him and is one of the safer bets to break through into the NRL via the Melbourne Storm over the next two seasons. There is even a touch of Tim Horan (Wallaby great) about him, which is saying something.
JOJO FIFITA (Gold Coast Titans)
Built like a brick outhouse but with pace, so much pace, Fifita is a thrilling prospect signed by the Gold Coast Titans. One of many exciting rookies snared by the Titans as they look to build from the ground up.
TESI NIU (Brisbane Broncos)
Don't let Niu's tentative NRL debut performances with Brisbane Broncos put you off. The kid was thrown into a shambles which may initially set him back, but watch for this Marsden SHS past student to rise. We are the organisation who years ago told you about Corey Allan and look how that has turned out. Tesi is fine, don't worry.
JAHREAM BULA (Keebra Park SHS)
Tall and long striding, Bula is a sleeping giant who has that ex-factor about him, a little like Xavier Coates and Israel Folau. Bula's Keebra Park SHS mate of 2020, TROY PENI, is another exciting outside back prospect. Both boys who would have been encouraged to see the progress of a Gold Coast rookie Xavier Coates this season.
XAVIER WILLISON (Palm Beach Currumbin)
A tall front rower out of the Palm Beach Currumbin SHS system who has so much skill, it is not funny. This kid is one to watch, but be patient with him because he plays the most physical position in the code and will need time. Signed by the Broncos.
REECE WALSH (Keebra Park SHS)
When you possess the pace Walsh has, then anything is possible for this thrilling fullback prospect and Queensland under 18 representative who is plying his trade in the Tweed Heads juniors. Signed by the Broncos.
JAYDEN CLARKSON (Wavell SHS)
Clarkson is a hard working front rower in the Jarrod Wallace or Ben Hannant mould. There is just something about this Wavell SHS old boy that makes you think he will come out the other side of the junior system. But give Clarkson and Queensland under 18 representative TRISTIAN POWELL (Burleigh Bears) time given they both play the most demanding position in the game. Clarkson is signed by Canberra who have fellow Queensland rookies like KEEGAN VANDENBERG and XAVIER SAVAGE (winger, see story below).
REECE HOFFMAN (Alexandra Hills SHS)
The former Queensland under 18 teammates of Xavier Coates has already made his NRL debut for the Wests Tigers. An outside back, Hoffman has emerged from the Alexandra Hills SHS Academy and Seagulls system alongside other Wynnum Manly players such JOHN RADEL and SELWYN COBBO who have been identified by the Queensland under 18 selectors, JAKE SIMPKIN and HARRISON GRAHAM.
TOM WEAVER (Palm Beach Currumbin SHS)
There must be something in the water at PBC given the number of quality halves the school has spat out across the last two seasons. Puppeteer Weaver, his five-eight from 2020 RYAN RIVETT and PBC's 2019 No. 7 TOBY SEXTON are three rippers. There is a touch of Wayne Lindenberg (Qld rep of the 1980s) about Weaver in terms of organising and ball play, while Rivett is an old style ball-playing No. 6 who moves while carrying the ball with both hands in front of him.
THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK PREDICTIONS
JACK BOWEN-BOWYER (BBC)
The Brisbane Boys College old boys is the nephew of legendary Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen who, in 2019, was named in BBC's team of the decade this year. The winger/fullback has signed with the Melbourne Storm. Two other Far North Queensland prospects are both Cowboys selections, HEILUM LUKI and RILEY PRICE who has been identified by the state under 20 selectors.
TC ROBATI (Marsden SHS)
He is a gun wide-running second rower who is signed to Brisbane Broncos after impressing in last season's Langer Cup campaign for Marsden SHS. He comes from the same school development program of Origin rookie Jaydn Su'a and is tough with strength and pace. Give him time, but he is a good one. His 2019 Marsden SHS teammate Tyrone Sa'u (Parramatta) is another to watch.
KLESE HAAS (Keebra Park SHS)
It was ever so tempting to place Haas in the top tier list. Unlike his powerkeg brother Payne, Haas is leaner and a wide running edge forward with the deft touches of a centre. Great signing by the Gold Coast Titans. Another past Keebra Park student, SEBASTIAN WINTERS-CHANG, has been drafted into the Queensland under 20 squad from Canterbury Bulldogs alongside Gold Coast Titans youngster IOANE SEIULI. Haas will also enjoy the company of two other Titans rookies, Iszac Fa'asuamaleaui, Tino's brother, and Sione Fotuaika, the brother of new Maroons forward Moeaki Fotuaika,
ADRIAN TREVILYAN (Kirwan SHS)
The Canberra Raiders have shown great judgment in sneaking under the noses of the North Queensland Cowboys to secure Kirwan SHS High hooker Adrian Trevilyan and his teammate, halfback BRAD SCHNEIDER. Trevilyan is a Queensland under 18s representative who won the 2019 Peter Sterling Medal at the National Schoolboys Championship.
ALOFIANAN KHAN-PEREIRA (Bears)
Khan-Pereira is a speed demon from the Burleigh Bears system, a real speed merchant. When you have pace like he has, anything is possible. Keep him in your little black book along with his Bears' teammate, prop SAMUEL SHANNON.
XAVIER SAVAGE (Palm Beach Currumbin)
You'd pay money to watch Reece Walsh, Alofianan Khan-Pereira and Savage in a foot race. Savage is a North Queensland native who came to PBC SHS via elite private school Brisbane Boys College. Another Raiders signing, he has sheer speed which makes him an enticing prospect. Another outside back from PBC, DAMON SOMERVILLE, is an exciting centre prospect.
XAVIER VA'A (St Mary's College)
He's a good kid, this one. From Johnathan Thurston's old school of St Mary's College, Toowoomba, Va'a hails from Carl Webb country in Dalby and is a wonderful product who will be playing in his third season of Langer Cup this year. St Mary's College trio BRAYDEN PAIX, SHAUN PACKER and BLAKE CESARI were also three rookies on the rise with the right pedigree who have come from the rich Darling Downs nursery. In addition, Va'a's Western Mustangs club mate KEANU WRIGHT-DUNROBIN (five-eighth), Roma's Cowboy selection BEN CONDON has also had his name circled by under 18 state selectors. But out of this crop, Va'a is the most eye-catching and the Broncos have a good prospects.
TRENT LOIERO (Sunshine Coast)
Powerhouse Loiero is a Melbourne Storm contracted forward from the Kawana club on the Sunshine Coast who has been hand-picked by Melbourne's recruitment aces. He gained valuable experience in the NRL Nines playing with the big boys.
EVANDER TERE-RONGOTAUA (Ipswich SHS)
Ipswich SHS trio Evander Tere-Rongotaua (Roosters), fullback DEIJION LEAGAIMAFA and JOSIAH PAHULU (Gold Coast Titans) are three to take note of. Tere-Rongotaua, in particular, is right on the money. A fourth Ipswich SHS past student, ATIVALU LISATI, spent the season at the Penrith Panthers. The backrower's sheer ability and his work ethic gives Lisati every chance of success. Throw into the mix Ipswich Jets forward JACK MARTIN and the former coal mining town of Ipswich continues to bring on outstanding young league talent.
JEREMIAH NANAI (Kirwan SHS)
Nanai and Kirwan SHS teammate TYREECE WOODS are fantastic prospects out of the champion Kirwan SHS system, Woods can play centre, fullback and five-eight with ease while Nanai is a barnstorming edge backrower. Nanai has numerous Townsville Blackhawks' teammates identified by Queensland under 18 and under 20 selectors including five-eighth JAKE BOURKE, menacing prop ABAI CHATFIELD-MOOKRA, fellow front rower ISAIAH VAILALO, fleet-a-foot RAGARIVE WAVIK and the highly skilled DAEJARN ASI.
GARRETT SMITH (Cowboys)
Mackay products GARRETT SMITH and Ignatius Park College half HENRI STOCKS and Moranbah's MICHAEL BELL were three outstanding players from Central Queensland. Smith, a Cowboys contracted front rower, is learning his trade playing with the men while Stocks is a 2018 Queensland under 16 Origin 2018 half who exhibits great leadership on and off the field.
OSKAR BRYANT (PBC SHS)
The brother of explosive Queensland cricketer Max Bryant is also a fast mover on the rugby league field, having been explosive at dummy half for Palm beach Currumbin SHS. The Gold Coast Titans have secured him. Another PBC junior, BRENDAN PIAKURA, is a left edge backrower from Palm Beach Currumbin who is in the Brisbane Broncos system after playing under 18 State of Origin for Queensland.
EDIQ AMBROSYEV (Tweed Heads Seagulls)
Like all special players, the Coomera Cutters junior rose to the occasion in the 2019 Mal Meninga Cup grand final to claim man of the match honours. Despite the disruptions of 2020, the young hooker was also recognised with under 18 state squad selection. He is one of several Tweed Heads players making inroads, including centre ISRAEL HIGGINS, impressive representative second rower BRENDAN PIAKURA, powerhouse
SOLOMON TORRENS, JUWAN COMPAIN, CARSIL VAIKAI and REECE WALSH mentioned earlier in this article.
PRINSTON ESERA (Wavell SHS)
PRINSTON ESERA and his brother CALEB ESERA were two exciting prospects under lock and key to the Canberra Raiders. Caleb, a rangy second rower, has left school but his brother will be playing his third season in the Langer Cup next season for Wavell SHS. A beautiful mover, a real rolls royce of centres, this kid Prinston Esera has got it.
TONEY FRANCIS (Marsden SHS)
Another Marsden SHS product, Francis is fiery, robust and tough. He plays centre with the vigour of a forward whose been on a diet of raw meat. Francis is a good prospect if he can keep his head.
LUKAS RIPLEY (Brisbane Boys College)
Luke Ripley is a Mackay-born, former Maroons Under-16s five-eighth is also an ex-State discus champ. Three other central Queensland boys, second rower JAKE BAIGRIE, prop RILEY HALL and halfback PEYTON JENKINS, (all from the CQ Capras), were worth noting in your black book of potential rookies.
TRYONE SA'U (Marsden SHS)
A Marsden SHS past student now with Parramatta, Tyrone Sa'U is a beautifully gifted five-eight or fullback who tackles above his weight in defence. Sa'U left Marsden SHS at the end of 2019, but the next generation at his old school can be glimpsed through Walters Cup centre Will Semu while fellow rookie centre Teapo Stoltman should also be better for his experience of playing Langer Cup as a year 11 student this year.
JAYDEN HUNT (Norths Devils)
Hunt is a stylish centre from Sandgate District SHS who can play. He and fellow Devils youngsters, ball-playing halfback JOSHUA JAMES , the powerful BROCCO UHRLE, prop BRAYTHEN PORTER and DAN ATKINSON were five of the best prospects in the Norths' system.
BYRON PARNELL (Nerang Roosters)
South Sydney contracted centre Byron Parnell and his Nerang Roosters club mate LACHLAN ADAMSON (hooker) have been earmarked for Queensland under 18 honours.
EZRA MAM (Souths Logan)
Man comes from the same club as Souths Acacia Ridge's most famous son, another playmaker in Cooper Cronk.
Originally published as 80 young guns: Future Maroon stars revealed