It’s got to be one of the most exciting things about the NRL — seeing who will be the exciting new player of the season. Take a look at our pick for the NRL rookies of the 2021 season — one for each club.
Keenan Plasia – Brisbane Broncos
Injuries curtailed Plasia’s debut season, but he’s back again with the Lions this year. Look out for him in the second row.
Harley Smith-Shields – Canberra Raiders
Smith-Shields has already played twice at centre for Canberra. With injuries in the squad, the Raiders may well be calling upon the 21-year-old once again.
James Roumanos – Canterbury Bulldogs
Lebanese international James Roumanos has been turning heads with the Sharks’ junior side for quite a while, but with the Bulldogs, that rookie is likely to make a big impact.
Luke Metcalf – Cronulla Sharks
Playing at fullback or halfback, Metcalf is a stiff competitor for established Cronulla custodian Will Kennedy.
Darius Farmer – Gold Coast Titans
Darius Farmer has made an extraordinary journey already after being diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2019. Now, the second row New Zealand under-18s international is ready to show the NRL what he can do.
Josh Schuster – Manly Sea Eagles
Five-eighth Josh Schuster impressed hugely on his debut for the Sea Eagles last season. Schuster will need to impress again this season if he is to break into the Manly side in the long term.
Aaron Pene – Melbourne Storm
A little older than most of the other names on this list, Aaron Pene will turn 26 in September, but it’s certainly not too late for the prop to make an impact. Pene has already appeared for Melbourne Storm in the final round of last year’s regular season and is hungry for more game time.
Rocco Berry – New Zealand Warriors
Rocco Berry has been hampered by injury but has a blistering turn of pace on his day. Rocco’s father, Marty, is a former New Zealand international, and the young fullback, who can also play centre, may well follow in Dad’s footsteps.
Dominic Young – Newcastle Knights
Still only 19, Dominic Young hails from the United Kingdom and has experience playing for Super League side Huddersfield. Time will tell whether the imposing centre will have what it takes to cut it in the NRL 2021 season, but early signs suggest he does.
Kane Bradley – North Queensland Cowboys
Kane Bradley is a recent arrival at the Cowboys, having been picked up from Wests Tigers in January. The backline in Townsville has been shaky at times, and this could lay the foundations for an interesting debut season for the winger.
Samuel Hughes – Parramatta Eagles
How much does a rookie NRL player earn? Well, since 2018, there has been a minimum wage of $70,000 for all players in the squad of 30. For Eels prop, Samuel Hughes, however, he may be expecting to earn some way beyond that in the not-too-distant future. The 111kg youngster is certainly one to watch in 2021.
Charlie Staines – Penrith Panthers
Breaking into the backline at Penrith is no easy task, but Charlie Staines certainly staked a bold claim with six tries in two games for Panthers last season. A hamstring injury curtailed his progress, but he’s back this year — stronger, older and wiser than ever.
Brock Gardner – South Sydney Rabbitohs
21-year-old Brock Gardner did not feature for the Rabbitohs last season, but alterations to the South Sydney lineup for this season could change that. Gardner will be looking to feature in the Rabbitohs’ second row this year.
Cody Ramsey – St. George Illawarra Dragons
Matt Duffy is the Dragons’ current fullback, but the strong and highly capable youngster Cody Ramsey will be pushing him for the shirt. Ramsey has just turned 21 and has a degree of NRL experience, scoring two tries on his debut against Canberra last season.
Sam Walker – Sydney Roosters
Who is the youngest NRL player this season? It looks likely to be this guy. Walker doesn’t turn 19 until June, but the Sydney halfback represents a major coup for the Roosters.
Jake Simpkin – Wests Tigers
The Tigers have a history bringing through solid hookers, and this year it could be the turn of Jake SImpkin — a former Queensland junior — to wear the mantle of “next big thing”.
Who is your pick for Rookie of the NRL 2021 season?
There are plenty of rookies out there. While we’re confident some of our picks are going to break through this year, there are probably a few we’ve overlooked. Who would you include in your rundown of the hottest prospects?