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Experts view: Which player will have breakout season?

Now that the NRL season is restarting on May 28, which player will make the biggest leap in 2020?

There are several young prospects at each club who have had a taste of first grade or have been in and out of their team over the past couple of seasons without hitting their peak.

The NRL.com experts have their say on which player will go from good to great this season.

Experts view

Zac Bailey (NRL.com reporter)

There are plenty of players who will have a breakout year, there always are. Stephen Crichton will be one of them. He has played six NRL games, but at 19 and 193cm tall, Crichton is one of the most athletic youngsters in the game.

He was impressive at Perth in the NRL Nines before he stared in round one, scoring a crucial try with his first touch against the Roosters, then making even more impact off the bench against the Dragons in round two. After that match, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary admitted he has “some thinking to do” and “Stephen's definitely going to be part of the [starting] team at some point”.

If Crichton keeps up his good form when the 2020 season resumes, the super-sub will force the coach’s hand sooner rather than later.

Round 3 top 5 fixtures

Jamie Soward (2010 premiership winner)

Kotoni Staggs: Fast, elusive and an out and out competitor. A great ball runner who can turn a half chance into a try. Strong defender who has already played rep footy for Tonga but will be in calculations for the Blues if he continues to develop.

Martin Lenehan (NRL.com senior journalist)

Jesse Arthars played a dozen games at the Gold Coast in 2019 but 10 of those were losses and he had limited chances to shine. Now the 21-year-old finds himself on the end of a high-class Broncos back line and he’ll get ample opportunity to show off his speed and finishing skills.

The Broncos are full of confidence and Arthars will be one of the big beneficiaries as Croft, Milford and Staggs make it sing.​

Troy Whittaker (NRL.com reporter) 

Judging from his backyard workouts on Instagram, Alex Twal didn’t lose any fitness during isolation. The strapping Wests Tigers prop - who averaged 123 metres and 48 tackles over the first two rounds - is primed to become an elite force with 56 NRL games now under his belt.

Round 4 top 5 fixtures

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)

In the 2019 finals, Billy Magoulias stood out with his performances in the Canterbury Cup grand final and the State Championship a week later to deliver victory to the Newtown Jets. Leading into this year, he had only played two NRL games and this will be a big season from the youngster who will be looking to fill the huge shoes of Paul Gallen for the Cronulla Sharks.

One of his key strengths is his versatility - he can also play hooker or five eighth.

Paul Suttor (NRL.com editor)

The Panthers have a potential superstar on their hands with Brent Naden. He has shown over the past 12 months he is more than capable of matching it with the best centres in the NRL and as well as brilliant attacking skills, he has the size and defensive prowess to become a dominant presence out wide.

Chris Kennedy (NRL.com reporter)

Young Warriors back-rower Eliesa Katoa went from "guy you’ve probably never heard of" to "guy you’ll be hearing a whole lot more about" in the space of his first two NRL games at the start of this season (as long ago as that seems now). Big, mobile, skilful, this 20-year-old Tongan should become a mainstay of the Warriors pack very quickly.

NRL Classic: Cowboys v Rabbitohs - Round 16, 2008

Margie McDonald (NRL.com senior reporter)

Blayke Brailey: The young Sharks rake made 77 tackles in the first two games of the season and missed just two. He’s not your kicking-style of hooker but he "sees" the whole field so well and can read play with a sixth sense. Watch the try assists rack up. Premiership-winning Sharks hooker Michael Ennis has been an unabashed fan of this 2018 Junior Kangaroo for some time.

Lone Scout (NRL.com Fantasy guru)

There are plenty of young stars in the Broncos pack but Pat Carrigan is quickly emerging as one of the best, anointed a future leader at the club already in just his second season. The lock doesn’t have the explosiveness of teammates Payne Haas or David Fifita but has been very strong in the early rounds and wouldn’t look out of place in an Origin jersey in the next year or two.

Joel Gould (NRL.com reporter)

Tom Flegler had the best game of his 25-game career for the Broncos against the Rabbitohs in round two in a sign of what is to come when the competition restarts. The 20-year-old prop is in the Maroons emerging Origin squad and his aggression, speed and power combine to make Flegler a force to be reckoned with.

Not daunted by any challenge, the 2020 season looms as one where he will make a claim for a Maroons debut come November.

NRL Classic: Broncos v Dragons - Semi-final, 2011

Brad Walter (NRL.com senior reporter)

Nathaniel Roache is so highly regarded at the Warriors that the club has been planning for him to take over from Issac Luke for the past three seasons. This could finally be the opportunity for the luckless 24-year-old if he can stay injury free and the new six-again rule should suit him at dummy-half.

Alicia Newton (NRL.com reporter)

Once he can secure a spot in the 17 then Bradman Best is in for a big season after overcoming a foot injury to start the year. Still only 18, Best will compete with Gehamat Shibasaki and Enari Tuala, who both started their careers at the Knights well in the opening two rounds.

Tautau Moga is also waiting in the wings for another chance in first grade so it presents a challenge for Best to prove he’s worth the early hype. His build and talent is not an issue. 

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.