Marmin Barba is set to explode on the NRL scene this year.
Photo: Getty Images
In 2012, Adam Reynolds enlivened the competition with his bold and decisive halfback play for Souths. His youthful namesake, Bulldogs pivot Josh Reynolds, played 27 games and stamped himself as a potential rep player. Tautau Moga scored seven tries for the Roosters at the age of 18.
In 2013 a new batch of emerging players will make their mark in the National Rugby League. One of the beauties of sport is that you never quite know which unheralded kid will become a superstar (and conversely, which highly-rated juniors will fail to make it at the top level). However, here are 10 youngsters – some who have already played first grade and some who have not – we are tipping to make a mark next season.
Marmin Barba – Gold Coast
The younger brother of Ben is a wildcard in this group. He will be 22 before the season begins and is tiny. On the other hand his father rates him as more elusive and potentially more destructive than the Bulldogs champ. He is a fullback or five-eighth, a cancer survivor and lost last season to an ACL injury, but he has shown in Toyota Cup that he has electrifying speed and can beat players on the outside or inside. He is one we hope makes it!
John Folau – Parramatta
Another 'brother of'. Last year, Israel's teenage brother played for Patrician Brothers College Blacktown, the Eels's SG Ball team and then Toyota Cup. He acquitted himself well at all levels. He is tall like Izzy but not (yet) as muscular, and regarded as very level-headed for his age. Don't be surprised to see the Eels giving him a run in the backs.
Tohu Harris – Storm
The towering backrower from New Zealand is signed to Melbourne until the end of 2014 and will likely debut this season. He looks like a tall Tawera Nikau and plays a bit like Kevin Proctor. Good judges have said for years that he has something special about him.
Josh Mansour – Penrith
In a grim year for the Panthers, Mansour was a shining light. He averaged an amazing 166m per game, scored seven tries and showed class on his wing. A former Junior Kangaroo, he will be expected to shine again in 2013 at a club where outside back berths are wide open.
Ligi Sao – Manly
The Sea-Eagles appear to have bought a beauty in former Warrior Toyota Cup prop Sao. The 20-year-old Samoan was mighty in 2012, averaging 135m per game including one amazing 291m performance. The powerful Samoan excels with ball in hand but can also sting in defence.
Aidan Sezer – Gold Coast
The 21-year-old from Bankstown was superb for the Titans in his 16 games in 2012. His task – never easy – is to overcome the second-year blues. The rookie five-eighth showed good vision, clever running, sound playmaking skills and adequate defence. He could become an Origin player.
Korbin Sims – Newcastle
The latest model from the Sims family production line of aggressive forwards, Korbin will turn 21 in January 2013 and seems certain to debut for the Knights this season. He was selected for Queensland at U16, U18 and U20 level and played second-row for the Junior Kangaroos in October 2012. Tariq and Ashton are tough, skilled and a little bit wild, and Korbin looks cast from the same mould.
Jason Taumalolo – Cowboys
The giant forward does not turn 20 until next May, but 2013 will be his fourth season at the top level. He played a solitary game in 2010 and a couple in 2011 before establishing himself in 2012, playing 17 matches off the bench. He has been brought along carefully by North Queensland and averaged 74m and 13 tackles a match. He made just one error in 2013 and could be a real force for years to come.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – Roosters
The 2012 New Zealand Rugby League Junior of the Year, Tuivasa-Sheck played six first grade matches for the Roosters last year. Of Samoan heritage, he is a winger or fullback with excellent Toyota Cup form. Then-coach Brian Smith described him as a "dynamo" and one of the fastest learners he had encountered. While he has not yet scored a top level try he has demonstrated he is shrewd in defence and has the speed and skills to break the line.
Carlos Tuimavave – Warriors
Long touted as a future star, Tuimavave played five games for the Warriors in 2012. If all goes according to plan, he and Konrad Hurrell could form the best centre pairing in the sport for years to come. He is a versatile back and was named at five-eighth in the Toyota Cup Team of the Year but looks best suited at centre. However he will also be considered as James Maloney's long-term replacement at pivot.
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