The 2018 rookie crop is untouchable

The 2018 rookie crop is untouchable

If you're a follower of American sports, there's often spirited debate about what has been the best rookie draft.

NBA followers talk with amazement about the 1984 crop that saw Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Alvin Robertson and John Stockton all enter the league together.

That's simply an amazing batch of athletes – nay, superstars – who all landed in the competition at once.

But still, people will debate it and say that the 1985 crew, or the 1996, or 1998, or 2003 year was even better.

I guess that's part of what we all love about sports. Only the results on the field are final. Everything else is open to opinion.

In my mind, you'd have to be very hard-pressed to think of an Intrust Super Cup rookie crop as good as 2018.

I'm sure people will debate me, but I'd find it incredulous for anybody to suggest otherwise.

Get around this lot...

You've got official Rookie of the Year Jake Clifford (pictured below) for starters, who people are saying is the best young half the competition has produced since Daly Cherry-Evans.

But then consider that there were two other rookies in the top six for the Petero Civoniceva Medal as best and fairest in the competition – Harry Grant from Sunshine Coast and Kotoni Staggs from Redcliffe.

Look further down the list of players who have made an impact at NRL level this year: Jamayne Isaako, Rhyse Martin, AJ Brimson,  David Fifita, Payne Haas, Justin Olam, Jaydn Su'A, Gehamat Shibasaki, Moeaki Fotuaika and Mitch Dunn.

Then you have a couple of guys who only dipped their toe in the water at NRL level last year before really putting their hand up in 2018 – guys like Keegan Hipgrave, Enari Tuala, Patrick Mago, Ryley Jacks and Tui Kamikamica.

Under different people's estimations, they could still be considered rookie graduates from the Intrust Super Cup.

The progress of several of these guys has been nothing short of rapid.

We've heard a bit about how David Fifita (main image) was playing Under 18 Mal Meninga Cup just a few months back, then Hastings Deering Colts, then Intrust Super Cup, then NRL in quick succession.

For some players that's a six-year timeline! He's just gone and done it in under six months.

Kotoni Staggs is much the same. Not long ago people were raving about him winning a junior bush grand final with the Wellington Cowboys.

He killed it playing Colts this year, stepped up to kill it in Intrust Super Cup, and has hit the ground running for the Broncos.

How does a guy play half a season in the Intrust Super Cup and almost finish as the leading points scorer? That's unbelievable stuff.

I've got a massive rap on a lot of the boys that have graduated from Cup to NRL this year and can see several going on to being Hall of Famers.

Sure, the abolition of the National Youth Competition has forced these guys to follow a different route, but I believe it is the Intrust Super Cup that has helped make them the players they have become.

The NYC comp only started in 2008, so it hasn't been around forever, and you can't pinpoint its disappearance as the sole factor in the quality on offer across the board.

Nup, I reckon it's just been a freakish year.

If I think back to some of the best young blokes to come through the Intrust Super Cup, I can remember Justin Hodges and Carl Webb debuting for Brisbane in 2000, then Brent Tate, Corey Parker and Matty Bowen in 2001.

Cameron Smith made his NRL debut in 2002, so he preceded 2003 when Billy Slater and Sam Thaiday stepped up.

Later on you had Greg Inglis transition from Norths Devils to Melbourne in 2005 and then Israel Folau do the same in 2007.

But for all-out prize-winning prime beef, I don't think you can put any single season alongside 2018.