This past year saw the likes of young guns David Fifita, Jake Clifford, AJ Brimson, Payne Haas and Kotoni Staggs enjoy breakout seasons that eventuated in NRL debuts - with many starting out in the QRL Major Competitions the Mal Meninga Cup, Hastings Deering Colts and Intrust Super Cup.
QRL Media's Nathan Jones highlights 10 young players who may have played the majority of 2018 in the Hastings Deering Colts competition - but will be pushing to make their mark in the Intrust Super Cup and beyond in season 2019.
Tanah Boyd – Souths Logan Magpies
Still only 17 years of age, the young Brisbane Broncos-contracted half looks to be ready to take his game to the next level. Boyd played two Intrust Super Cup games for the Magpies in 2018 and impressed with a try, try assists, two goals, and two forced drop outs to his name. Keep an eye out for the young prodigy as he looks to force his way more permanently into an Intrust Super Cup role, and potentially even an NRL debut in 2019.
Julian Christian – Ipswich Jets
Although Christian has played a fair amount of Intrust Super Cup in 2018, he has also spent a large portion of the season with the Ipswich Jets in Hastings Deering Colts. Christian was awarded the club's Player’s Player award for his outstanding season in the Under 20 competition. With the retirement of long-term Jets half Dane Phillips, Christian will be looking to lock down a spot in the halves for the 2019 season.
Iliesa (Junior) Ratuva – Sunshine Coast Falcons / Victoria Thunderbolts
The young Melbourne Storm flyer has been a try scoring revelation in the Hastings Deering Colts competition with 12 tries. He scored an additional six tries in his six games in the Intrust Super Cup. Look for Ratuva to lock down a regular spot in the backline for the Sunshine Coast in season 2019.
Jack Campagnolo – Northern Pride
The 20-year-old Northern Pride half stepped up to Intrust Super Cup in the absence of Jake Clifford and did a fantastic job, registering two tries, six try assists and kicking 22 goals. The Tully Tiger was also a key performer for the club's Colts team throughout the season. With Clifford looking likely to secure a permanent spot with the North Queensland Cowboys, Campagnolo will be aiming to step up and cement his place in the halves for the Pride in 2019.
Michael Carroll – Townsville Blackhawks
Young Townsville flyer is a dominant outside back with a powerful running game and tackle-busting ability. Carroll was an integral part of the success for Townsville's grand final making Hastings Deering Colts this year and also played four games in the Intrust Super Cup in 2018. In his matches, he managed to score three tries and average an impressive 122 running metres.
Shannon Gardiner – Wynnum Manly Seagulls
Gardiner was named Hastings Deering Player of the Year after a terrific season with Wynnum Manly Seagulls where he finished as leading point scorer (191 points in the regular season), which included 14 tries. Gardiner is a talented young half and will be looking to take his game to the next level with Wynnum Manly in 2019.
Gerome Burns – North Devils (2018) // Souths Logan Magpies (in 2019)
A talented young fullback who had a terrific year with Norths Devils in the Hastings Deering Colts competition. Burns finished the regular season with 14 tries (equal 4th highest), and 137 points (3rd highest) and played a key role in securing victory for his side in the 2018 Hastings Deering Colts grand final. The former Toowoomba junior was rewarded for his outstanding form in 2018 by claiming the Norths Devils Hastings Deering Player of the Year award. Burns will be pushing for a starting spot in the backline for Souths Logan Magpies in 2019, after recently signing with the club.
Kelma Tuilagi – Easts Tigers / Victoria Thunderbolts
Kelma Tuilagi is a young Melbourne Storm forward who enjoyed a breakout season with Easts Tigers. He played 11 games for the club in the Intrust Super Cup, as well as five games for Victoria Thunderbolts in the Hastings Deering Colts competition. Tuilagi is a powerful young forward with a strong running game and tackle busting ability that was rewarded for his form with selection in the NZ Under 20 side. Tuilagi will be pushing for a starting spot for Easts in 2019, after the departures of experienced forwards Dave Tyrell and Matt Groat.
Eli Noovao – CQ Capras
The young Capras centre was a standout performer for in the Hastings Deering Colts competition, finishing the regular season with 15 tries (2nd highest). Noovao was named CQ Capras Best Back for Hastings Deering Colts in 2018. With CQ finishing 13th in the Intrust Super Cup, the club will be looking to add some much-needed strike power to their backline in 2019, which may present an opportunity for Noovao.
Logan Bayliss – Townsville Blackhawks
19-year-old Logan Bayliss is a young tearaway forward who enjoyed a standout year with the Townsville Blackhawks in the Hastings Deering Colts competition. Bayliss was a part of the 2018 Queensland Under 20 squad that defeated NSW Under 20s 30-12 at Suncorp Stadium in July. As a reward for his form in 2018, Bayliss has been promoted to the North Queensland Cowboys squad for the 2019 season. The young forward will be looking to cement his spot in the Townsville Blackhawks Intrust Super Cup side for the 2019 season.
*Note: These selections are the opinions of QRL Media and do not necessarily reflect the views of the QRL.