Unearthing the next Greg Inglis in the Intrust Super Cup

Unearthing the next Greg Inglis in the Intrust Super Cup... it sounds like a forlorn hope.

On one level that is true; after all, there will only ever be one Inglis. Irreplaceable. Unsurpassable.

In another sense, a future superstar announces themselves most years on the rugby league scene as a talent of special quality in the Intrust Super Cup.

Inglis did it in 2004 as a 17-year-old, when he took the Queensland Cup competition at the time by storm with Norths Devils.

Greg Inglis in action for Norths Devils. Photo: QRL Media
Greg Inglis in action for Norths Devils. Photo: QRL Media

Just last year it was David Fifita for Souths Logan Magpies, and Northern Pride’s Jake Clifford, who gave a foregleam of the abilities they would showcase with the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys.

This story examines the 'Inglis effect' and how his arrival on the scene 15 years ago continues to resonate today.

When Steve Renouf played for Easts Tigers in 2004, after a stellar career with the Brisbane Broncos and Wigan Warriors, his first team meeting opened his eyes to a teenager who would soon rock the NRL.

Steve Renouf at Easts Tigers. Photo: QRL Media
Steve Renouf at Easts Tigers. Photo: QRL Media

"It was my first team meeting with Easts and they’d just come off a hiding from Norths, courtesy of a 17-year-old GI’s four tries," Renouf recalled.

"He carved up and they'd all copped the big palm from a kid... he was still at Wavell High and as I watched the video I thought ‘this kid is a freak’.

"From that moment I wanted an opportunity to play against him; that is your competitive juices flowing as a 34-year-old.

"Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I didn’t get to play him because the week before Easts played Norths again I popped a rib."

Greg Inglis and that now famous palm off. Photo: QRL Media
Greg Inglis and that now famous palm off. Photo: QRL Media

Channel Nine commentator Scott Sattler insists the Intrust Super Cup will only unearth more stars of the future going forward.

"The beauty of the Intrust Super Cup, since the under 20s was made redundant on a national level, is that it has got back to the old development days where if you are good enough as an 18 or 19 year-old, you can start the year in your own age group, but then as the year goes on be thrown in against men, where you can gauge how you handle those pressure situations," Sattler said.

"We keep saying that when we lose an Inglis at the end of next year, or after we lost JT last year, that we are never going to find anyone like that again.

"We may not immediately, but they rise from the ashes somehow.

"Clubs and recruiters see them before the general public and the journalists do and have faith in the processes moving forward... with the Intrust Super Cup, now we have the perfect platform for the 18, 19 and 20-year-olds coming through."

Sattler's number one example of that in recent years is Melbourne Storm sensation Cameron Munster.

Cameron Munster in action for Central Queensland Capras. Photo: QRL Media
Cameron Munster in action for Central Queensland Capras. Photo: QRL Media

"I remember watching Munster play an underage game when we were about to cover a Capras game; he was this kid who looked like they’d dragged (him) off the street, put a pair of boots on and shorts that were too big for him…but he was the most creative and complete player out there," Sattler recalled.

"He looked like a throwback to the 1970s…then 12 months later, in 2013, we watched him play fullback in the Intrust Super Cup, where his fend stood out.

"He had this confident arrogance about him."

Fast forward a few more weeks and Sattler was blown away by a try at Pizzey Park that remains unique in his memory.

"He was the Capras fullback and Burleigh had a two-on-one after making a big break down the middle... they were set to score underneath the goal posts until Munster intercepts the ball and runs 80m to score in the opposite corner," Sattler said.

"It was the best individual try I’ve ever seen and a key moment for me in identifying a future star.

"It was one of those moments when you sit back and say 'I think we are going to be talking about how good this kid is in five, eight or 10 years' time’."

Sattler said David Fifita was a great example of that last year when he played Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup and Intrust Super Cup for Souths-Logan before debuting with Brisbane.

David Fifita in action for Souths Logan Magpies. Photo: QRL Media
David Fifita in action for Souths Logan Magpies. Photo: QRL Media

"He became one of those players, and we’ve seen this time and time again, who when they play in older company are actually better,” Sattler said.

"Fifita was great in 18s, but he looked at times like he was trying to be the match winner; then against men, because of his athleticism and raw aggression they couldn’t handle him."

Last year the author of this story was relaxing at home when Ipswich Jets co-coach Shane Walker called to say that Clifford was the best halfback he’s coached against in the Intrust Super Cup since Daly Cherry-Evans played for Sunshine Coast in 2010.

A month or two later Clifford was playing alongside Johnathan Thurston for the Cowboys.

The next superstar is out there, and Sattler has identified Murray Taulagi and Tino Fa'Asumaleaui as two to watch.

Murray Taulagi in action in 2018. Photo: QRL Media
Murray Taulagi in action in 2018. Photo: QRL Media

"Taulagi is a winger/centre, signed to the Cowboys and who will play with the Pride, and I think he is a future superstar; he turned 20 this week and has blistering speed," Sattler enthused.

"He still hasn’t finished growing and is going to be a big, tall outside back... he is just an exceptional athlete who, like Munster, we’ll be talking about in five or seven years.

“Tino is the big 19-year-old front-rower signed to the Storm, and playing with the Falcons. He is Jesse Bromwich and Nelson Asofa-Solomona all rolled into the one body."

Renouf makes the point that NRL stars do not just appear out of nowhere; they develop over time, and come to the fore more often than not in the Intrust Super Cup.

"The next GI is out there for sure," Renouf said.

"There is going to be another Johnathan Thurston, and another Cam Smith…and they are going to be found in the Intrust Super Cup.

"It is a great breeding ground for stars... any youngster with aspirations to go to the next level wants to play there."