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Intrust Super Cup to NRL: The 2020 graduates

The rugby league talent pool in Queensland is huge. 

From grassroots through to the Queensland Maroons and Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons, there is an abundance of skilful players who impress. 

Despite the challenges the COVID-19 health crisis presented, 18 players - including several Queensland-eligible players - graduated from playing Intrust Super Cup in 2019 and 2020, to the NRL in 2020. 

Several players also made the jump from Queensland Rugby League statewide competitions to the NRL, including the always impressive Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow. 

Intrust Super Cup to NRL

1. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown

2019 - The 23-year-old had a stellar 2019 with Norths Devils in the Intrust Super Cup, playing in 24 games and scoring five tries. The season earned him a train-and-trial deal with the New Zealand Warriors. 

2020 - The talented rapper and music producer, who played for the Indigenous All Stars early in the year, made his NRL debut for the Warriors in Round 1 of the 2020 season against Newcastle Knights. He went on to play 19 games for the Warriors and scored one try. 

2. Jamil Hopoate

2019 – In his 19 games for the Redcliffe Dolphins in Cup, Hopoate scored three tries and made 462 tackles. He also ran for 3081 metres overall, putting him in the top 10 for the season.

2020 – The 26-year-old son of John Hopoate made his NRL debut for the Brisbane Broncos in Round 1 against the North Queensland Cowboys. Overall, the powerful second rower played in 12 games of NRL.

3. Ethan Bullemor

2019 - The talented prop was a strong performer for the Devils in Cup, playing in 21 games and scoring seven tries. The Central Queensland junior made 57 tackle breaks and 320 tackles. Bullemor was also part of the Queensland Under 20 side. 

2020 - The 20-year-old started season 2020 playing for Devils in their Round 1  Cup win over Mackay Cutters. He made his NRL debut for the Broncos in their Round 2 win against South Sydney Rabbitohs and played in seven more games throughout the NRL season. 

4. Chris Lewis

2019 – The winner of the second rower of the year award, Lewis played 24 Cup games for Sunshine Coast Falcons in 2019, scoring nine tries and kicking one goal.

2020 – The 28-year-old made his NRL debut for premiership winners Melbourne Storm in Round 4 against the Rabbitohs and played five games total, scoring one try against St George Illawarra Dragons in Round 20. 

5. Tom Gilbert

2019 - The 20-year-old wrecking ball played 24 games for the Townsville Blackhawks in 2019 and scored five tries; he also played for the XXXX Queensland Residents and Queensland Under 20 side. Gilbert was named Cup Rookie of the Year and was named in the team of the year.

2020 - Gilbert played for the Blackhawks in Round 1 of the Cup season before it was cancelled due to COVID-19. The talented young forward then made his NRL debut in Round 4 against Cronulla Sharks and played 12 games for the Cowboys. 

6. Cory Paix

2019 – Paix, who can play hooker or half, featured in 17 Cup games for the Dolphins and was a star performer for the side, scoring five tries and producing seven try assists. The former Western Mustangs Mal Meninga Cup-winning captain was also selected to lead the Queensland Under 20 side.

2020 – The 20-year-old began season 2020 with new team Souths Logan Magpies, featuring in their Round 1 loss to the PNG Hunters before Cup was cancelled due to COVID-19. Paix made his NRL debut for the Broncos in Round 4 against Sydney Roosters and played in 12 further games; he scored one try in the close Round 15 loss to the Dragons.

7. Tesi Niu

2019 – The livewire back played 14 Cup games for the Magpies, crossing for six tries. He made six line breaks and produced one try assist. Niu played a number of representative fixtures as well, starring for the Queensland Under 18 and Queensland Under 20 sides, as well as representing Tonga in the World Cup Nines and in a Test match against Great Britain.

2020 – At the start of the season, Niu played with the Magpies in their Round 1 loss to PNG Hunters. The teen sensation made his NRL debut for the Broncos in Round 4 against the Roosters and played six games overall before succumbing to a wrist injury which required surgery.

8. Reece Hoffman

2019 - The talented centre starred for Wynnum Manly Seagulls across three grades in 2019. Hoffman was a standout in Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup, scoring seven tries and 37 goals in eight games. He also played 13 Hastings Deering Colts games, scoring nine tries and 51 goals; and played in one Cup game, scoring one try. He was also part of the Queensland Under 18 side that beat New South Wales 34-12. 

2020 - The 19-year-old joined Wests Tigers as a development player following impressive performances for Wynnum Manly. Hoffman made his NRL debut in Round 9 against the Rabbitohs and scored one try on debut. 

9. Treymain Spry

2019 – The Queensland Under 20 representative played 20 Cup games for Tweed Seagulls, crossing for nine tries.

2020 – The 21-year-old rising star made his NRL debut for the Gold Coast Titans in Round 9 and played in five games overall, scoring one try and producing three try assists.

Cup to NRL: 2020 graduates

10. Darryn Schonig

2019 – The wrecking ball had a stellar year with Falcons, playing in 21 Cup games. The Cooktown junior also earned selection in the XXXX Queensland Residents team that went on the beat New South Wales. 

2020 – Schonig had an eventful NRL debut for Melbourne Storm in Round 9, with the forward finding out he was about to play during the team warm-up. The 24-year-old played in six games for the premiership winners during the season. 

11. Daejarn Asi

2019 - Versatile Asi, who can play fullback, centre and five-eighth, starred for the Blackhawks in Hastings Deering Colts, scoring four tries and one goal in 17 games. He also appeared three times for the Blackhawks in Cup, scoring one try.

2020 - Asi played for the Blackhawks in Round 1 of the Cup competition and scored one try during the game. The talented 20-year-old made his NRL debut for the Cowboys in Round 10 against Penrith Panthers and scored one try on debut; he played a total of five NRL games. 

12. Emry Pere

2019 - The 22-year-old prop played 22 Cup games for Mackay Cutters and scored four tries.

2020 - Pere appeared for the Cutters in Round 1 of the Cup competition and made his NRL debut for the Cowboys in Round 13 against the Titans, and appeared once more in Round 19.  

13. Jordan Riki

2019 – Featuring in 15 Cup games for Norths Devils in 2019, the 20-year-old back rower scored three tries and made one line break.

2020 – it was a big year for the youngster who played for the Maori side in the NRL All Stars fixture in February. He played in the opening round of Cup for the  Devils and debuted in the NRL for the Broncos in Round 14. Riki played in a total of five games for the club; he scored one try against minor premiers Penrith Panthers in Round 17 and ended the season by starting the match in the second row against the Cowboys, playing the full 80 minutes.

14. Cooper Johns

2019 – Featuring in 19 Cup games for the Falcons, Johns, the son of Newcastle legend Matthew Johns, scored one try and helped set up 19 others during the season.

2020 – The 21-year-old halfback played for the Falcons in Round 1 of the Cup season before it was cancelled and went on to make his NRL debut for the Storm in Round 15. He played once more in 2020. 

15. Isaac Lumelume

2019 – Lumelume joined with Easts Tigers mid-way through the season after signing with Storm and played in 10 Cup games, where he scored three tries.

2020 – The Fijian flyer played in the first round of the Cup for the Tigers in their Round 1 win over Central Queensland Capras before the season was cancelled due to COVID-19. Lumelume made his NRL debut with the Storm in Round 16. He played in three games and scored one try. 

16. Ben Condon

2019 - Condon, who has the ability to play both in the middle and on an edge, averaged four tackle-breaks, two offloads, 96 running metres and 19 tackles across 21 Hastings Deering Colts games for the Blackhawks in 2019. The towering forward also played for the Queensland Under 20 side. 

2020 - Condon played for the Northern Pride in Round 1 of the Cup season before it was cancelled due to COVID-19. He went on to make his NRL debut for the Cowboys against the Panthers in Round 19.

17. Aaron Pene

2019 - The talented 25-year-old prop started 2019 with Central Queensland Capras, playing 14 games with the club before signing up with Storm and joining the Tigers.

2020 - Pene made his NRL debut for the Storm in Round 20 against the Dragons. 

18. Aaron Booth

2019 - The 25-year-old hooker played 11 Cup games for the Tigers and scored four tries and 21 goals. 

2020 - Booth trained with the Storm and made quite the impression, taking out the 'I Don't Quit iron bar' - one of the club's most revered individual accolades, and he was awarded with a full-time development contract in March. Booth played for the Tigers in Round 1 of the Cup competition before it was cancelled due to COVID-19 and made his NRL debut for Storm in Round 20. 

Notable mentions from QRL statewide competitions

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow

2019 - Tabuai-Fidow, 19, played for the Blackhawks in the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup competition in 2019 and was named player of the year alongside Joshua James after scoring 13 tries in just six games. He also played in the Queensland Under 18 side.

2020 - The super talented fullback made his NRL debut for the Cowboys in Round 5 against the Warriors and appeared a total 14 times for the Cowboys in 2020, scoring six tries. 

Adam Cook 

2019 - Cook played 21 Hastings Deering Colts games for the Blackhawks, scoring seven tries and kicking 85 goals, as well as slotting three field goals for a total of 201 points. 

2020 - The handy fullback, 20, made his NRL debut for Canberra Raiders in Round 20 against Cronulla Sharks, playing the full 80 minutes. 

Kai O'Donnell

2019 - O'Donnell, who played 11 Cup games and scored two tries in 2018, played two games for Burleigh Bears in the QTOP A Grade competition and scored one try. He also played four games for the Bears in the Hastings Deering Colts competition and scored four tries. O'Donnell was also part of the Raiders' Jersey Flegg side that made the grand final.

2020 - O'Donnell made his NRL debut for the Raiders against the Storm in Round 9; he played a total of four games during the season, scoring one try in Round 20 against the Sharks. 

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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