HomeSportsRugbyNRL 2023: pre-season problem, trials, gamers to look at, Valynce Te Whare,...

NRL 2023: pre-season problem, trials, gamers to look at, Valynce Te Whare, Dolphins, Siua Wong, Roosters, Isaiya Katoa, Karl Oloapu, Bulldogs

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The NRL’s pre-season problem kicks off in three days. Between the massive low season transfers and the Dolphins becoming a member of the competitors there’s a lot to sit up for.

All eyes can be on the likes of Api Koroisau, Isaiah Papali’i, Reed Mahoney and Viliame Kikau as they get their first official recreation of their new colors.

We’ll get an perception into how the Storm plan to fill the spots left by the Bromwich brothers and Felise Kaufusi, whereas the Tigers will unveil their overhauled recreation plan.

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But past the massive speaking factors, followers may also get a sneak peak on the subsequent era of expertise.

A mix of teenage prospects and journeymen will get an opportunity to play alongside — and in opposition to — a number of the largest names within the recreation within the two-week event that can be proven on Fox League.

One of these gamers is the Dolphins’ secret weapon Valynce Te Whare, who has been tipped by his teammates to have a fast rise this season.

Te Whare’s story is exceptional. The 22-year-old centre had by no means performed rugby league till he signed with the Dolphins in December, 2021. Instead he was enjoying rugby union for King Country in New Zealand.

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He spent final season studying the sport whereas enjoying for the Dolphins in Queensland Cup. It turned out Te Whare was an entire pure and on debut he scored a double, arrange one other attempt, acquired three linebreaks, 14 deal with busts and 168 working metres.

Te Whare continued that type all through the season to not solely assist the Dolphins attain the grand remaining but additionally land a spot in Queensland Cup’s Team of the Year.

The 182cm, 108kg wrecking ball has left a giant impression on each his NRL teammates and coach Wayne Bennett along with his velocity, energy and Brandon Smith-like “character.”

When requested by for a participant that’s impressed over pre-season, Kodi Nikorima was fast to say Te Whare’s title.

“I don’t know how heavy he is but he’s a big boy and he can move too — he’s fast,” he stated.

“I’m excited to see him hopefully get a debut this year. He’s only played a handful of rugby league games so he’d be one to watch out for this year.”

Kenny Bromwich additionally nominated Te Whare, telling that “he can move that fella — he’s quick too,” whereas Jarrod Wallace expects him to grow to be a Dolphins “cult hero.”

“There’s a young guy Val… I reckon he’s going to be a Redcliffe cult hero,” Wallace stated.

“I think he’s definitely going to get an opportunity, he’s training well, he’s big, fast and explosive. I definitely think he’s a chance of getting an opportunity.”

It appears Te Whare has a little bit of cheek about him too which has received over Bennett.

“He’s got a personality on him so Wayne sort of loves him,” Nikorima stated.

“Val doesn’t take a step back, he’s a bit of a character. He reminds me a little bit of Brandon Smith.”

Te Whare is only one of many rising abilities to maintain a watch out for through the trial video games. Read on to search out out who your group’s gamers to look at are.


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Tristan Sailor and Shalom O’Ofou

Both gamers joined the Broncos for pre-season on train-and-trial offers and have made essentially the most of their alternatives. Skipper Adam Reynolds stated final week that Sailor “has been pretty impressive” at fullback and there’s additionally been whispers round that the 24-year-old is an efficient likelihood of filling the ultimate Top 30 spot. Meanwhile, Reynolds additionally had loads of reward for O’Ofou, declaring: “He’s done a terrific job.” The 23-year-old second-rower was on a improvement take care of the Dragons final season however struggled to nail down an everyday spot of their NSW Cup aspect.

Tristan Sailor at Broncos coaching. (Image/Josh Woning)Source: News Corp Australia


Ata Mariota and Hohepa Puru

Mariota acquired a style of NRL final season when an harm and a failed HIA opened the door for his debut in Round 21. First grade was at all times on the playing cards although for the towering prop, who impressed in NSW Cup final season — that’s why the Raiders locked Mariota in on a two-year Top 30 deal final July. The 21-year-old seems as much as Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine, so full pre-season beneath his belt with these two will do him wonders. Puru joined the Raiders for a possibility after captaining the Panthers Jersey Flegg aspect — and getting man of the match within the grand remaining. The promising lock has impressed Corey Harawira-Naera, who stated he’s one of many gamers which are “putting their hands up” at coaching.


Khaled Rajab and Karl Oloapu

You’d must be residing beneath a rock to not have heard of Oloapu and the reported $500,000 switch payment the Bulldogs paid the Broncos to safe him. The 18-year-old Australian Schoolboys sensation had been in Brisbane’s academy since he was 13-years outdated however a contract dispute allowed the Bulldogs to swoop in and signal him on a three-year Top 30 deal simply over two weeks in the past. Oloapu — a half that may additionally play lock — is without doubt one of the brightest younger rugby league abilities within the nation. 20-year-old Rajab can be filled with confidence after a breakout 12 months which included a NSW Cup debut and standout performances for Lebanon within the World Cup. The Dogs’ soccer boss Phil Gould already has him earmarked for an NRL debut sooner or later this season.


Kayal Iro and Thomas Hazelton

Between an NRL debut and being topped NSW Cup Player of the Year, Iro had lots to have a good time final season. He was promoted to the Top 30 mid-season and signed a brand new deal that retains him on the membership till the top of 2024. The 22-year-old centre busted tackles and notched up working metres for enjoyable whereas starring for Newtown final 12 months and is pushing for extra NRL time. Just like Iro, Thomas Hazelton is coming off a stellar season in reserve grade. The 198cm, 113kg prop, who was recruited to the Sharks by membership legend Gavin Millar, was on a train-and-trial deal final season earlier than inking a two-year NRL contract.

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Isaiya Katoa and Valynce Te Whare

There have been loads of headlines about Katoa when he turned down a contract extension with the Panthers to signal with the Dolphins. The 18-year-old starred for Penrith in SG Ball final season however was dumped by the membership after news of his Dolphins deal broke solely to be recalled for the Jersey Flegg grand remaining — during which he kicked the matchwinning area purpose. Katoa has significantly impressed his teammates over pre-season with Kodi Nikorima declaring he’s “got it,” whereas Jarrod Wallace referred to as the half’s pure potential “outrageous.” As talked about earlier, Te Whare has additionally left a long-lasting impression on the membership and is one participant each fan should control over the trial interval.

Dolphins rookie Valynce Te Whare. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


Alof’iana Khan-Pereira and Ben Liyou

Speedy winger Khan-Pereira shone for Burleigh in Queensland Cup final season, scoring 25 tries in 19 video games to earn a spot within the Team of the Year and has his eyes firmly on an NRL debut this 12 months. With Brian Kelly (suspension) out for the primary three rounds and Patrick Herbert recovering from an ACL harm, a possibility within the backline might open up for Khan-Pereira ought to he impress throughout trials. 21-year-old Lyiou is barely on a train-and-trial however is already locked in on a Top 30 deal for 2024. The hard-running prop acquired a style of the massive stage in a Titans trial recreation final 12 months and will profit off his third full-time pre-season.


Nathaniel Roache and Samuela Fainu

In one of many feel-good tales over summer season, Roache picked up a train-and-trial alternative with Manly after an terrible run with accidents. The 26-year-old hooker performed 26 video games over 5 seasons for the Warriors earlier than becoming a member of the Eels in 2021 however a knee harm sidelined him for the whole 2022 season. Roache is anticipated to get time within the upcoming trials and supplies coach Anthony Seibold with some succesful back-up at dummy-half. Then there’s Fainu — the 193cm, 107kg prop that’s nonetheless eligible to play SG Ball. Fainu has impressed the teaching workers — and his teammates — in his first NRL pre-season since becoming a member of the Top 30 a lot that Jason Saab believes the 19-year-old will get a debut this season. Coach Anthony Seibold has additionally teased a debut for Fainu, lately revealing he’s a fan of the younger gun’s recreation sense and ability.


Jack Howarth and Joe Chan

Take one take a look at Howarth’s contract and you already know the Storm have massive plans for him. The 20-year-old, who’s signed till the top of 2027, performed Australian Schoolboys in 2019 and final season represented Queensland within the Under19s State of Origin. Howarth has been groomed as a centre however loved a swap to the second row throughout final season with Queensland Cup feeder aspect, Sunshine Coast — and that’s the place he might get his alternative given the Storm have misplaced Kenny Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi. Chan is one other promising teen on the Storm’s books. The 20-year-old was plucked from French Super League membership, Catalans and has 12 Super Rugby video games beneath his belt too. He’s the son of former Storm participant, Alex Chan, and is a flexible ahead that’s positive to get some recreation time through the trials.


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Bailey Hodgson and Krystian Mapapalangi

Knights followers haven’t been in a position to see a lot of Hodgson since he joined the membership in 2021. The 20-year-old cousin of veteran hooker Josh Hodgson, performed reserve grade in his first season with the membership however the competitors was cancelled mid-year because of Covid. He then suffered back-to-back elbow accidents that sidelined him for all of 2022. Kalyn Ponga’s transfer to five-eighth has opened up the No.1 jersey and though the Knights have signed Lachlan Miller, Hodgson can put himself within the body through the trials. Keep a watch out for Mapapalangi too, who acquired a style of NRL final season. The 20-year-old, who can play five-eighth or centre, solely performed two first grade video games final season however he confirmed loads of promise — even organising a attempt along with his first contact in his debut recreation.


Thomas Chester and Tom Duffy

Townsville product Chester joined the NRL squad on a train-and trial final season and impressed sufficient to earn a two-year Top 30 deal and an NRL debut off the bench in Round 18. Chester was developed within the halves however has made a profitable transition to fullback — and is flexible sufficient to fill in at hooker and at a pinch, lock. He shone in a Cowboys trial recreation final 12 months and can get one other shot this 12 months. Duffy can be a North Queensland boy and there have been reviews the Bulldogs made a play for the 19-year-old half. Duffy must bide his time whereas Chad Townsen and Tom Dearden are on the membership however Cowboys followers will get an opportunity to see the previous Australian Schoolboy and Queenslander Under 19s consultant in motion through the trials.

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J’maine Hopgood and Ky Rodwell

Club captain Clint Gutherson believes Hopgood is about for a “breakthrough season” after making the swap from Penrith, whereas Dylan Brown stated the brand new recruit “has been massive” over pre-season. The 23-year-old was a standout in reserve grade final season, incomes a spot within the competitors’s Team of the Year and the Panthers’ NSW Cup Player of the Year honours. He was caught behind arguably the most effective lock within the recreation in Isaah Yeo at Penrith however might begin within the first three video games of the season whereas Ryan Matterson is suspended. Rodwell has been within the Eels’ system for a couple of years after beforehand being found by the Rabbitohs at 15-years outdated whereas enjoying for the Bombala Blue Heelers. The 23-year-old prop is as powerful as nails, as confirmed when he broke his hand on his first deal with on debut in 2021 — after which went on to play 52 minutes and make one other 33 tackles. Rodwell performed 4 NRL video games final season and is shifting nearer and near the 17.

Parramatta Eels recruit J’maine Hopgood. Pictures: Parramatta Eels. Picture: SuppliedSource: Supplied


Thomas Jenkins and Jack Cole

Jenkins completed equal second in NSW Cup’s tryscoring tally and his type was rewarded with an NRL debut in Round 25. He wasn’t meant to hitch Penrith’s Top 30 till this season however he was fast-tracked and he was upgraded mid-last 12 months. The membership sees a shiny future for the Young Cherrypickers junior — and that might be as Stephen Crichton’s alternative in 2024. The Panthers have gotten a Matt Burton 2.0 in 19-year-old Cole. Aside from the headgear, the Orange CYMS junior can play five-eighth and centre, has a robust kicking recreation and likes to run the ball. He represented NSW within the Under 19s Origin final 12 months, was topped Jersey Flegg Player of the Year and earned an NRL debut in Round 25.


Benjamin Lovett and Tallis Duncan

Lovett, a Parkes Spaceman junior, joined the Rabbitohs in 2019 and went onto win their Jersey Flegg Player of the Year award in 2021. He featured in considered one of Souths Sydney’s NRL trial video games final 12 months and can get one other alternative once more after a strong season in NSW Cup which earned him a two-year Top 30 deal. Keep a watch out for Duncan too, who was the membership’s SG Ball Player of the Year in 2021. The 20-year-old lock, who additionally featured in a trial final 12 months, is signed till the top of 2025 and has impressed the membership each on and off the sector.

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Connor Muhleisen and Treigh Stewart

Muhleisen is a graduate of the 2019 SG Ball premiership-winning Illawarra Steelers aspect that featured Tyrell Sloan, Talatau Amone and Jayden Sullivan. He was on a train-and-trial final season however was locked in on a improvement deal for 2023. The 21-year-old hooker, who’s rock-solid in defence, performed in final 12 months’s Charity Shield and will getloads of recreation time over the trial interval. Like Muhleisen, Stewart was additionally a part of that Steelers aspect — in reality he performed at fullback within the grand remaining with Sloan on the wing. He had an impressive 2022 season in NSW Cup to earn a train-and-trial alternative.

Dragons fullback Treigh Stewart. NRL ImagerySource: Supplied

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Siua Wong and Sandon Smith

Roosters followers would have saved an in depth eye on Wong within the Rugby League World Cup they usually’ll get one other take a look at him through the trials. The 19-year-old had a breakout season in 2022, captaining the Roosters’ SG Ball aspect to a grand remaining and cementing a beginning spot in NSW Cup. Wong performed each minute of Fiji’s World Cup marketing campaign within the second row and has additionally been touted by league guru Phil Gould because the “next big thing.” Smith is a half with a giant future within the NRL. The Central Coast product was one of many North Sydney Bears’ finest gamers final season regardless of nonetheless being eligible for Jersey Flegg. His contact soccer background has given him a blistering working recreation, whereas he additionally has the ability and composure of a game-managing No.7.


Luke Metcalf and Valingi Kepu

Warriors followers will lastly get to see Metcalf in motion after the membership signed him in November, 2021. The 23-year-old has been biding his time on the Sharks for the final three seasons however has solely gotten seven video games — a kind of final season. It was anticipated when Metcalf first signed that he would begin within the halves however the Warriors have since recruited Te Maire Martin. The trials can be his alternative to show why he must be within the 17 come Round 1. Kepu is a little-known prop that has a shiny future within the recreation. The 20-year-old, who weighs 110kg, signed an extension in 2021 alongside along with his twin brother, Otukinekina, which springboarded them into the Top 30 this season. However, his brother was lately granted an early launch.


Rua Ngatikaura and Jahream Bula

Ngatikaura is reduce from an identical mould to star hooker Brandon Smith, which ought to excite Tigers followers. The 22-year-old, who may also play lock, is a tenacious defender and damaging ballrunner and was locked in by the membership on a two-year Top 30 deal final April. His season took a flip although when he suffered a severe ankle harm. He did nevertheless recuperate in time for the World Cup and made his worldwide debut for Cook Islands. Bula is on a train-and-trial deal in the intervening time however is doing all the correct issues at coaching. The Keebra Park product joined the Tigers final season and impressed at fullback in Jersey Flegg. Coach Tim Sheens advised The Sydney Morning Herald that Bula is “the best trainer at the club” and can be a participant that “comes out of no where.” The Tigers’ incumbent No.1, Daine Laurie has been impressed along with his competitors too, telling “He’s been carving up.”

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