Generation next: time to get excited

Life-long Sydney Roosters fan Alan Katzmann has joined the Roosters.com.au team for the 2013 season and will contribute regular opinion pieces on subjects of interest to our supporters, and league followers in general.


A 12-year Member and Eastern Suburbs local, Alan is one of the tricolours most passionate followers and a proud member of the recently established Jack Gibson Club.


GENERATION NEXT: TIME TO GET EXCITED


Despite their ladder positions, supporters of Canberra, Penrith and Wests Tigers should be optimistic about their future given the quality of young players in their ranks, with names like Milford and Papalii (Canberra), Cartwright, Segeyaro and Taylor (Penrith), and Woods, Brooks and Sironen (Wests Tigers), already making their mark on the game.


That said, not only are Tricolour fans entitled to be optimistic about this season, but the future looks as bright as those teams widely considered to have the best pipeline talent in the NRL given the high quality and quantity of contracted Roosters born in the 1990s. This of course is no accident. The Roosters, as you may well be aware, have the youngest NRL squad and have strategically managed a process over the past four to five years to sustain success over the long term.


Many of the players I will profile today have already played NRL, and in some cases a significant number of NRL matches, but there may be others that you may not as familiar with, who, in my opinion, are destined to have highly successful professional rugby league careers.


It is a great credit to Roosters recruitment and retention manager Peter OSullivan and recruitment coordinator Jamie Mathiou that we can boast of such a depth of talent within our ranks. As the club with the smallest junior league boundaries, and available local league players, we must rely on the skill of our recruiters to identify talent and hopefully attract them to our club. Just as importantly we need to be a club that young players want to play for, and one that will assist their development as players and young men. I am proud to declare that the Sydney Roosters continues to be a club of choice for many young players wishing to pursue a career as a professional rugby league player.


My most promising twelve are listed alphabetically below in two segments. I wish to emphasise that my rankings are a personal opinion only, and I am happy to be judged over the next few years on the accuracy of these assessments. Of course, we have many other players within our ranks born in the 1990s who have already played or will certainly play NRL, and I look forward to watching their progress with the same interest and enthusiasm as the twelve I profile for you today.


In brackets after each player is the year they were born and their height and weight. Players born in 1994 are eligible for NYC again next year, while players born in 1995 can play NYC in both 2014 and 2015.



Have already played NRL


Boyd Cordner (1992, 188cm, 102kg): Signed to an unprecedented four-year contract when recruited from Newcastle as a 16 year old in 2009. Serious injuries cruelled his early years at the club, but he made his NYC debut in 2010 and his NRL debut a year later in 2011 as an 18 year old. Has been a permanent fixture since, notching up his 42nd NRL game last Friday night, and captained NSW in the inaugural Under 20s State of Origin clash in 2012. Injury forced him to miss Junior Kangaroo appearances in 2011 and 2012 but he broke through for senior representative honours earlier this year when he played for Country Origin against City at Coffs Harbour.


Equally adept as a lock forward and an edge back rower, Boyd has already been earmarked for higher representative duties, and it seems just a matter of time before he plays for both NSW at Origin level and for Australia. One of four vice-captains at the Roosters, Boyd recently extended his contract for a further three years to the end of 2016.


Boyd is an outstanding defender and, where required, a highly talented hole runner, but it is his ability not to take a backward step when confronted with the best forwards in the NRL that has impressed so many. Having just turned 21, he is regarded as one of the best young talents in the NRL.


Jake Friend (1990, 175 cm, 92 kg): Having made his debut as an 18 year old in 2008, Jake, one of the Roosters vice-captains, is now a highly experienced and established first grader. Jake joined the Roosters back in 2007, a year in which he represented Australia at schoolboy level. In 2008 he played SG Ball, NYC, NSW Cup (Newtown) and NRL for the Roosters and later in the year played NRL finals football. He was also a member of the Newtown 2008 NSW Cup grand final side which lost to Wentworthville after 23 long minutes of golden point, but did not play in the SG Ball grand final that year, won by the Roosters. He was later a member of the Roosters 2010 grand final team.


In 2011 Jake won the Jack Gibson Medal as the Roosters player of the year, and with 107 first grade games to his name, he has played more NRL games than any other player born in the 1990s (one ahead of Canberras Jarrod Croker, who was the first of that group to play 100 NRL games). 2011 was also the year Jake earned his first senior representative jersey when he played for the Prime Ministers XIII against Papua New Guinea. With former Queensland State Of Origin hooker Matt Ballin set to turn 30 early next year, Jake has this season positioned himself ahead of Brisbanes Andrew McCullough (ironically born two days before Jake) in the race to be Cameron Smiths natural successor as Queensland State Of Origin hooker.


One of the NRLs most prolific defenders, Jake has made 552 tackles in 14 matches this season, missing just 12. With his game time reduced to under 60 minutes per match (he is averaging 59.86 minutes this year), Jake plays with far less fatigue than in previous years, and hence his attacking game has risen to a new level. His six try assists are only bettered at the Roosters this year by NSW State of Origin halves Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney. He has become one of the Roosters most important players, and is contracted to the club till the end of 2015.


Tautau Moga (1993, 193 cm, 108kg): Joined the Roosters in 2010 as a 16 year old and played two seasons with our SG Ball under 18s side, including the 2010 premiership-winning team. He played for the Australian Schoolboys in that year, when still 16. However, he captured the attention of the league world in 2011, the year he made his NYC debut, when he scored 37 tries in 21 games (19 in nine SG Ball games and 18 in 12 NRL games), and was chosen in the Junior Kangaroos team at just 17. He was also set to play NRL in 2011, and in doing so becoming the youngster Rooster first grader in 73 years, but was denied that opportunity due to a new rule preventing players under the age of 18 from playing NRL.


Tautau eventually made his NRL debut in 2012, aged 18, scoring 7 tries in 14 matches. He played for Queensland in the Under 20s Origin match that season and played for a second successive year for the Junior Kangaroos at the end of the season. Unfortunately, he was forced to undergo a knee reconstruction, under the safe hands of Dr Tim Musgrove, after an off-season training accident last November, and missed the first 14 rounds of this season. Returned to the field in the NYC last Friday night and came through the match unscathed. He is destined to become the first player in Australian rugby league history to play for the Junior Kangaroos in three different seasons, and had he been born 26 days later than he was, hed also be eligible for a fourth year next season.


A player with tremendous power and speed, Tautau needs just a little bit of space to embarrass the best of defenders. He is a giant of a man with a fend many of the games best outside backs could only dream of, and has an outstanding vertical leap. While he has played the bulk of his football in recent years as a left centre and left winger, he is more than capable of playing as both a right centre and right winger if required, and is sure to be a mainstay of the Roosters three quarter line for many years to come based on the talent we have seen of him since his arrival in Sydney.


Dylan Napa (1992, 194cm, 109 kg): Dylan joined the Roosters in 2011, playing two years in the NYC team. In 2012 he played for Queensland in the Under 20s State of Origin match and later in the season for the Junior Kangaroos.


This season he has played the bulk of the season with Newtown, where he has been highly impressive, and earned a call-up for NRL duty last Friday night, making his debut against Canterbury, where he did not look out of place. Contracted to the end of the 2015 season, Dylan has also caught the eye of Cooks Islands coach David Fairleigh, who looks certain to use him in the front row for his team at the end of season World Cup in Great Britain.


Utilising his large frame, Dylan, who is just 20 years of age, is a renowned defender who has a big future in front of him as a front row forward, and is certain to play many more NRL games.


Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (1993, 178 cm, 93kg): Recruited to the club from New Zealand where he was a 2011 schoolboy rugby union international and made his NYC debut for the Roosters in 2012. After quickly establishing himself as the first choice NYC fullback, Roger won praise from all observers and later that year made his NRL debut on the right wing at the age of 19. A winner of the Arthur Beetson Medal for Roosters NYC player of the year, he was both a member of the NYC team of the year and the 2012 Junior Kiwis.


He has now played 20 NRL matches, and 14 this season on the right wing. To emphasise the quality of his performances, he leads the stats for the Roosters this year in four significant categories: most metres gained per game (132.36), most hit ups per game (14.93), most line breaks per game (0.93) and most tackle breaks per game (3.93). He was 18th man for New Zealand in the Anzac test earlier this year and looks certain to make the final 24-man Kiwi senior squad for this years World Cup. He is contracted to the Roosters until the end of the 2016 season.


Roger has met all challenges thrown at him in his brief NRL career. His extraordinary skills with his feet and hands are matched also by a toughness not usually associated with rugby union converts, and hes one of the NRLs best bomb defusers. Having just turned 20 years of age, Roger has the attributes of many of the games best fullbacks, and is certain to become a fan favourite of not just Roosters supporters but of all NRL fans.


Daniel Tupou (1991, 195cm, 99 kg): Daniel played two seasons for Parramattas NYC team in 2009 and 2010, but only the Roosters recruiting staff could see the talent that this lanky lad possessed, so he joined the Roosters in 2012 without much fanfare or expectation. He spent most of 2012 playing on the right wing for Newtown, where he scored 21 tries in 25 games. He was selected in the NSW Cup team of the year and was a member of the victorious Newtown grand final winning team of 2012.


Daniel made his NRL debut on the left wing for the Roosters late in 2012 and in his second NRL game scored a hat trick of tries against Wests Tigers. He has added a further 4 tries from 13 games to his 2012 tally of 3 tries in 3 games, but will definitely improve that ratio as the teams works to better utilise his undoubted talent to leap above his opposite wingers from cross-field kicks. Injury denied him the opportunity to represent Tonga in their mid-season test against Samoa, but if he remains injury-free he will certainly be in their squad for the end of season World Cup.


Daniel has the ability to break tackles (three per game this season) at regular intervals using his large frame and is working hard to become an effective ball runner from inside our own half. Very much a player with a lot of upside, and although currently playing as a left winger, based on what I saw at Newtown last season, will be even more effective when given an opportunity to play on the other side of the field when it suits the team to play him there. He is contracted until the end of 2015.



Yet to debut at NRL level


Kane Evans (1992, 200cm, 116kg): Kane Evans, the son of former Souths, Balmain and Canterbury first grader Peter Davies, has been with the Roosters since 2009 when he was a student at Matraville Sports High. He played SG Ball in 2009 and 2010; where he won a premiership, before playing NYC in both 2011 and 2012. He played Junior Kangaroos in both 2011 and 2012 and NSW Under 20s State of Origin in 2012. In 2011 he was the Roosters NYC Player of the Year and a member of the NYC Team of the Year.


After playing a handful of matches for Newtown in the NSW Cup in 2012, Kane has been their standout player in 2013, with his trademark barnstorming runs and tackle-busting thrusts into the backfield delighting the Newtown faithful. An unfortunate ankle injury suffered last Saturday at Henson Park looks likely to rob Kane of what would have been a certain spot in the NSW residents team to play Queensland at ANZ Stadium in the lead-up to Origin III.


At just 21 years of age, Kane will likely pack down alongside Redcliffes 37 year old Petro Civoniceva in the Fijian front row at this years World Cup. Kane has emerged in recent years as one of the finest young props in the game, and while it has been well publicised that he may not get the opportunity to play NRL this year, his elevation to the NRL will definitely occur shortly, and there is no reason to doubt that he will eventually become a regular first grader.



Samisoni Langi (1993, 180cm, 103kg): Samisoni joined the Roosters mid way through 2012, where he had been playing NYC with Canterbury. He played for Australian Schoolboys in 2011. This year he has been the Roosters NYC outstanding player and would be an early favourite for the Arthur Beetson Medal. In 11 NYC matches this season he has a massive 16 try assists and 11 line break assists. He was chosen to play five eighth for Tonga in their mid-season test against Samoa in April and played a starring role in their 34-6 upset win, scoring two tries and tormenting their defence with his strong running and sublime passing game. He will be a key member of the Tongan team at the World Cup later this year.


Samisoni had been expected to make his NRL debut for the Roosters at five eighth, where he has been a member of their fulltime squad all year, in the Round 15 clash with Canterbury due to the absence of the NSW State of Origin halves. In what was a cruel blow, Samisoni suffered a shoulder subluxation playing for Newtown, where he was sent for a week to help prepare for his NRL debut, and was ruled out for three weeks.


Samisoni is a highly skilled natural footballer with a good kicking game and great vision. While he is making his name as a five eighth, he played as an edge forward in NRL trials earlier this year and it may be in that position that he eventually makes his mark in the NRL. Irrespective of what position he does play, however, he is an exciting prospect that Roosters fans can look forward to seeing a lot more of in coming years.



Nene McDonald (1994, 192cm, 100kg): Joined the Roosters from North Queensland midway through last years SG Ball season and showed hed be more than a handy acquisition. A 2011 Australian Schoolboy representative, Nene played NYC last season and again this year where he has continued to impress. He was chosen in the Queensland Under 20s State of Origin team on the left wing this season and is a strong contender for the Junior Kangaroos squad to be named later this year.


He is extremely strong and very quick, and has made some spectacular try saves this season in the NYC while playing fullback. His ability to break tackles and evade defenders has been quite astonishing at times, and after a full off season with the NRL squad, there is no doubt in my mind that a spot in our NRL team at some stage of 2014 is on the cards.


Even though he has played fullback for most of 2013 with the NYC team, I would think his long-term future is more likely to be as a winger, where he has the potential to develop into an accomplished finisher on either the left or right side of the field.



Rhyse Martin (1993, 180cm, 101kg): 20 year old North Queenslander who joined the Roosters in 2011 as a 17 year old. Played SG Ball in 2011 and NYC in 2012 and 2013. This season he also played for the Queeensland Under 20s Origin team.


Ryhse is captain of the Roosters NYC team and has been a fine leader in a side sitting third on the competition ladder. He has played a variety of positions at the Roosters from centre to second row and even five eighth at times, and that versatility helped him earn that Queensland Under 20s Origin bench spot.


He will probably play most of his future football in the second row as he is a fine hole runner and strong defender. Given he is contracted to the end of 2015, he is sure to be a contender for an NRL berth over the next few seasons, where he can hopefully cross the tryline with the regularity we have seen him do in the NYC.



Willis Meehan (1995, 196cm, 105 kg): 17 year old Willis Meehan is the son of former WBF World Heavyweight boxing champion Kali Check Mate Meehan and younger brother of Roosters NYC forward Louis Meehan. He joined the Roosters in 2012 aged 16 and has played SG Ball for the club over the past two seasons. In 2012 he received a late call-up to the Australian Schoolboys team, where he played on the left wing.


Earlier this year Willis, a student at Matraville Sports High School, claimed the Australian Super Heavyweight Amateur Boxing title at the Australian championships and looks certain to represent Australia at next years Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.


After completing his SG Ball commitments earlier this year, Willis was promoted to the NYC team and made his debut against Canterbury in Round 6. He has played second row, lock and centre, and appears to be an outstanding prospect. Highly skilled and super strong, he seems destined to play his career in the forwards, probably in the second row, but hes been more than useful when used as a middle forward by NYC coach Paul Green at various times this year. That versatility will be a great asset in future years.. He has been selected to represent NSW against Queensland in the Under 18s clash at Suncorp Stadium in the lead-up to Origin II.



Taane Milne (1995, 183cm, 93 kg): New Zealand-born Taane Milne is a Rooster junior, having cut his teeth with the Clovelly Crocodiles, which he joined in 2007 at the age of 11. He played Harold Matthews Cup (under 16s) for the Roosters in 2010 and 2011, and SG Ball (under 18s) in 2012 and 2013. He made his NYC debut at right centre for the Roosters in Round 3 and played six matches in succession, impressing all with his strength and skill.


A former student at Randwick Boys High, Taane secured a scholarship to attend Newington College at Stanmore, and as a result has had to put his rugby league career on hold as he fulfils his rugby union commitments with Newington and the GPS firsts representative team which he was selected for. He is unlikely to return to the Roosters this year due to these commitments and his likely selection in the Australian Schoolboys rugby union team. He was selected to play in the NSW under 18s clash in the lead-up to Origin II but was forced to withdraw on the advice of his school.


However, if he was not to return to the Roosters till 2014, he will still just be 18 when he does, and hopefully he will have a long and successful rugby league career ahead of him. He has good footwork and an ability to offload despite the presence of multiple defenders, but it is his toughness and willingness to work hard bringing the ball out of his own quarter that leads me to believe that he can be a future NRL player.