Jersey Flegg 2018 season preview

Brandon Wakeham

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Perennial finalists during the early years of the NYC, the Bulldogs will be looking to qualify for their first under-20s finals series since 2013.

Returning players
Of the 17 named to play the Tigers in Round 1, 11 played under-20s in 2017. Morgan Harper, Giordan Patea and Dalton Smith the most experienced in the side, all three having played 20 or more games last season.

New faces
Javvier Pitovao,
who played three games off the bench for the Warriors in 2017, has joined the Belmore club. The back rower represented New Zealand 18s against the Australian Schoolboys last September. Speedster Frank Kuresa joins the club from the Ipswich Jets. The winger was a Broncos’ NYC squad member and played for the Jets in the FOGS Colts.

One to watch
Coming off a new contract that’ll keep him at the club until the end of 2020, Brandon Wakeham will be a key player for the Dogs in 2018. The elusive halfback played eight NYC game and was named the club’s SG Ball Player of the Year in 2017.

The coach
Brad Henderson returns as the Bulldogs’ under-20 coach in 2018. He is a former assistant coach of the Sunshine Coast Falcons and the Queensland under-18 team.


Kalani Pewhairangi-Charlie

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Record breakers in 2017, the Sharks remain strong despite a disappointing end to the season, in which they were eliminated in straight sets.

Returning players
11 of the 17 players named for Round 1 will have previous under-20s experience. Three of those players (Isaac Lumelume, Cruz Topai-Aveai and Josh Carr) spent the pre-season with club’s first grade squad.

New faces
Fullback Luke Polselli joins the club from Manly, where he played 24 games and scored nine tries in their premiership winning season. Utility Blake Manowski, a recruit from South Sydney, played 19 games last year, alternating between hooker and five-eighth. Queensland under-16 representative Braydon Trindall is another newcomer with under-20s experience, he joins from the Melbourne Storm.

One to watch
An Australian Schoolboy and a New South Wales under-16 representative, centre Bronson Xerri will be hard to miss in 2018. A standout at every age group, Xerri now makes the step up to the under-20s, despite still being SG Ball-eligible.

The coach
Dave Howlett returns as the Sharks under-20s coach in 2018 after previously coaching the NYC side in 2014. In 2015, he coached the club’s SG Ball side to a premiership and national title.


 

Cade Cust (Photo: Gregg Porteous)

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
The reigning under-20s premiers should enter the season full of confidence after a strong end to 2017, a number of returning players and some exciting new faces.

Returning players
Nine players named in Manly’s Round 1 22-man squad played in last year’s NYC Grand Final, while three more have under-20s experience. Halfback and captain Cade Cust is the “veteran” of the team, with 40 NYC games under his belt.

New faces
One of the more high profile under-20s signings, five-eighth Luke Metcalf joins Manly from Cronulla on a three-year deal. The Coffs Harbour junior was the SG Ball’s leading point scorer in 2017 and scored a hat trick for New South Wales under-18, before moving up to the NYC, where he scored nine tries in nine games. He spent the pre-season with the club’s NRL squad.

One to watch
A somewhat unknown heading into 2017, rampaging lock Haumole Olakau’atu was one of Manly’s most influential players in their run to Grand Final glory. He played in all 28 games, finishing as the club’s equal top try scorer with 18 tries.

The coach
Veteran lower grade coach Wayne Lambkin returns in 2018 after leading Manly to the premiership last season. No stranger to the Jersey Flegg, he coached Penrith in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.


Paul Roache

Mounties
Canberra’s under-20s will follow their ISP side in 2018, playing under the Mounties banner. A traditionally strong junior outfit, they’ll look to return to the finals after finishing 12th last year.

Returning players
11 of Mountie’s starting 17 named to take on the Dragons played NYC in 2017. Raiders’ NRL development list players Sebastian Kris and recent signee Corey Horsburgh are the two most experienced players, both playing over 30 NYC games since 2016.

New faces
Four new recruits with NYC experience will line-up for the side this weekend. Former Panther and Junior Kangaroo Stefano Hala at prop, former Knight Brendan O’Hagan at halfback and former Cowboys duo Corey Horsburgh at lock and Kyle Paterson at hooker. Horsburgh was the Cowboys leading forward metre earner in 2017 and also represented Queensland under-20.

One to watch
Former Junior All Black Paul Roache joined the club last season, playing in the Auckland Nines and featuring in 10 NYC games later that year. The exciting five-eighth has been earmarked for big things, having spent the pre-season with Raiders’ NRL squad.

The coach
Long-time Raiders’ SG Ball coach Peter Marrapodi steps up as Mounties’ head coach for 2018. In 2012, he took the Raiders, featuring the likes of Anthony Milford and Brenko Lee, to the SG Ball Grand Final


Luke Huth

Newcastle Knights
With perhaps the most experienced under-20 squad in the competition, the Knights will be looking to build on last year’s finals appearance.

Returning players
A staggering 15 of the 17 players named for the Knights’ this weekend played NYC in 2017. Hooker Tom Starling is the most experienced in the side, having played 31 NYC games since his debut way back in 2015.

New faces
On top of their returning experience, the club has brought in several under-20 tested players for 2018. Former Melbourne Storm trio Jirah Momoisea, Beau Fermor and Tevita Alifa bolster the forward pack, alongside former Rabbitohs’ prop Henry-Siriah Fuimaono and Broncos and Queensland under-18 back rower Brandon Russell.

One to watch
Named on the bench for Round 1, dummy half Luke Huth will be out to terrorise tired defences this season. The former Australian Schoolboy played seven NYC games in 2017 and won a gold medal with the Australian under-23 side at the Commonwealth Championships last month.

The coach
Former NRL journeyman forward Todd Lowrie returns for his third season as Newcastle’s under-20 coach.


Keaon Koloamatangi (Photo: Steve Little/www.redandblackzone.com)

North Sydney Bears
South Sydney’s under-20s missed out on the finals on for and against last season but will look to rebound as they play under the famous North Sydney Bears name in 2018.

Returning players
The Bears starting 17 for Round 1 features just nine players with NYC experience. With a number of players having graduated or moved up a grade, second rower Keaon Koloamatangi becomes their most experienced player, with 34 NYC games.

New faces
Alongside several promoted players from the Rabbitohs’ and Bears’ SG Ball sides, the team also welcomes a number of experienced new recruits. Halfback Kurtis Preece and hooker Treymaine Brown join from Manly, lock Corey Kurnoth joins from the Tigers and five-eighth Kieran Hayman from the Bulldogs. Preece played 16 NYC games last year, while Kurnoth played 15.

One to watch
After an injury-interrupted 2017, hooker Josh Cook moves up to the under-20s after re-signing with South Sydney for two more seasons. A former New South Wales under-16 representative, Cook has been named on the bench for Round 1 and will be aching to play.

The coach
Former North Sydney forward Willie Leyshon was the Bears’ last Jersey Flegg coach in 2007 and returns to the role 11 years.


Dylan Brown

Parramatta Eels
Grand finalists in 2017, the Eels will be desperate to go one better in the rebooted Jersey Flegg competition.

Returning players
Parramatta will have 11 players with NYC experience in their side this weekend. Five of those players played in October’s Grand Final loss to Manly, three of them in the forward pack, props Oregon Kaufusi and Sean Keppie, and back rower Dylan Clifford. Centre Tui Afualo also returns to the line-up after an injury plagued 2017.

New faces
The Eels’ 2018 squad features several new players from their SG Ball system, rather than outside recruits. Lock Jesse Cronin, who was a member of the club’s 2017 SG Ball and National Title winning sides, is one of those players. Many others in their wider squad, such as hooker Kyle Schneider, will look to move up once the SG Ball season is completed.

One to watch
The young halves pairing of Joseph Taipari and Dylan Brown will be one to keep an eye on in 2018. The two young Kiwis, from Christchurch and Whangarei respectively, made their under-20s debuts last season. Brown would cement his spot as the side’s halfback, scoring a try and kicking three goals in the Grand Final.

The coach
Assistant coach of the side last season, Dean Feeney takes over as head coach from Luke Burt. Feeney is the father former Knight and current Townsville Blackhawks player Jaelen Feeney.


Penrith Panthers
The NYC ended with the Panthers as the established powerhouse of the competition. In 2018, they’ll be out to do the same in the Jersey Flegg

Returning players
Nine of Penrith’s starting 17 this weekend played under-20s football in 2017. With several of their best having moved up to the NSW Cup this year, the club will rely on their promoted talent. Captain and lock Mitch Kenny is the side’s most experienced player, having played 30 NYC games.

New faces
There will be five new faces in the Panthers’ backline heading into Round 1, including new halves Adam Fearnley and Isaac Thompson. Fearnley, is a recruit from Bathurst who joined the club last season, while Thompson, is a Narromine junior who won the SG Ball with the club in 2016. Winger Justin Jones and centres Shannon Harris and Zac Ryan are also graduates of the club’s successful under-18 program.

One to watch
Hervey Bay junior J’maine Hopgood started 2017 as captain of Penrith’s SG Ball side finished playing for Queensland under-18 and making his NYC debut. The tough second rower will look to be a leader for his young side in 2018.

The coach
Former local junior Ben Harden is the new coach of the Panthers’ under-20 side after coaching the club’s SG Ball team in 2017.


Steven Marsters

St George Illawarra Dragons
The young Dragons were one of the surprise sides of 2017 and will be tough to beat with many players having a year of experience under their belts.

Returning players
St George Illawarra were one of the youngest sides in the NYC last year, which means a lot of familiar faces in 2018. 11 of their 13 starters named for Round 1 have NYC experience, which includes their halves, Tristan Sailor and Jackson Willis, and their entire forward pack.

New faces
The new faces in the Dragons squad for 2018 are primarily players who have come through their junior rep systems. Wingers Sam McCann, an Illawarra Steelers junior, and Shaun Sauni-Esau, a St George Dragons junior, both get their first shot at under-20 football this weekend after playing SG Ball last season.

One to watch
Outside back Steven Marsters played 22 games as a 17-year old in 2017, scoring nine tries, and representing the Junior Kiwis. He recently signed a three-year deal with the club and is a part of their NRL development squad.

The coach
Former St George player Wayne Collins returns as head coach in 2017. He is a former Canberra and South Sydney NRL assistant coach.


Lachlan Lam

Sydney Roosters
Premiers in 2016, the Roosters will be looking for a return to finals football in 2018 after just missing out last season.

Returning players
The Roosters Round 1 line-up features nine players who played NYC in 2017. Talented halves duo Lachlan Lam (29 games) and Sean O’Sullivan (21 games) are two of the more experienced players, while off-season recruit Kenese Kenese is the “veteran” of the side with 43 NYC games.

New faces
Former Warriors prop Kenese Kenese joins the club in 2018. In his third year of under-20s football, with 43 games to his name, he’ll be looking to lead from the front. Other new faces include Queensland under-18 winger Treymain Spry, who joins the Tri Colours from Ipswich, and former Manly SG Ball hooker Sam Verrills.

One to watch
Just 17 when the season began, Josh Curran played 20 games for the Roosters in 2017 and was selected for the New South Wales under-18 side. The back rower spent the pre-season with the club’s NRL squad and is one to look out for.

The coach
Anthony Barnes keeps the reigns of the Roosters under-20s side in 2018. In 2016, he guided the team to their first NYC premiership.


Eiden Ackland (Photo: Renee McKay/www.photosport.nz)

Warriors
A former under-20s juggernaut, the Warriors will be hoping to return to strength in the Jersey Flegg after a wooden spoon season in 2017.

Returning players
10 of the Warriors Round 1 squad return in 2018 with NYC experience. Halfback Eiden Ackland is the most experienced in the side, having played 28 NYC games over the past two seasons. Five members of the starting forward pack have NYC games under their belt, including lock Tayhler Paora, with 17 games.

New faces
With several eligible players playing up a grade, the Warriors will once again blood a number of talented players. Tevita Mikaele, Patrick Elia and Edward Kosi are all new faces in the backline, while prop Wesley Veikoso joins an experienced forward pack.

One to watch
Despite being chased by the Crusaders rugby union side, Christchurch’s Patrick Elia joins the Warriors in 2018 with a big future ahead of him. Still new to league, the 6’3” centre will be one to follow this season.

The coach
Having been in the Warriors coaching system since 2008, former NRL assistant coach Ricky Henry gets the chance to take charge of the Jersey Flegg side in 2018.


Thomas Mikaele

Wests Tigers
2017 was a down year for the Wests Tigers but a lot of talent was introduced that will be raring to go again in 2018.

Returning players
A whopping 14 of the Tigers 17-man line-up for Round 1 played in the NYC last season. Their two most experienced players are off-season recruits Heath Gibbs and Sam McIntyre, who have played 37 and 24 NYC games respectively. Thomas Mikaele and James Tautaiolefua are two of the more “seasoned” Tigers, having both played 17 games in 2017.

New faces
As mentioned, centre Heath Gibbs and second rower Sam McIntrye join the club from the Newcastle Knights. They join Australian Schoolboy Dylan Smith, a recruit from Cronulla, and  Mikaele in the club’s NRL development squad. Other new faces include Israel Seufale from the Dragons and forward Kane McQuiggin, who was a member of Manly’s NYC winning squad in 2017.

One to watch
Now with a year of under-20s football and an NRL pre-season under his belt, Queensland under-18 representative Thomas Mikaele should be one of the more damaging forwards in the Jersey Flegg.

The coach
Former North Sydney forward Craig Wilson takes over as Tigers Jersey Flegg coach in 2018.

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