What we learned in final NRL trials
The 2019 pre-season is done and dusted and there was plenty to digest and discuss from the final weekend of trials, with injuries, form, new rookie bolters and more.
Check out what we learned from all the weekend's action.
WARRIORS 26 defeated WESTS TIGERS 16
1. Chanel Harris-Tevita has a future in the NRL, but it may still be a year away. The 19-year-old is full of flair and attacking weapons, but he's a seriously raw talent. He looks a perfect fit alongside the fully composed Blake Green, but his deficiencies were on show for all to see in the trial win over the Tigers. The livewire playmaker looked rushed with the ball at times and his execution was often lacking, while he also missed a tackle on Esan Marsters that led to a try. The sample size is small, so hopefully he can develop into an NRL quality half soon so we can witness his class in the top grade.
2. Luke Brooks produced a strong display in a well-beaten side, he was one of very few Tigers to threaten the opposition defence. Despite this, the attacking unit looked disjointed for the entirety of the clash. Robbie Farah's class throughout his career has allowed him to control the game from dummy-half, but the veteran needs to take a back seat to allow his halfback to run the show. Brooks is coming off a career year that fans had for so long awaited. His performance on Saturday showed he's ready to build on his success, but he needs to be given the keys to the car.
3. Few sides can afford injuries, but the Tigers won't hit panic mode if a few flies drop throughout 2019. While they lack stars in their starting 13, they have some of the best depth in the competition. The likes of Mahe Fonua, Jacob Liddle, Josh Reynolds, Josh Aloiai and Paul Momirovski will either start the season in reserve grade or have to fight their way into bench roles. It's a great position for the club to be in heading into Round 1.
- Tim Williams
KNIGHTS 6 defeated by SHARKS 30
1. There's much talk around the Hunter about young outside back Starford To'a and he impressed in his short appearance during Saturday's trial.
Coming on at wing when Danny Levi took a rest and Kurt Mann moved to hooker, To'a crossed for the Knights' only try of the match.
A towering figure, the Australian Schoolboys representative picked up an errant Kalyn Ponga pass and showed blistering pace off the mark to beat his opposite men and touch down in the right corner.
It was one of the few bright moments for Newcastle in a match they will quickly push to the back of their minds.
2. You wouldn't have known it was the first time the Sharks were having their first proper run with their strongest side.
The team combined well to maintain possession and new five-eighth Shaun Johnson took control well while Matt Moylan and Chad Townsend were also influential. They are positive signs the Sharks will again be a force in the competition.
Given the turmoil the club has been through in the off-season, fans would be happy with what their team produced. New coach John Morris said the side had been all business throughout it all and he was happy with how his key players combined for the 30-6 win over the Knights.
3. Both sides came through without any major injury concerns. Josh Dugan went off early after he copped a head knock when he raced out of the line to put a big hit on Mitchell Pearce, but otherwise the Sharks avoided any major injuries.
Fifita, Gallen, Moylan and Dugan didn't return after half-time and Shaun Johnson, Chad Townsend, Josh Morris and Aaron Woods all filtered off as the clock wound down.
The Knights, too, have no major worries. Mason Lino rolled his knee in the earlier game but it's expected to only be minor and while Shaun Kenny-Dowall is sporting a moon boot, it's hoped he'll be recovered by round one.
Lachlan Fitzgibbon may have copped a cork but the severity was unknown after the game, though coach Nathan Brown seemed unconcerned.
- Fiona Bollen
PANTHERS 0 defeated by EELS 20
1. Parramatta haven't seen hard running like this from a winger since Fijian flyer Semi Radradra.
Blake Ferguson picked up where he left off at the Roosters with a powerful game for the Eels.
Ferguson went out of his way to get involved while his vocal presence was profound.
2. Get excited Eels fans, Clint Gutherson is ready to explode this season.
Gutherson has battled injuries in recent years but after a full off-season I'm tipping him to excel in 2019.
The Mona Vale-born flyer looked slick in Parramatta's win over Penrith.
He laid on a try while he made plenty of metres.
3. You can offload the wooden spoon, Parramatta.
I know it was only a trial, but I can't see the Eels finishing 16th in 2019.
Parramatta possess too many capable players, plus off-season signings like Blake Ferguson and Junior Paulo will only help the Blue and Golds climb up the ladder this season.
- Matt Logue
SEA EAGLES 38 defeated ROOSTERS 20
1. Remember last year how Trent Robinson was forced to choose between a busted Cooper Cronk and some good intentions to play halfback for the grand final? Such a state of affairs will not be required in 2019.
This was very much a reserve grade Roosters outfit that ran out against Manly but what was painfully apparent was the class of Brock Lamb and Lachlan Lam. The former may be a refugee of the most dilapidated franchise of recent years and the latter may be yet to make his first grade debut, but they both have plenty of first grade football in them.
Lamb in particular is extremely over-qualified to be a reserve grade half. There are plenty of teams who would do well to inquire after the former Knight's services before the June 30 deadline - he's got an ability that belies his station.
2. What can we make of Moses Suli? Given the ability he displayed for Manly last season, and for the Tigers before that, his potential is clear but Suli clearly lacks the work ethic and consistency to make it as a first grader.
However, given Manly's shortage in the outside backs they may not have a choice but to play the robust Tongan international. Suli has clearly shown himself capable of participating at the top level and a lack of depth out wide for the Sea Eagles may put him into first grade for Round 1. He dominated in the trial against the Roosters but, it must be said, many of his opponents were reserve graders.
One must ask how long such a state of affairs can last. Suli has the physical talent to be sure, but can he find the intensity required to compete in first grade on a week-to-week basis? Given the form he's displayed thus far it remains to be seen.
3. Kane Elgey lost the entirety of the 2016 season to a knee injury and he's yet to truly make that ground back. That's why the Titans relegated the Tweed Heads junior to outcast status - they declined to re-sign him after an indifferent 2018 season, which allowed him to take up a deal with Manly.
However, Elgey's first grade prospects should not be written off purely because he could not combine with Ash Taylor. Elgey has far more upside than Trent Hodkinson and should be a realistic option for Des Hasler for Round 1.
The former Titan has a well-rounded skill set for a young half and may well be the partner Daly Cherry-Evans has been looking for. He set up a try for Jack Gosiewski with an inch-perfect grubber against the Roosters and may well be the man to help take Manly to the next level in 2019.
- Nick Campton
DRAGONS 24 defeated by RABBITOHS 36
1. Corey Allan is an NRL fullback of the future. And likely, a Bunnies winger right now.
Making headlines last year after being selected for the Prime Ministers XIII before playing a single NRL game, the rising Brisbane talent was outstanding in his debut Charity Shield match - bagging three tries on the left wing.
Afterwards, coach Wayne Bennett said the 20-year-old was not a likely starter in the season opener. Smoke bomb? Potentially. What isn't in doubt is that we will be hearing his name a lot more.
2. Tariq Sims is set to build on his one NSW Origin appearance in 2019. With Blues coach Brad Fittler in Mudgee for the Charity Shield, the Dragons backrower was outstanding against the Bunnies - running for 123m while also scoring a try, making two linebreaks, as many tackle busts and 21 tackles.
3. Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook is set to take on an increased kicking role in general play this season, in tandem with halfback Adam Reynolds. Said coach Wayne Bennett afterwards: "He (Cook) has a wonderful boot on him. I couldn't believe how well he could kick them, so we've been encouraging him to kick. Adam Reynolds is wonderful, but you can't have too many of those guys. He wants to kick and stepped up tonight".
- Nick Walshaw
TITANS 22 defeated by BRONCOS 25
1. Darius Boyd cannot be complacent this season. The Broncos skipper had an unhappy night, dropping one bomb and failing to clean-up an Ash Taylor grubber kick which led to a Titans try. When Boyd came off late in the game, Jamayne Isaako moved to fullback and produced the 50-metre bust which set-up Brisbane's matchwinner. Winger Isaako is being groomed to succeed Boyd and is well and truly keeping him honest.
2. Broncos coach Anthony Seibold has a big decision to make with the composition of his bench. If Alex Glenn, Matt Gillett and Tevita Pangai Jr start in the back row, that leaves young guns Jaydn Su'A, David Fifita, Kotoni Staggs, Pat Carrigan and Tom Flegler as bench options. Yes, they are talented, but Seibold can't afford to field such a young bench. They will feel the grind of the NRL season well before the finals arrive.
3. The Titans have to find a harder edge if they are to play finals football in 2019. Garth Brennan's Titans burst out to an 18-0 lead and looked like world beaters. But they took their foot off the Broncos' throat and eventually lost 25-22. The Gold Coast bench didn't stand up when they came on which proves they could again struggle with depth this year. They should have put the scrappy Broncos away.
- Travis Meyn
COWBOYS 14 defeated STORM 6
1. Melbourne's backline has suffered a massive blow following an injury to talented fullback Scott Drinkwater. Drinkwater - who was given first crack at replacing Billy Slater in the No. 1 jersey - is expected to be sidelined for a lengthy time with a suspected torn pectoral muscle. The loss of Drinkwater could open the door for Jahrome Hughes in the round one clash against the Broncos, although he still has to overcome a calf complaint.
2. Former Broncos Jordan Kahu and Josh McGuire are certain starters for the Cowboys this season. The duo looked comfortable running out with their new club and seemed to have gelled nicely with the squad. McGuire showed some grit in and around the ruck and was solid in defence. Experienced fullback Kahu was safe at the back all night and used his first touch in Cowboys colours to take a great catch and came close to setting up a try several plays later.
3. Jason Taumalolo looks comfortable in his new No. 11 jersey. It was the first time the hulking 191cm, 117kg Tongan international played in the second row since 2014 and he caused the Storm's outside defence some trouble. Despite having limited carries, Taumalolo still looks dangerous and looms as a force to be reckoned with on the edge this season.
- Chris Honnery