Excuse me if the blog goes a bit long i will try to make it as short as possible, i thought i would go through in my opinion players to watch in 2022. It is a crucial year as it is the first time we are heading into a season being inches away from week 3 of the finals since 09' and with not much movement in the player market, to the fact that there was not much there in the first place to begin with, it is all on our juniors and up and coming players to step up and perhaps do what Penrith did.
Wiremu Greig: I think people all over have sort of slept on Greig, a big unit who signed a two-year deal early in 2021 from North Queensland. Greig featured two weeks after signing and then was not seen again in the top grade after a second game in round 7. Played NSW cup before picking up an injury which led to surgery ending his season. It is a shame as i think he may have been able to get another game or two late in the year. Makatoa even was named in the 21 over Greig towards the mid point of the year so BA was in preference of Makatoa, why? well i think it is basically fitness. at 124kg he is obviously on the bigger end of Parramatta players and you can tell the top grade was a speed not known to him, in his two games he would only last up to 15 mins in one stint to which would not have impressed BA as he is an advocate of his players being able to playing big minutes if needed, bench middle forwards at least 20-25 mins. Though does this mean Greig is a goner for next year? no, and the reason is i believe BA loves his size and there is potential for a quality impact bench player there, though needs fitness and to shed a few kilos before getting there, we saw in NSW cup he can get through some work and minutes but having a full pre-season with BA he could get to where he needs to be and hopefully be that impact prop in the mold of a Hamlin-Uele of Cronulla for example, as we need size on the bench especially against bigger packs. I tip Greig being the most improved next year, even being a smokey for a bench spot in RD 1.
Makahesi Makatoa: From one prop to another, Makatoa benefited with 5 games late in the NRL season to show the competition he is a viable addition to any squad looking for forward depth, i do believe too he can add some strength and contend with Greig to a good battle in 2022. Makatoa is a workhorse who can rack up big minutes, straight away BA is a fan if you can play big minutes when called upon. Makatoa comes at a handy time where he is much needed depth in our forwards as behind Paulo and RGC there is not much other than Kaufusi who in fairness can be hot and cold, Makatoa you know what you are getting as he will play the same week in week out, having 5 NRL games and a finals game under his belt i think it is reasonable to expect a bench spot in round 1 in battle with Kaufusi and Greig.
Haze Dunster: Went from forceful debutant, to bench winger to get more experience, to thrown in due to Fergo form, to struggling winger, to possibly most in form winger in the club. Dunster is the prime example of a player developing in front of your eyes. A player who showed he was not shy of doing the hard work expected in wingers, though you could tell he needed some developing with at times nerves creeping in and defensive errors being made due to experience and indecision. Until late in the year, especially against Penrith, Dunster showed he had evolved and became an NRL winger, he ran with confidence, his defence improved and he was seamless under pressure. Dunster has had fans go from not confident he can be a full-time first grader to having him first on the team sheet. He may even add a few kg to his 90kg frame ready for a full year of NRL, even if Parramatta sign another winger, Sivo missing the first quarter to half of 2022 gives Dunster a chance to stake his claim. A NZ world cup squad birth is not out of the question, big call but he could get there.
Samuel Loizou: out of left field option here, though out of all the young guns (besides Pensini) i think Loizou is the one with the higher ceiling; Loizou offers size, flexibility and skill. Loizou was a surprise call-up in round 25, though the raps are real and i believe if we do not sign another winger for 2022 we could see Loizou line-up on the wing. At 18 (19 by round 1), Loizou has a frame that is still growing and by the time he hits 21 we could see a winger or center that is big enough to fill on the back-row. Though the reason i say to watch him is talent, he is raw, very raw but one of the youngest to ever suit up for Australian schoolboys, can play every position in the backline bar Halfback, and though only getting limited minutes in his debut and having a bad defensive read leading to a Penrith try he showed he was keen, motivated and unafraid for the big stage. This is also a kid that only played two games of NSW cup, to come in and play NRL and not embarrass himself completely at the age is a good sign. If he is not in first grade to start expect him to be in NSW cup learning his trade, eventually being a centre option for us in the future.
Ky Rodwell: Finally i bring up a cult hero, Rodwell reminds us all of an 80's type player, he is a player that is tough and ruggid that will man up and do as he is told. If you asked Rodwell to kick a field goal he go out there and try and kick a field goal, that's the player he is. Big minute player that is an old-fashioned Lock, small in stature but a work horse in the middle. Rodwell always had the raps making rep teams in his juniors, copping a couple of injuries which haulted his development, and thanks to COVID 2020 had him without a club with his junior club Souths kicking him to the curb, snapped up by Wests we quickly pounced and brought him into our system. Getting a very lucky break that may have unearthed a gem for us, if there is a player that speaks BA it is Rodwell and though he may not be there round 1 i think he will be at the club on a development deal and i think it will be very unwise to count him out from collecting a spot, a very handy depth player that straight away know what you will get when he is on the field, work, toughness and leading by example.
I decided not to put Penisini as he will be a full-timer next year and we already know he is good, where these players have a point to prove, comment who you think will be the most improved next year.