Rookies to watch in 2022

So i am going to write a long blog apologies in advanced, as i am bed ridden after day surgery this will kill some time for me. So for me rookies count to someone who has not played first grade yet. In NRL sense someone like Wiremu Greig who has only played 2 NRL games is still a rookie in 2022, to me he is not. So who are going to be the next batch to break through in 2022?

Quite honestly, i do not think many will debut, more so due to the fact that so many debuted in 2021 that they will be considered our first choice depth prospects. Where's this year, except if extreme injuries and/or COVID effects the us and the NRL, i only see roughly 2 maybe 3 players getting a debut this year. That can be a good thing, meaning you are not relying on juniors as your main squad are getting the job done, though sometimes juniors play so well they demand to be picked, i.e. Will Penisini.

So who are the next crop? well let's have a look

David Hollis (Prop): First player i will discuss is a player who i was certain would have debuted in 2021, he was in the 21 man squads to start the year before dwindling further and further down the pecking order in depth. For Hollis, he is a prime example of COVID effected development, he came into 2021 touted as a dark horse for a spot in the 17. However, what was found when playing NSW cup was he was overmatched by opposition, he was manhandled and really could not make a divot in the running game. This led to going back to Jersey Flegg to find some form and confidence which was an excellent decision to do, though hard decision it was the right one for a kid his age. After that he came back to NSW cup around rd 10 off the bench and looked better, not pushing for NRL better, but he looked like he was slightly NSW cup standard. He is 20, very very young for his age and standing at 196cm and only 105kg he still has a lot of filling out of his body to do to fit NRL standards. This is a massive year for Hollis with Makatoa, Greig, Kaufusi and Rodwell all ahead of him even in NSW cup he will more likely need to make an impact on the bench if he is to get a look in for the top grade. If i am predicting anything, i would not be surprised to see him go to the Dolphins in 2023, with so much ahead of him at Parramatta that may be a great opportunity to get a shot in the top grade. Hollis and Hughes were two youngsters coming through in 2020 and 2021,  Hollis was alway touted as a better player like a wrecking ball David Klemmer type player, though deep down Hughes was always the preferred player, even being 18th man in 2020 for us nearly getting a debut at 19. Hollis i feel is a kid that came through the junior ranks bulldozing kids that were smaller than him, then hit a brick wall with more stronger and talented players. COVID has hampered him by not knowing how to build himself for top level, instead of the gradual transition from Flegg to some games in NSW cup at 18-19 then full-time NSW cup player, Hollis went from 1 game of Flegg in 2020, to being in the 21 for FG and starting for NSW Cup, that is a massive leap, especially for Props which is one of the most difficult positions to break through in. Players usually stop the body development at around 22-23, Hollis still being 20 has time on his side, copped small injuries last year but nothing significant. The NRL have a history of great Props that did not really start to get going until they were 22-23 as they build up to the standard, but for Hollis i hope im wrong but i see a junior that just may not make it. Prediction, Hollis plays whole year in NSW cup and improves but does not debut and moves on for 2023.


Brendan Hands (Hooker): A new players that is a Penrith junior, Hands was in Penrith's system for year coming through their Holden cup team. Hands was a constant performer in NSW cup, even filling in at five-eighth or Halfback when Kenny would occupy the 9 jersey. Hands has versatility and drive in order to make it to the NRL, quick moving in the ruck and is a battering ram in defence. Not afraid to put his body in the middle of the ruck and take a beating just so the ball carrier is stopped in his path, was touted highly by Penrith though competition ruined his chances of a debut with Tyrone May and Salmon preferred in 2021 as 14 option, Penrith prefer their 14 to play in other positions besides halves which is not Hands forte. For Hands he comes in as 4th string (emergency) hooker for us right now, sitting behind Mahoney, Rein and Stone (though Stone should not even be on the hooker depth chart but oh well). Thankfully for Hands it is more likely, unless Rein is not in the 17 each week, Hands will be the starting hooker in NSW cup, being able to show his worth in a position that is becoming more uncertain as the months go on. With Mahoney leaving and a 33 year old Hodgson coming to the club and Mitch Rein turning 32 by mid year the new crop of hookers are able to appear and jump into a spot, with Mahoney it was not an attractive place to go for a young a hooker unless being happy to fill in as a back-up and occasional no.2. For Hands he looks to be a perfect no.14 for us, nice attacking skill set whose defence, though great could use some work, he is raw and needs some time of course though he is a player of confidence that is hard to dent. Once he debuts he will learn what he can, go back and do different things to improve, he is a learner and with Hodgson coming in 2023 to usher in the future at the position, 2022 is a massive year for Hands, anything but a debut is a missed opportunity, as in 2023 and even 2022 due to Mahoney's unpredictable shoulder early in the year BA will be naming a second hooker, so there are chances for him to get a 14 spot for a debut at some point in the year. Prediction, Hands debuts in 2022, getting the 14 spot full-time late in the year.


Solomone Naiduk (Wing): An interesting player that i cannot quite put my finger on, Naiduki is a strong winger who bares comparison to Semi Radradra, no when i say compares i mean in running style and type of game plan, Naiduki is a busy attacking player, looking for runs early in a set. Played limited games in NSW cup this year, with Sean Russell and Haze Dunster getting preference over him, which surprised and concerned me on the development of Naiduki. Now, like Hollis, COVID has stuffed Naiduki around, playing flegg in 2020, to thrown into NSW cup this year, and from the stats he was not too bad. Averaging 150 metres per game, made 16 tackle breaks in 6 games and 73% tackle effeciency which is not great but not awful for a winger. Naiduki is a big build winger, tall without being a man mountain, has great high ball skills and runs with purpose close to the line similar to Sivo. He is still learning the game of Football, a start early in NSW cup is important for Naiduki who gets a top 30 spot which is promising and is now able to cement a back-up wing spot behind Dunster and Simonsson with Sivo out, jumping Russell. Russell is a good kid and so is Loizou though at their age they have time to grow and is important to set them into their actual positions full-time in NSW cup to develop further, let Naiduki an older, stronger and more ready winger take the reigns as the back-up this year. Am i expecting the next Semi or SIvo? no but he does not have to be either, his job is to be at minimum serviceable behind Dunster and Simonsson, with a ceiling of him challenging them to the point where Dunster may push to a centre spot in the future to accomodate Naiduki. Unlikely as i believe Loizou is Waqa's replacement but never know, but it is super important for Naiduki if he is to debut to get one before round 12, once Sivo is back he is not first choice back-up and he will spend 2022 in limbo. Prediction, Naiduki debuts early in the year.


Jock Brazel (Second-Row): Now this one is more of a 2023 type of junior, considering Brazel is still 18 years of age. I cannot say much on Brazel having not watched him play much, what he reminds me of though is a Danny Sullivan type. Tall, lanky, with decent step and movement. Defence is his key though, using his height as leverage in tackles. Brazel is one that i hope comes good as this club is in dire need of a young back-rower to come in, it has been since Tepai Moeroa where we had a boom back-rower, did not work out the way he had hoped. For Brazel a debut late in the year would not surprise me. He is signed until 2024 with an Aus schoolboys selection the club admire Brazel and believe BA does also. I see Brazel starting the year in Jersey Flegg or even on the bench for NSW cup which could be great for his development to be eased in so early. Though starting in Flegg for 22' is the more predictable route so we will see what happens with Brazel. Prediction, Brazel ends the year starting in NSW cup.


Elie El-Zakhem (Second-row): Now heading down the Makahesi Makatoa route of a player yet to debut who has age and experience under his belt. El-Zakhem was picked up in 2020, produce and excellent 2021 season being a full-time starter in NSW Cup. El-Zakhem has represented Lebanon at the top level of international football and is 24 years old this year, prime age for a footballer. El-Zakhem was a steady head in the NSW cup team this year, having a killer offload and running great lines, defensively he is more than sound also. El-Zakhem along with Makatoa was the leader of the forward pack. Making less than 30 tackles only twice in his 13 games last year, averaging 110 metres running and 14 offloads. El-Zakhem is training with the squad and expect him to get a development contract. He is a worsy case scenario option in the back-row, but i do like him and would not bat an eye if he was to debut. I believe though it may be just out of reach, only thing on his side is second-row is one of our least populated positions on the squad, so if we have injuries or dare i say COVID interruptions on the squad, El-Zakhem could get a look in as a traditional back-rower. Prediction, El-Zakhem sees the year out in NSW Cup full-time.


Toni Mataele (Prop): A name that had raps years ago, Mataele is a talented forward who can play in the middle or on an edge. Still eligable for under 20's Mataele left Parramatta in 2020 for Newcastle where he played NSW cup last year, averaging 91 metres from 2 games off the bench. Mataele came back to Parramatta this year, expect him to perhaps get a start in NSW cup in the back-row or on the bench. He has represented NSW in 16's and 18's level though another COVID development issue for him, he is a player BA did not want to lose, and was desperate to get him back i believe he is a smoky for a spot this year in top grade and will be a full-timer in NSW Cup. Prediction, Mataele plays out the year in NSW Cup.


Larry Muagatutia (Prop): A lot of good middle forwards coming through for the club recently, which would have been the reason for letting Kaufusi walk. Muagututia has been touted for stardom since Harold Matthews, representing NSW and City origin in 16's and 18's and named in NSW Blues futures squad. A prop more in the mould of Junior Paulo, Muagututia featured for Flegg mid last year after playing the start of the year in SG Ball. he is turning 19 this year so still has 3 years of Flegg eligibility left, for Larry an NRL debut is possible though a long shot, but if Loizou and Russell's debuts are anything to go off anything is possible. Though as said with Hollis, props take longer to develop and adjust to the NRL level, the only prop BA has debuted is Kaufusi when he was days shy of 19. Muagututia's goal i believe would be to cement a NSW Cup spot. Prediction: Muagututia cements full-time NSW cup spot, debuts in the later rounds of 2022.


Luca Moretti (Second-Row): A former Union no.8, Moretti is a new signing from Sydney City, being apart of their development system since Harold Matthews. Moretti is a tough back-rower who is incredible in defence, in limited minutes granted he still had 94% tackle effeciency, now NRL is a brand new beast in terms of speed and strength though 94% is still very impressive something that attracts BA and is valuable for any player to have. Moretti can also feature in the middle of the field filling in at Prop for the Roosters in under 20's. The Waratahs were after Moretti for years before he committed to the Roosters on a deal til 2021, Moretti also featured in the Roosters 21 man squads in a few rounds this season not debuting. Moretti is a marvel in terms of toughness, being selected in both League and Union Australian Schoolboys teams in the same year at age 17, even playing 8 games in 12 days. Moretti loves the game, and if anything you need players that love the game as they will do anything to keep player. There are two kinds of people in football, 'players' and 'playas', playas play because they are good at it and can get a decent pay check but have no real drive to improve their ability or can live not winning anything, love the fame and money that comes from NRL, players on the otherhand are perfectionists who eat, sleep and breathe football and will do anything to play and win at the highest level, and that is Moretti. Moretti has fallen into the COVID development brick wall, and sustained a few injuries in 2021 which did not help his development either, having a slow start to 2021 before the NSW Cup competition was cancelled right when he started to hit peak fitness. For Moretti, some fans may say "Well the Roosters did not want him, why would we?" Well that can be true, but sometimes it's systems, Moretti may suit how we play, Roosters maybe lost patience and decided to move forward with those who have already debuted and were available, or simply Moretti was offered a deal with us and took it instead of staying at Bondi, the signing of Moretti is cloudy as i do not know or find anything in relation to how it went down. Though Parramatta are getting a kid that is a prime defender and loves the game of footy, versitile playing on an edge and the middle, a player i have looked over but now starting to get excited about seeing in the trials and see how performs. Prediction: Moretti makes his debut in 2022, full-time NSW cup player.

So there are a few, of course there are more to look over, but most of the others will not even be close or can debut until 2023/24. Names like Matt Arthur, Cody Parry. There are a few other names to go over but these are the main ones, with Naiduki and Hands being the main two who i believe will get a debut.


What does everyone else think? Did i miss anyone?



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  • Surgery? you ok bro? great blog.

    last night i did a dig on Solomone, watched everything i could online of him, checked out his stats.

    Was hard to get a real gauge on him as most of what i saw was just finishing easy tries.

    I did not his defence was 73% which is a worry, i saw nothing that impressed me too much but lets hope he kicks on.

    • He's like a smaller Semi Mr Snake. If he stays on the right path he can be a real gun winger, maybe even centre. Better than Sivo on last years form, although I think Sivo was carrying a few injuries that the club kept quite, good on em too for that.

      • fuckimissSemifuckimissSemifuckimissSemi.

        (Thx Kurupt now I'm rocking back and forth chanting.....again)

    • Yeah snake just day surgery to remove kidney stones that were still lodged in there had an attack before Xmas and some were left over

      So im just in bed recovering after they lasered them out hahaha, this blog really took the pain away though as I thoroughly enjoyed writing it.

      Naiduki seems to have more drive then Sivo but must say I was surprised we gave him a top 30 spot so soon.

      • Good blog LB as for your kidney stones if they put a stent in mate make sure they give you antibiotics. My bloke didn't and I ended up back in hospital with bloody sepsis and nearly the toes pointed skyward due to the bloody stent

        • Hahaa yes they did took my first dosage last night, my doctor has given me everything to recover, yeah the stent is a right pain in the backside. But i have been given three different medications to take, including antibiotics, thanks for the heads up.

      • Naiduki is 22 this year. If a winger isn't top 30 by then he is no chance.

  • Good blog LB. Thanks for taking the time to write it. 
    Did Luca Moretti come into your thoughts as a potential smokey to debut?

    • Yeah he is a name i forgot to add in, i think he will be a back-row smokey perhaps, though Roosters had back-row issues last year and didn't name him ever so makes you think what Roosters saw in him. Though Rodwell was a nobody and practically was not given an ounce of a chance by anybody to debut, yet we start 2022 with him debuting.

      One thing is for sure that is we are lacking back-row depth so a kid or two hopefully can stand up.

  • Great work LB !
    Luca Moretti was the standout absolute star of schoolboy football a few years ago. Picked for both the junior wallabies and the junior kangaroos. Of course the Roosters grabbed him! 
    Apparently he was highly thought of at Bondi but  something happened and the Eels swooped. 
    I think we need to give some kudos to our recruitment team here. 
    Moretti will definitely debut this year - he's a jet. 

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