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50 NRL young guns set to burst onto the first grade scene in 2024


nrl breakout players 2024

Every year the NRL is swarmed with young guns hoping to cement their position as certified stars. 2024 is no different. We’ve named 50 players we expect to have a breakout NRL season in 2024.

It feels as if each year the first wave of hype for footy season hits earlier and earlier. Largely, this is due to the genius recent decision to broadcast the NRL’s trial matches, allowing fans to sink their teeth into their much-needed rugby league as early as mid-February.

As far as quality goes, trial matches are hardly up to the standard of the NRL and the footy is far from headline-snatching. Regardless, avid fans appreciate the opportunity to tune in and catch an early glimpse at the game’s brightest talent fighting to stake their claim in first grade.

Part of the appeal is fans’ desire to unearth the NRL’s, and their club’s, ‘next big thing’, a player they, and their team, can hinge their hopes on, while for NRL Fantasy and SuperCoach players, unearthing the game’s brightest young talents can see them reap massive in-game financial rewards.

As we explained in our list of breakout players for the 2023 NRL season, player identification demands observers pay attention to a combination of junior pathways and representative milestones, a player’s current age, media hype and a club’s commitment to promoting youth.

With all this in mind, bookmark this tab and return to our list as we update it throughout the season, in line with what’s unfolding in the NRL. After all, there’s nothing more exciting than watching a young star’s efforts rewarded as they burst onto the NRL scene and blossom into the first grader they’ve been billed to be since they were a teenager.

NRL breakout players in 2024

Which rookies and risers at each NRL club are candidates to be breakout players this season?

Brisbane Broncos

Ben Te Kura I Prop I 19 I Signed through 2026

Blake Mozer I Hooker I 19 I Signed through 2025

Brendan Piakura I Edge forward I 21 I Signed through 2027

Fletcher Baker I Prop I 24 I Signed through 2025

Xavier Willison I Prop I 21 I Signed through 2025

2024 is a season of transition for Brisbane’s forward pack. The departures of Thomas Flegler, Keenan Palasia and Kurt Capewell open the door for plenty of the club’s exciting young forwards to stake their first grade claim. A pre-season MCL injury is a setback for Brendan Piakura’s 2024, though Brisbane is optimistic he’ll return early in the season to blossom into one of the NRL’s strongest edge forwards.

Alongside him in Brisbane’s youthful forward revolution will be Xavier Willison, who possesses all the necessary physical hallmarks of an elite modern forward and Fletcher Baker, who’s previously shown promise at the Roosters despite inconsistent opportunities.

Canberra Raiders

Chevy Stewart I Fullback I 18 I Signed through 2026

Emre Guler I Middle forward I 26 I Signed through 2025

Ethan Strange I Centre/five-eighth I 19 I Signed through 2025

Morgan Smithies I Middle forward I 23 I Signed through 2026

Josh Papali’i’s age means Ricky Stuart must begin planning for his forward pack’s future. Up step Emre Guler, who’s improved year-on-year since his introduction to first grade. Resigned to featuring off the bench in 2023, increased minutes in 2024 could see Guler solidify himself as a leading prop in the capital.

Jack Wighton’s absence opens space in Canberra’s spine which could see the promising Ethan Strange, who’s also firming as Jarrod Croker’s replacement, sneak his way into the starting side and take out a mortgage on the Raiders’ number six jersey which he mightn’t relinquish for a decade. The same can be said for Chevy Stewart at fullback, whose first grade debut is arguably the most anticipated this season.

Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs

Kitione Kautoga I Edge forward I 21 I Signed through 2025

Kurtis Morrin I Middle forward I 23 I Signed through 2024 (development contract)

Samuel Hughes I Prop I 23 I Signed through 2024

While Canterbury boasts enough utilities to field an entire team, their off-season recruitment drive hardly bolstered their middle forward stocks. At 193 centimetres, towering prop Samuel Hughes is exactly what Cameron Ciraldo needs up front and is a front-runner to start alongside Max King.

Off the bench, Ciraldo can call upon pocket rocket Kurtis Morrin, who compensates for what he lacks in stature with energy and mobility. Few Dogs fans would oppose the local junior’s inclusion in their best 17 each week, with his drive through the middle exactly the bench injection Canterbury needs.

Cronulla Sharks

Kayal Iro I Centre I 23 I Signed through 2024

Braydon Trindall I Half I 24 I Signed through 2025

It feels as though the entire NRL community has been waiting two years for Kayal Iro’s debut. Several explosive seasons at NSW Cup level, where he broke tackles more often than not, indicated Iro’s NRL readiness. With Sifa Talakai far from the player he once promised to be, 2024, the final year of Iro’s contract, is his best chance yet to break out.

Elsewhere in the Sharks back line, Braydon Trindall has been handed a starting berth alongside Nicho Hynes in Craig Fitzgibbon’s halves. A more traditional five-eighth, with a steadying presence and brilliant kicking game, 2024 could be the year Trindall establishes himself as a strong NRL half, much to the benefit of Hynes.

The Dolphins

Jack Bostock I Winger I 20 I Signed through 2025

One of the most experienced squads in the NRL doesn’t leave much room for breakout young talent. However, promising outside back Jack Bostock is a smokey to sneak onto the left wing for Wayne Bennett’s side, despite facing intense competition from Tesi Niu, Edrick Lee and Valynce Te Whare.

Gold Coast Titans

Keano Kini I Fullback I 19 I Signed through 2026

Keenan Palasia I Middle forward I 27 I Signed through 2025

Klese Haas I Edge forward I 21 I Signed through 2024

Surprisingly, it feels as if the Gold Coast Titans enter 2024 with a largely settled side. Keano Kini has massive wraps on him but requires a Jayden Campbell injury to get consistent first grade minutes for Des Hasler.

Keenan Palasia jumps down from 2023 Grand Finalist’s Brisbane, fresh from 150 metres in 40 Grand Final minutes. Tino and Mo Fotuaika are two of the NRL’s premier front rowers and Palasia has the potential to become a fantastic third punch through the Gold Coast’s middle.

Manly Sea Eagles

Ben Trbojevic I Edge forward I 22 I Signed through 2027

Gordon Chan Kum Tong I Hooker I 22 I Signed through 2024

Jamie Humphreys I Hooker I 22 I Signed through 2024

It’s been a long time coming but 2024 feels primed for Ben Trbojevic to star. Celebrating for possessing as much talent as his siblings, a vacant left back row role opening at Manly could finally facilitate Burbo’s coming of age, despite stiff competition from Josh Schuster.

Fighting for a place off the bench this season will be Gordon Chan Kum Tong and Jamie Humphreys, both young and crafty hookers in their own right. With the 80-minute hooker dying, either could squeeze their way into Anthony Seibold’s 17 at some point this season to offer Lachlan Croker reprieve.

Melbourne Storm

Jack Howarth I Edge forward I 21 I Signed through 2027

Shawn Blore I Edge forward I 23 I Signed through 2026

Sua Fa’alago I Utility back I 20 I Signed through 2024 (development contract)

Like Ryan Papenhuyzen before him, Sua Fa’alago has everything Craig Bellamy looks for in an explosive bench option, likely coming on into unfamiliar territory in the middle of the field to wreak havoc against tired defences. After his lights-out performances at the end of 2023, Storm fans will be crying for increased minutes for the dynamic Fa’alago. Their wishes may be granted.

Trent Loiero’s shift to lock this season will open a starting slot on Melbourne’s left edge. Shawn Blore arrives from the Tigers with loads of talent but will face competition from Jack Howarth, an exciting edge whose debut has been eagerly awaited by rugby league fanatics for a few years now.

Newcastle Knights

Dylan Lucas I Edge forward I 23 I Signed through 2025

Kai Pearce-Paul I Edge forward I 23 I Signed through 2025

Will Pryce I Fullback/five-eighth I 21 I Signed through 2025

Jack Cogger I Half I 26 I Signed through 2026

Both Dylan Lucas and Kai Pearce-Paul will be fighting for a starting berth on the Knights edge formerly held by Lachlan Fitzgibbon. In his few first grade outings in 2023, Lucas showed he possesses everything Newcastle need in an edge back rower and may pip KPP to the role to begin the season. However, such is the promise the Englishman arrives with, he will likely challenge Lucas as the season progresses.

Fresh from an inspired cameo in Penrith’s 2023 Grand Final win, Jack Cogger arrives in an environment perfect for him to explode onto the scene as one of the competition’s premier halves. Behind a dominant forward pack and alongside Kalyn Ponga and Jackson Hastings, Cogger has every chance of becoming an enhanced version of Sean O’Sullivan at The Dolphins.

New Zealand Warriors

Luke Metcalf I Half I 24 I Signed through 2024

Rocco Berry I Centre I 22 I Signed through 2026

Taine Tuaupiki I Fullback I 24 I Signed through 2025

Tom Ale I Prop I 24 I Signed through 2025

After a monstrous 2023, New Zealand are more settled entering 2023 than they have been entering any season in over a decade. After a full pre-season, and a year absent of injuries, 2024 will be the making of Luke Metcalf as a reputable first grade half with game-breaking potential.

With Tohu Harris not getting any younger and Addin Fonua-Blake heading to Cronulla in 2025, Andrew Webster could use this season to blood the young middle forwards he expects to be the club’s future, such as Tom Ale who’s shown glimpses of promise, even without consistent minutes to consistently piece his game together.

North Queensland Cowboys

Heilum Luki I Edge forward I 22 I Signed through 2024

Kulikefu Finefeuiaki I Edge forward I 20 I Signed through 2024

Zac Laybutt I Centre I 22 I Signed through 2025

Two key departures at North Queensland have opened the door for several of the club’s promising young guns. Todd Payten’s Peta Hiku-sized hole at centre will likely be filled by towering Papua New Guinean centre, Zac Laybutt, who’s shown enough in limited first grade chances to indicate he has what it takes.

Destructive back-rower, Heilum Luki, rated by many as one of the NRL’s most exciting edge forwards, will lighten the burden of Luciano Leilua moving back south, with Kulikefu Finefeuiaki firming to solidify the bench role he excelled at towards the back end of 2023.

Parramatta Eels

Sean Russell I Winger I 21 I Signed through 2025

Wiremu Greig I Prop I 24 I Signed through 2025

Parramatta boasts one of the NRL’s most experienced sides, with very little wriggle room for new arrivals. Where they boast space though is in their outside backs. The Eels are short a centre and whether Sean Russell fills that role or shuffles to the wing while someone else does, expect a big year from the promising outside back.

Injury derailed what was shaping to be a promising 2023 for Wiremu Greig. He started eight games at prop, with three of those seeing him feature for more than 40 minutes and running for, on average, 160 metres in this trio of fixtures. Expect the front rower to use 2024 to show Brad Arthur there’s life outside of RCG and Junior Paulo.

Penrith Panthers

Liam Henry I Prop I 22 I Signed through 2026

Luke Sommerton I Hooker I 23 I Signed through 2024 (development contract)

Out goes Spencer Leniu, in comes Liam Henry, a destructive ball-carrying prop who could force his way onto the Penrith bench at some point this season. In 2023’s NSW Cup, there were few better props than Henry, who averaged nearly 160 metres and made 96% of his tackles.

Elsewhere in Ivan Cleary’s pack, Mitch Kenny is undoubtedly Penrith’s dominant hooker, a position he rightfully deserves. However, with Soni Luke’s debut first grade season going far from planned, highly touted young hooker, Luke Sommerton, could sneak into the Panther’s 17 in 2024 and cement himself as an outright first grader.

St George-Illawarra Dragons

Dylan Egan I Edge forward I 21 I Signed through 2025

Shane Flanagan has massive wraps on young gun Dylan Egan, who the 2016 Premiership winner professes could push for an NRL place come round one. In an otherwise tumultuous period for the Red V, Egan’s emergence is a shining light of positivity, a local junior whose been likened to Liam Martin.

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Davvy Moale I Prop I 20 I Signed through 2025

Tallis Duncan I Lock/edge forward I 21 I Signed through 2025

Tyrone Munro I Winger I 19 I Signed through 2025

Dean Hawkins I Half I 24 I Signed through 2024

Of all the NRL sides this season, there is arguably none better placed for a mass flooding of youngsters than Souths. Tallis Duncan showed his exceptional skillset in limited outings last season, as did Tyrone Munro, who will be fighting for a spot on the wing when he returns from injury mid-season.

The most interesting of all is Dean Hawkins, a man many in Rabbitohs circles argue is a mini-Adam Reynolds; a diminutive half with a suffocating kicking game. With Lachlan Ilias under fire, don’t be shocked if Hawkins is South Sydney’s halfback come the pointy end of the season.

NRL, NRL Fantasy, Tallis Duncan
South Sydney’s Tallis Duncan is widely expected to be one of the NRL’s breakout players in 2024

Sydney Roosters

Spencer Leniu I Prop I 23 I Signed through 2025

Terell May I Prop I 24 I Signed through 2024

While both Terrell May and Spencer Leniu have already broken out as exceptional NRL-standard props, an ageing JWH means one of the pair will likely start for Trent Robinson and stake their claim as the alpha of an already dominant pack.

Whoever this is will be on the right path to becoming one of rugby league’s most dominant front row forwards, a ceiling both have the potential to hit.

West Tigers

Justin Matamua I Lock I 20 I Signed through 2025

Lachlan Galvin I Half I 18 I Signed through 2026

Latu Fainu I Half I 18 I Signed through 2027

Samuela Fainu I 20 I Edge forward I Signed through 2027

With Jarome Luai joining Benji Marshall’s squad in 2025, 2024 is shaping to be the year to find his halves partner. Signed from Manly, Latu Fainu is widely regarded as one of the most promising young ballplayers in the NRL who, if developed correctly, could anchor the Tigers’ attack for a decade.

Breathing down his neck is impressive local junior, Lachlan Galvin, who’s reportedly set the world alight in the pre-season, enough to catch the eye of Marshall. Having led Westfield Sports High to National Schoolboys Cup glory last year, Galvin is firming for a round one start.

Picture of Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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