(written by Mark Geyer. Appeared in League Week 13 August 2002)
As it says it in the Webster’s dictionary a rookie is "A person who is in the first year of participation in a professional sport".
Looking over this year’s current crop of NRL rookies it’s hard to believe that some of them are only in their first year of 1st grade Rugby League.
With that, I’ve picked a team of "rookies" that will know doubt create plenty of headlines in the up coming seasons.
1. Brent Webb
After starting the year in the Warriors feeder club he has now grown so much in stature that it’s for sure and certain that he will be a vital member of the Warriors finals campaign. Has the uncanny ability to play anywhere on the field bar front and 2nd row, and this, capped with his explosive turn of pace, makes him a player with an immense future.
2. Matt Utai
Started his first grade career with so much confidence, that he was being tipped for Origin duties after only 3 matches in the topside. The fact that he hasn’t let the foot off the pedal one-inch since those early predictions, means this bloke is destined for a long and fruitful life span in his chosen profession. Extraordinarily hard to bring down with those legs like a pool table.
3. Paul Franze
When you have a surname that is unusual, you can usually tell how far your footballing stature has grown when commentators start to pronounce it correctly for the first time. Well Paul France, as he was originally hailed, has come along in leaps and bounds to the point that not only commentators, but also players now know him as that robust, bullocking centre with the great offload from Cronulla, as Paul Franzay….sorry Franze.
4. Daniel Fitzhenry.
Any bloke who does his morning shift in the baggage control at the Airport, then goes home and prepares for a first grade game with the aplomb of a seasoned veteran, surely has a bright future in the game. Dedication and Determination are two things every player needs, and if his early interlude in the top grade is anything to go by, Fitzhenrys prospects are very bright.
5. Ty Williams
My bet is that young Ty watched a lot of one S. Renouf as he was growing up. Not only does he have the headgear and a similar running action, he also can sniff out a try from nowhere like his illustrious mirror image could. With coach Murray at the helm, look for Williams to up the tempo and look for a bit of action closer to the action, centre or even 5/8, where he will be even more of a handful for all teams heading north of the border.
6. Lance Hohaia
If Ty Williams has been watching old Steve Renouf tapes then Lance Hohaia has been doing the same thing, but with him it’s not the Pearl he’s been watching, its the mercurial kiwi Robbie Paul that he most resembles. Tough, skilful, patient, and aggressive are but a few words to describe the new wonder kid from the land of THE LONG WHITE CLOUD. It goes without saying that his representative career for the Kiwis will be a long one.
7. Luke Dorn
A player, with what I think is the best traits to have as a footballer, INSTINCT. Doesn’t hesitate in taking on the line or kicking on the 2nd or 3rd tackle, if he can see something good might eventuate. He epitomises the saying "An old head on young shoulders" and has a refreshing ability to keep trying again and again, if it doesn’t come off for him the first time. A main reason the Eagles are on the verge of finals footy.
8. Adam Woolnough
Whatever they have in the water up Newcastle way is surely the envy of most NRL clubs. To keep producing blockbusting forward after forward, who can run like a train and hit like a " Les Davidson special", year in year out is quite frightening for rival clubs. Adam Woolnough is certainly one straight off the production line when it comes to home grown hard men, and with a better than average work rate, obviously makes him one to watch.
9. Aaron Gorrell
Have been very impressed with the young Dragons performances this year. Along with another up and comer, Ben Hornby, single handedly tore the Warriors apart at Erricson earlier in the season. Equally at home at both hooker and half, he adds the much needed utility value that all teams need, and can kick a goal from anywhere as well……What about karaoke?
10. Jaiman Lowe
Whenever you watch a player, and it doesn’t happen that often, that no matter what the score or how long to go on the clock, he would deadest not wont to be anywhere else in the whole entire world then right there on the footy field, then you have a winner. Watching Jaiman Lowe coming off the bench - whether for 10 minutes or half an hour, you always get the impression that its his last game and he wont die wondering, and at only 19 this is a fine trait.
11. Brent Kite.
Big, fast and destructive. " Hiyasa" has been, for mine, the standout rookie forward this season. Being able to play the full 80 minutes as well as being a force for that entire time is something you cant teach, its something you’re blessed with at birth. Very much in the Dane Carlaw mould, the Raiders would be filthy they let this one fly (get it.,fly..kite) the coop. Along with Utai and Hohaia, Kite will feature prominently when rookie of the year honours are given at seasons end.
12. Dean Bosnich
A real shining light when on the field for the Sharks this year, and along with fellow rookies Franze and Gibson has been the main ingredient in the Sharks revival of late. A real tackling machine and workaholic, its his unbridled enthusiasm that lifts his team-mates whenever he’s in the game. Fair to say that the baby sharks will keep that smile on the Sludge’s (Steve Rogers) face for many years to come.
13. Brett Seymour
I know he has played his majority of first grade, and probably his whole career, at 5/8th and half back, but I see a lot of both Fittler and Anasta in this prized pup, and with years being way on his side I can only imagine that the older he gets the bigger he will become, making him an ideal lock forward. Like Luke Dorn, it’s hard to believe that he has never played first grade before, and what is even more remarkable is the fact the kid is only 17..WOW……..
A couple of kicks he has done this year that led to tries will have JOEY ringing him soon for some advice on kicking strategies…..well maybe not soon, but one thing is for sure, this BOY can play.
14. Jonathon Thurston
Has had limited time this season but on the few occasion ive caught him live in action, I can only say lucky Brett and Braith have been playing so well. Has bagged a truck load of tries in first division this year, and you get the vibe that with the higher calibre of player he plays with the better he will be.
15. Anthony Quinn
Sensational debut season, and hasn’t let a sole down. With the injury to McDougall you would have been right in thinking the Knights had dramas, but with Quinn banging away week after week, the MAD DOG can take his time in rehab and get 100% right, and know that while he does a rookie by the name of Quinn has slotted in just fine.
16. Joel Clinton
Has been watching Marty Lang closely and is slowly but surely creating an impact in the front row at such a tender age. Started his foray in the top grade a bit under done, but in the last 2 months has developed into a prominent and influential forward. Has a work ethic that is second to none.
17. Danny Galea
Another Panther cub that has slotted into first grade like he was born there. I made a prediction a couple of weeks back in one of my columns that the Panthers will win the comp in the next 3-4 years and with the like of Galea, Clinton, Rodney, Rooney. Lewis and lets not forget the big T, Tony Puletua, I can’t think of any better platform to get the process happening.