1. Albert Hopoate (Manly Sea Eagles)
He’s been in our system for a long time; obviously I played with and against his dad. He’s a pretty special kid who recently made the Australian Rugby Union and for his age at the moment he’s very strong and fast, so he’s got a big future in the game.
2. Cooper Jenkins (Newcastle Knights)
A really strong runner, I love these type of players up in Newcastle, the current kids who you know they’re going to come down and perform, they just run hard and do everything right. He’s really impressed me during the Harold Matthews and I think he will do really well.
3. Bradman Best (Newcastle Knights)
Bradman Best has pretty much been the best player in his age group. He’s been a champion sprinter, beach sprinter, footballer, everything, he’s just been the ‘best’ so this is the next part of his progress and I’m looking forward to see how he goes.
4. Aaron Schoupp (Illawarra Steelers)
I haven’t really gotten to see a lot of Aaron Schoupp as he was injured most of the year. I noticed he made the Australian under-15s last year and he’s a good kid from down the south coast. I have a liking for people down that way, I don’t know why, a lot of my friends from Rugby League come from down that way and I enjoyed playing with them and enjoyed them off the field so he looks like he’s pretty similar to that and I hope he goes alright tomorrow.
5. Max Feagai (Illawarra Steelers)
He’s got a twin who is exactly the same; I had to make one of the hardest phone calls I’ve ever had to make to tell Max he was in and Matt that he was out. Max is pretty tough, a big kid that has been dominant for Illawarra, they didn’t go as far as they should have but he’s just a really big and strong athlete and I hope he gets in a bit of space tomorrow as it would be great to see.
6. Kaeo Weekes (Manly Sea Eagles)
He’s the only kid who is a year young, and he’s really crafty and fast. He’s got a good kicking game, I think in the under-16s kids haven’t kicked enough at this age, so if he gets that right, he will be a handful and he’s very fast, so hopefully a little show and go is on the cards and I don’t think they will stop him if he gets through.
7. Thomas Demeio (Cronulla Sharks)
Young Thomas, the halfback from Cronulla, he will direct us around. They all listen to him, he knows what he is doing out there, he’s a fantastic goal kicker, he’s a good general play kicker, and a tough little kid so he plays hooker/halfback. He’ll play halfback for a majority of the time and he’s one to watch, if things go right then he will play a big part in the game.
8. Samuel Hughes (Parramatta Eels)
He’s a big boy and a pretty quiet kid, I’ve been watching him play for Parramatta, he’s a handful. I’ve got to say he’s one of my favourites, it’s hard to gravitate towards a few but the fact is he doesn’t say much but you know he means business so I can’t wait to see him play.
9. Jed Edwards (Parramatta Eels)
Jed knows most of these kids, he spent a couple of years living on the Gold Coast and he’s a fantastic little hooker. He’s only little at the moment, it’ll be interesting, they’ve got some big boys in the Queensland team, so if he can handle the defence he does the attack easily, he’s definitely a player of the future.
10. Filimaua Filimaua-Tau (Manly Sea Eagles)
Here’s a mouthful - Filimaua Filimaua-Tau – I just call him Fili. Manly had two really good front rowers and out of all the selectors he ended up getting the jersey. He plays good minutes and is a really nice kid, he’s a big fella so he’s going to have to take us forward and work pretty hard through the middle. I look forward to watching him.
11. Ben Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)
I’ve been watching Ben for a few years, obviously the relation to Tom and Jake. I watch him down at the Mona Vale Raiders – my son plays for that club – he’s been outstanding at that level and I hope he gets the ball, he’s a quiet kind of kid playing in the back row so I just hope he gets the ball, he’s an absolute handful, he’s got to be 6’1” or 6’2” already. If he wants it, he will make it.
12. Josh Schuster (Manly Sea Eagles)
He’s the standout, he’s got all of the skills, the size, and it will be interesting how he handles the occasion. He’s a real nice kid, a good team bloke, and they all like having him in the team and hopefully we get him some good ball and we’re not tackling all night so I’m keen to watch him.
13. Jaron Purcell (c) (Newcastle Knights)
He’s our captain, he won the game for the Knights in the Grand Final by scoring a try in extra time, he just doesn’t stop and he keeps going and going and going, much like our assistant coach Danny Buderus. He has a simple attitude, anything you tell him to do he does, and he pushes everyone hard so I’ve been really happy with how he has gone this week.
14. Tyler Field (Parramatta Eels)
I’ve been watching Tyler for a couple of years now, he plays up an age and is super fit, super skilful. He’ll get a go in the centres, we’ve talked to him about playing different positions and he’s our versatility option. He never seems to panic so I’m a real fan.
15. David Hollis (Parramatta Eels)
Your typical, tall, country front-rower. He’s gone and cut his sideburns off for some reason which is really odd, but he’s quite a character, I’ve watched him play for Parramatta and he goes pretty hard so he doesn’t let many blokes get over the top of him.
16. Harry Croker (Newcastle Knights)
We’ve had his brother in the system and Harry is exactly the same, he’s got this work ethic and such good manners that run throughout their whole family. He’s great around the club, he works hard and he knows what he is doing, he’s a really good player so I wish him all the best.
17. Blake Dowel (Illawarra Steelers)
All the selectors put Blake’s name forward, once again all our front rowers are pretty quiet (except for big Dave), he’ll get some time on the field, there are some big fellas in the team and he’ll be good for us.
18. Kobe Rugless (Sydney Roosters)
Kobe is from the Eastern Suburbs, I watched him play in the Indigenous under-16s this year and he absolutely killed them. He’s a real tough kid, great mentality, just goes and goes and goes. I’ve always thought if you have a good 18th man that keeps pushing everyone at training and sets the standard, then you’re going to have a pretty good footy team and he’s done that this week.