The state’s most-talented under-16-year-olds will lace up the boots for the first time this season in the opening week of the 2018 Harold Matthews competition.

The competition acts as the pathway for the brightest Rugby League players in the state, with myriad first-graders and NRL stars progressing through the set-up, including the likes of Jarryd Hayne, Wade Graham, Latrell Mitchell, Nathan Cleary, Curtis Scott and Nick Cotric.

The Knights, Sea Eagles and Sharks will once again be teams to beat, with strong performances in 2017 holding them in good stead for this campaign.

Last year’s Under-16 competition saw Newcastle win both the minor premiership and premiership to avenge 2016’s Grand Final heartache. 

Cronulla, Parramatta and Illawarra made up the top four after recording just three losses between them in the season proper, but the Knights achieved excellence by going through the entire campaign undefeated.

After a delayed start to the season due to a heatwave across Sydney, Manly opened the year in the most impressive fashion, scoring 108 points in their first two games while only conceding 12.

They went on to finish just outside the top four but impressed once again in the finals series, booking their place in the Grand Final. Their opponents, Newcastle, however, were too strong on the day as NSW Under-16 captain Jaron Purcell scored the premiership-winning try to secure the 26-20 victory. 

The game capped off yet another successful Harold Matthews season, where many of the players enjoyed their first taste of representative-quality football and will look to develop through the grades in years to come. The 2018 season will prove no different.

Players To Watch: Clay Webb, Jack Williams, Junior Tupou (Canberra Raiders), Billy Burke, Blake Hosking (Cronulla Sharks), Tyreece Matangi, Kaeo Weekes, Unitoni Mataele (Manly Sea Eagles), Kodi Crowther (Newcastle Knights), Nicholas Russell (North Sydney), Trey Mooney, Oscar Mezzomo (Parramatta Eels), Jai Wynbergen, Hohepa Puru (Penrith Panthers), Zach Maling, Zach Kambos, (South Sydney), Josh Bevan (Sydney Roosters), Cameron Lawrence (Western Suburbs).

The Harold Matthews draw has changed - click here for the latest. 

You can follow all Harold Matthews matches on the NSWRL Live Match Centre