True Blue Jamie Soward casts his eyes over three young guns in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup who are set to make their highly anticipated NRL debuts this weekend.
With Wests Tigers struggling to find any consistency and Jock Madden leading Western Suburbs Magpies to second place on the ladder, Madden has been one of the main talking points for the 2021 season.
Madden has amassed some impressive statistics so far and it appeared to be a matter of if, not when, NRL coach Michael McGuire would call on his services.
The crafty halfback leads the competition in point scoring (86) and has scored five tries, and had four try assists and four linebreak assists from eight games.
Making his debut at five-eighth for Parramatta is Brad Arthur’s son Jakob. After coming through the Eels pathways system, Arthur has been rewarded for his impressive form in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup competition with a call up to the top squad, as well as a contract upgrade to the Eels NRL Top 30.
Arthur will have a less than ideal preparation for his debut game against the Warriors with new COVID-19 restrictions meaning he is unable to physically train with the NRL squad until the day before the game. Despite the unusual preparations, Arthur will take part in one-on-one video analysis with his father to ensure he is ready to go come Sunday.
To date, Arthur has scored five tries and recorded five linebreaks, six try assists and 14 tackle busts in seven NSW Cup games.
J’Maine Hopgood will also make his NRL debut for the undefeated Penrith Panthers as they face off against Gold Coast Titans on Sunday night. With the Panthers having not lost a game in first and second grade, the lock forward has been an important part of the dominant Penrith outfit and will no doubt make the most of his opportunity.
“Will there be a late change for the Tigers this weekend with Jock Madden coming into this side? I think there will be with Adam Doueihi moving into the centres.
“If you’re a halfback making your debut, some coaches like to make them wait off the bench and some coaches throw them straight in there. For me personally, I would throw him straight in there.
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“His form has been excellent in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup this year and sometimes that new voice in a major playmaking role can pay dividends straight away. Wests Tigers need to get their season back on track so I’m very keen to see how he goes.”
“I’ll be interested to see how he goes because he won’t have to overplay his hand as the Eels are absolutely cooking at the moment.
“I think Brad Arthur will be wanting his son to come in and do his job for the team, defend really well and he’s going to have to as they’re coming up against a Warriors side who run the ball a lot, they’ll test you on an edge.
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“If he sticks to what he’s been doing in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup he’ll be ok. Just kick well, chase, make your tackles and then if an opportunity comes up just run the ball.”
“Panthers lock J’Maine Hopgood has been rewarded for his great form in NSW Cup with a call up to the top squad and going by Penrith’s current form, the jersey is certainly earned not given, so he should take a lot of confidence out of this week.
“Penrith’s forwards have been a real key to their success so far in 2021 and with Liam Martin moving into the starting side, it will be interesting to see if Cleary plays Hopgood on an edge or in the middle to bring some impact off the bench.”