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Blues Watch returns for 2023-24

Blues Watch returns for the festive season with casting its eye over some of the players who could be on the cusp of a NSW jersey in 2024. Keep an eye out for Blues Watch highlights over the next few weeks and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Monalisa Soliola

Soliola scored three tries in eight games for the Canberra Raiders NRLW side in 2023, having earlier enjoyed a sterling Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership season with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – helping them to the Grand Final against Mounties.

She has won selection the past two years in the NSW Under 19s team, being named co-captain in 2023 with North Sydney Bears’ Chloe Jackson. 

Spencer Leniu

The Sydney Roosters’ new recruit had a career-high 42 tackle busts while averaging 93 running metres in just 31 minutes per game during the 2023 NRL season for the Penrith Panthers – his impact off the bench helping them to a third straight NRL premiership.  

Leniu has continued to improve since his 2019 debut, as evidenced by his performances for Samoa in the 2022 World Cup, and selection in the extended Westpac NSW Blues squad for 2023. 

Grace Kemp

Making the switch to Rugby League with the Canberra Raiders in 2023, Kemp made 23 tackle-busts and averaged 40 post-contact metres in each of her nine NRLW games at prop.

Kemp is hard to stop with her left-arm fend and has good second-phase play in her armoury with 14 offloads. Kemp also boasts a 93.5 per cent tackle efficiency.

Tolutau Koula

Koula is on track to reach 50 NRL games in 2024 after just two seasons for the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles – 20 matches in 2022 and 19 in 2023. 

He missed five weeks through injury mid-season but still managed eight tries in those 19 matches, scoring a double in three of them. He has played the majority of  club games at centre, but is more than adept at fullback averaging 150 metres per game. He also enjoyed 11 line breaks and 72 tackles busts in 2023. 

The 20-year-old also made his international debut for Tonga at the World Cup, at age 20, playing at No.1.

Scott Drinkwater

Drinkwater’s innate ability to create points in 2023 saw him cross the try-line 11 times and produce 25 try assists (fourth in NRL) in 21 games for the North Queensland Cowboys. He also made 14 line-breaks and 96 tackle-busts.

With that kind of strike rate in 2023 he earned a call-up to the extended Blues squad for Game Three, and his first Paul Bowman Medal in September as the Cowboys’ Player of the Year.

Cassey Tohi-Hiku

Tohi-Hiku was a member of the winning 2022 NSW Under 19s Origin team, then named at fullback for NSW City in their 18-12 loss to NSW Country in May 2023, before being called into the Sky Blues extended squad for Game Two in Townsville in June.

Playing at wing-centre, Tohi-Hiku scored two tries in her second NRLW season with the Parramatta Eels in 2023. She then made her Test debut for Tonga playing at five-eighth against the New Zealand Kiwi Ferns, proving she’s comfortable anywhere in the back line.

Jakiya Whitfield

The former Rugby Sevens flyer scored four tries in nine NRLW games in 2023, making 70 tackle-busts, 10 line-breaks, six offloads and averaging 157 metres per game. Three games she ran for over 200 metres.

Whitfield made her Jillaroos debut on the wing for the second Test against the Kiwi Ferns in November, where she had five tackle-busts and 17 runs for 165 metres with 61 post-contact.

Blayke Brailey

Brailey had the most ball receipts for 2023 with 2,963 and was one of only five players to make more than 1,000 tackles, at 92.2 per cent efficiency. He was also a danger around the ruck with 10 try assists and nine line-break assists.

Brailey joined the Blues fold in 2023 and was part of the extended bench for Game One. He was a deserved winner of the Sharks’ 2023 Porter-Gallen Medal and also won the Tommy Bishop Players’ Player award.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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