Some of the biggest young stars in the game are set to feature as the SG Ball Cup season gets underway once again. NewsCorp continues its preview of all teams with the Canberra Raiders.
FUTURE NRL stars are set to make their impact as the SG Ball Cup returns for another season.
Pitting the best U19s talent in Australia against each other, the competition has a long history of breeding future first graders, and this year is set to be no different.
Penrith’s success was one of many for the club last year, but there are plenty of sides hot on their tails, including a Western Suburbs side calling up multiple players from their dominant Harold Matthews Cup premiership in 2022.
We’ll progressively preview all 16 clubs competing this year, continuing with the Canberra Raiders.
Coach: Peter Marrapodi
Players to watch: Gun fullback Chevy Stewart arrives in Canberra after a standout year for Cronulla in last season’s Harold Matthews competition. Fit and firing after completing his pre-season training with the NRL squad, the speedster will provide plenty of flare out wide and havoc through centrefield with his deadly anticipation.
The younger brother of Canberra NRL prop Ata Mariota, Niu is an impact player fast tracking his own path to higher honours. One of the bigger front-rowers in the competition, Mariota’s fitness has risen to another level after several disrupted pre-seasons.
Surprise packet: Hunter recruit Jake Clydesdale is the brother of former Newcastle and Canberra hooker Adam, and it’s where the similarities end. A front-row powerhouse, Jake is a country kid with a great attitude who coach Peter Marrapodi expects will surprise many with his impact up the middle.
Why they will be competitive: With several key signings joining the best of last year’s Harold Matthews semi final combination, the Raiders are expected to be a force. Marrapodi sees his squad’s fitness and hard working values as a point of difference, and believes he has the halves required to exploit the team’s inevitable go-forward.
Last season: 9th
Squad list: Chevy Stewart, Eddie Tiana, Elvis Nauer-Wood, Ethan Alaia, Jack Anderson, Jack Clutterbuck, Jack Piccirilli, Jacob Iosefa, Jake Clydesdale, Jalen Afasamaga, Jaxen Yow, Jaxon Lavender, Jayden Wolfe, Joe Roddy, Jordan Chapman, Keahn Skipps, Lekani Mpaso, Mark Tuialii, Niu Mariota, Noah Martin, Owen Hromow, Owen Pattie, Ryan Woolley, Samuel Gash, Siamani Leuluai, Tahrell Feavai, Trent Jefferey, Vena Patuki-Case, Xavier Cacciotti
Coach: David Howlett
Players to watch: Lawson Cotter and Lachlan Crossle are both local junior league players with strong running games. Cotter is an edge back row, and has been highlighted by academy and talent manager Glenn Brailey as an exciting prospect. Meanwhile, front rower Crossle is known for his fitness and hard work on the park. Both players got a taste of SG Ball level last year and will bring needed experience to the side.
Why they will be competitive: Officials have assembled what they believe are strong squads, with a good combination of local talent and positional-specific recruited players. With a bit of luck with injuries, they’re aiming for progression in 2023. Players graduating from a grand final appearance in last year’s Harold Matthews Cup will push their claims of a finals appearance.
Last season: 7th
Captain: Josiah-Ekkehard Neli
Coach: Jason Warr
Players to watch: “Lock Josiah-Ekkehard Neli and front rower Zayvian Langkilde-Fale both finished last year playing some Jersey Flegg. Josiah is a really willing player, he’s aggressive and plays well and truly above his weight. Zayvian is a strong ball carrier and does all the right things in defence. Suliasi Prescott has spent the pre-season with the NRL development ad is an elusive dummy half coming back after last year.”
Surprise packet: “Young centre Siulagi Pio has got a great frame on him and brings a great attitude to the club. We’re expecting some big things from him.”
Why they will be competitive: “This is the best pre-season we’ve ever had. There’s been interruptions the last couple of years but none this time. The boys have been training really well and are looking to put their best foot forward. 75 per cent are top age players, whereas in previous years we’ve had to rely on bottom age to come through. It’s a good platform having a season under their belts which helps with cohesion.”
Last season: 15th
Coach: Gaven Sheehan
Players to watch: “The name on everyone’s mouth is Josh Feledy. He transferred from Manly to the Wests Tigers. He’s been training with the NRL squad in the pre-season and we might see him in the first few rounds (of SG Ball). Another is a local Tony Sukkar who is a forward and a very likely prospect coming back into SG Ball. He’s a powerful player with a lot of maturity. He’s been training in the NRL squad along with Oliver Lawry. He’s a big unit at over six foot tall, and has great skills and is a strong half.”
Surprise packet: “I had a big wrap on this player from last year but unfortunately he got injured in the trials. Elijah Mataale has come back 5kg fitter and trimmer. He looks a great prospect. He’s a middle front rower. Another is John Ibrahim who looks great as a running lock.”
Why they will be competitive: “If you look at both teams last year, not a lot of people gave us a hope in SG Ball and we finished only one point out of second. What I see in this group is balance across the field. We’ve got some good forwards, good backs and some key players in those positions. You look at Wests and a few others that will be strong, we’ll likely sit under the radar. We’ll continue to build nicely and there’s no real weaknesses across the field. Our top 18-20 players look strong.”
Last season: 3rd (eliminated Finals Wk 1)
Squad: Lipina Ata, Lachlan Broedlow, Levi Conti, Jonas Cook, Bryson Demanuelle, Kian Edmed, Jesse Eljuga, Josh Feledy, Michael Feledy, Aiden Harb, Johnny Ibrahim, Cameron Kanaan, Hosea Kedzlie, Will Kennedy, Keenan Lawandos, Oliver Lawry, Lotu Lavilavi, Zaid Lehn, Jackson Lill, William Malloy, Elijah Mataale, Billy McNickle, Adam Mehrez, Brendan Naicori, Charlie O’kane, Velangi Otahaha, Joe Schmitzer, Jekope Sovau, Gabe Stuart, Tony Sukkar, Jordan Tut Chapman, Kaisara Tuimauga, Wade Zreika
WESTERN SUBURBS MAGPIES
Coach: Joey Saukuru
Players to watch: “We’ve had three training at the top level. Kit Laulili’i is a ball-playing lock and brings real leadership to the team He’s a year young for SG Ball but is very mature minded and leads from the front. Zac Clarke is an edge back rower who can also play at the six. Tallyn De Silva is a classy nine that gets out and runs. The club has managed to lock him down which is good for his development, we rate him really highly.”
Surprise packet: “Heath Mason is a good, running half and a really nice kid. He was in the Emerging Blues over the summer and went into camp with them. Heath was part of the Harold Matts team last year that went undefeated last year and is a St Greg’s product who trains hard and is really aggressive.”
Why they will be competitive: “In last year’s SG Ball we had 11 year youngs and nine of them have stayed on with two moved on to other clubs. Plus we have the young guys coming up from Harold Matts so we have a decent side of local talent. There’s about 95 per cent that are locals, sprinkled in with Australian Schoolboys player Chris Faagutu (from Queensland), I think we can give it a really good shake.”
Last season: 12th
Squad: Brycen Anae-Roberts, Teancum Brown, Lachlan Bush, Zakauri Clarke, Tajh Colquhoun, William Craig, Tallyn Da Silva, Christopher Faagutu, Sosefo Finau, Lachlan Galvin, Tino Tavana, Luke Keppie, Kit Laulili’i, Jeremiah Leatigaga, Ofele Lene, Raymond Lole, Heath Mason, Jordan Miller, Thomas Pati, Elijah Pettit-Young, Heith Pritchard, Solomone Saukuru, Mou Taumaletila-Maulolo, Junior Taungatua, Masei Tavui, Harrison Valevatu, Daniel Waqa
Originally published as SG Ball Cup season preview: Every club profiled ahead of the 2023 NSWRL junior reps season