NRL clubs unearthed the next generation of superstars in 2022 with some scintillating performances as young guns announced themselves across the league.

Cowboys gun Jeremiah Nanai won the Dally M rookie of the year after playing a crucial role for the Maroons and North Queensland.

Roosters flyer Joseph Suaalii lived up to the hype and made the Blues’ extended squad, while Rabbitohs halfback Lachlan Ilias filled some big shoes.

A left-field Bulldog came from the clouds to stun the competition, while two Panthers young guns stepped up to fill a void.

Read on for every NRL club’s breakout stars for 2022.

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PANTHERS – Taylan May (special mention Izack Tago)

Panthers young gun Taylan May appeared in a singular game in 2021 before bursting onto the scene with a stunning 16 try season, sitting equal sixth for total four-pointers.

The 21-year-old formed a strong partnership on the left side with fellow rising star Izack Tago, making up for the loss of Matt Burton.

May also recorded 87 tackle breaks, 17 line breaks and made his debut for Samoa in the mid-year Pacific Test match.

Taylan, alongside brother Tyrone, have both been selected in Samoa’s squad for the World Cup in England.

May was re-signed until the end of 2024 earlier this season.

Our prediction: Izack Tago

SHARKS – Nicho Hynes

Pundits were sceptical Nicho Hynes had what it took to lead the Sharks from halfback after spending majority of his Storm career at fullback.

However, he silenced the critics to win the Dally M Medal and lead Cronulla to a second placed finish in the regular season.

While he had already played 36 games before signing with the Sharks, the 26-year-old had a breakout year and cemented himself as one of the NRL’s best.

Hynes recorded 26 try assists, the second most this season, and 194 points to sit in fourth on the points total leaderboard.

Hynes still has two years left on his current deal, and will likely command a significant upgrade come November 1 next year.

Our prediction: Luke Metcalf

COWBOYS – Jeremiah Nanai (special mention Rueben Cotter)

Pundits were sceptical Nicho Hynes had what it takes to lead the Sharks from halfback after spending majority of his Storm career at fullback.

However, he debuffed any criticism to win the Dally M Medal and lead Cronulla to a second placed finish in the regular season.

While he had already played 36 games before signing with the Sharks, the 26-year-old had a breakout year and cemented himself as one of the NRL’s best.

Hynes recorded 26 try assists, the second most this season, and 194 points to sit in fourth on the points total leaderboard.

Rueben Cotter also enjoyed a breakout season and was rewarded with selection in the Maroons and Kangaroos.

Our prediction: Griffin Neame

EELS – Shaun Lane (special mention Will Penisini)

Shaun Lane had already played 121 games with the Bulldogs, Warriors and Sea Eagles coming into the 2022 season.

The 27-year-old was considered a solid backrower – however, after an impressive campaign is now a potent attacking threat.

His partnership with rising playmaker Dylan Brown struck fear into the opposition’s hearts and Lane recorded 12 try assists, 58 tackle breaks and 38 offloads.

Young gun Will Penisini also burst onto the scene after playing five games in 2021, featured 28 times at right centre for the Eels.

Our prediction: Will Penisini

STORM – Nick Meaney

Melbourne recruited Nick Meaney from the Bulldogs after the 25-year-old played 60 games in the famous blue and white strip.

Craig Bellamy has a knack of turning talented players into stars — and he did just that with Meaney.

Meaney played at five-eighth, on the wing and at fullback in his 23 appearances for the Storm this season, scoring 13 tries and sitting ninth on the overall pointscoring leaderboard.

The former Knights back has clearly found a home in Melbourne and will likely slot back to the wing with Ryan Papenhuyzen returning from a fractured patella.

Our prediction: Dean Ieremia

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ROOSTERS – Joseph Suaalii

The 19-year-old sensation came into the year with just one try in five games at centre in his rookie season, but made a successful switch to the wing on the end of a start-studded Roosters backline.

Suaalii finished the season with the fifth most run metres of any Roosters with 2,475 to go with 13 linebreaks, 62 tackle busts, two try assists and 15 tries the second most of any player from the club behind Daniel Tupou with 16.

The talented youngster was rewarded with a call-up to the Blues’ Origin squad, while he looked odds on for Kangaroos’ World Cup selection before he chose to represent his native Samoa.

Our prediction: Joseph Suaalii

RABBITOHS – Lachlan Ilias

No Adam Reynolds? No problem.

Plenty of people had the Rabbitohs missing the top eight with a rookie coach and halfback steering the ship in 2022.

But Jason Demetriou and Lachlan Illias silenced the critics as Souths made a fifth straight preliminary final.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Illias who was hooked by Demetriou in the 29th minute against the Dragons in Round 15, but he mostly delivered when it mattered.

The 22-year-old missed just one game all season and put up some impressive numbers to earn a rookie of the year nomination at the Dally M Awards.

Ilias finished with five tries, 11 try assists, 16 forced dropouts and averaged 30 run metres from 3.8 carries per game.

The halfback extended this contract earlier this year until the end of 2025 after taking unders, according to this manager Braith Anasta.

Our prediction: Blake Taaffe

RAIDERS – Hudson Young

The Canberra backrower came from the clouds this season to go within a whisker of making Mal Meninga’s Kangaroos squad for the World Cup.

Young scored a whopping 14 tries in 2022, 10 of which came after Round 14 and the 24-year-old played a huge part in the Raiders run to the finals.

The man who was suspended twice in 2019 for eye gouges has come a long way and finally produced the breakout season Ricky Stuart had been promising fans.

Young missed just two games this year and averaged 92 metres from 12 runs and 2.5 tackle busts per game.

The workhorse also averaged over 26 tackles per game and finished with 11 linebreaks and four try assists.

Young is contracted in the nation’s capital until the end of 2024.

Our prediction: Xavier Savage

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BRONCOS – Selwyn Cobbo

This excitement machine burst onto the scene in 2022 in a big way – and not just on the Broncos’ wing.

Cobbo played a handful of games last year and took a few games to warm up this season, but really hit his straps when Brisbane went on a six-game winning run.

In the eight games between rounds 7-16, the winger scored a whopping 12 tries, including a hat-trick against the Sea Eagles.

The purple patch earnt Cobbo a Maroons call-up despite only just turning 20 on the eve of the series opener.

Queensland won that game in Sydney and the decider in Brisbane to clinch the series in what proved a major upset.

Cobbo was rested after Origin and Brisbane limped home to inexplicably miss the top eight despite sitting fourth after Round 19.

The winger played 18 games for the club and finished with 15 tries while averaging 146 run metres 10.8 carries per game.

Cobbo signed a mammoth extension earlier this year and is contracted at the Broncos until the end of 2025.

Our prediction: Selwyn Cobbo

DRAGONS – Talatau Amone

It was tough to pick a breakout star for the Dragons this year because coach Anthony Griffin largely refused to play his young guns.

There were high expectations for Amone, Jayden Sullivan and Tyrell Sloan heading into the season, but only the five-eighth got significant game time.

Amone played all 24 games for the Dragons while Sloan and Sullivan featured in just eight and nine each.

St George Illawarra missed finals for the fourth season in a row but Amone’s development proved one of the few shining lights in Wollongong this year.

The 20-year-old finished with six tries, 14 try assists, eight linebreaks and 44 tackle busts.

But Amone, who is contracted until the end of 2024, also made an error or conceded a penalty in every game on average.

Our prediction: Tyrell Sloan

SEA EAGLES – Lachlan Croker

It wasn’t exactly a Melbourne Cup field in 2022 but Croker won the Sea Eagles’ player of the year award after the best season of his career.

The defensive workhorse started 23 games at hooker, missing just one match all season, and made a whopping 911 tackles.

That averages out at 40 tackles per game and was almost 200 clear of the next best, with Jake Trbojevic making 738 as Haumole Olakau’atu rounded out the podium with 543.

Croker has already featured for the Sea Eagles 58 times coming into this season but took his consistently to a new level in 2022 and made the sixth-most tackles in the competition.

Croker scored four tries and set up another six, while also making an impressive six linebreaks from his 70 runs that produced 664 metres this season.

The 25-year-old is off contract at the end of next season which means he can sign with a rival club for 2024 from November 1.

Our prediction: Christian Tuipulotu

BULLDOGS – Jacob Kiraz

The talented 20-year-old outside back came to the club from the Knights having not debuted in the NRL and went on to play 15 games in his rookie season of first grade.

Kiraz finished with the sixth most run metres at the club to go with eight linebreaks, 59 tackle busts, two try assists and six tries, including a hat-trick against his old club.

Kiraz played two games for Lebanon om 2019 and was rewarded for his outstanding season with selection in their 2022 World Cup squad and a Bulldogs contract extension.

Our prediction: Bailey Biondi-Odo

TITANS – Beau Fermor

The talented back-rower came into the season with just 23 games of NRL experience and doubled his career tally to 46 scoring 11 tries in 2022.

The 24-year-old finished with the fourth most run metres of any Titans player with 2,434 to go with 11 linebreaks, 49 tackle busts, four try assists and the most tries of any player at the club with 11 from an equal best 23 games.

Fermor showed up his big money teammate David Fifita to earn a two-year contract extension through until the end of 2026 after a stellar season, while he also made the Maroons’ Origin squad.

Our prediction: Toby Sexton

KNIGHTS – Dominic Young

The 21-year-old Englishman came into the season with four tries from just six NRL games, but cemented his place on the wing playing 20 games for the Knights in 2022.

Young finished with the second most metres of any Knights player with 2,518 to go with a club best 17 linebreaks, 78 tackle busts, a try assist and an equal club best 14 tries with Edrick Lee.

The hulking flyer is only contracted until the end of 2023 and the Knights should move to lock him up long-term with November 1 looming because he will only get better with more experience in the coming years.

Our prediction: Jirah Momoisea

WARRIORS – Edward Kosi

Kosi came into the season with just one try from five games for the Warriors, but added eight more from just 11 games in limited opportunities due to injury.

The 23-year-old finished the season with 1,125 run metres a club best 12 linebreaks, 21 tackle busts and the second most tries of any Warriors player behind Dallin Watene-Zelezniak who played seven more games.

Kosi is only signed until the end of 2023, but the club should look to sign him to an extension because they are in desperate need of a classy finisher if they want to get back into finals contention in the coming seasons.

Our prediction: Rocco Berry

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TIGERS – Fa’amanu Brown

The NRL journeymen came into the season having not played a game in three years since his last stint at the Bulldogs, but had his best season in first grade playing 13 games for the Tigers in 2022.

The 27-year-old finished the season with six linebreaks, 22 tackle busts, 317 tackles and six tries, which was the second most by any player at the club behind Ken Maumalo with 12, despite him playing six more games.

Brown was only on a train and trial contract, but given his successful season, the Tigers would want to upgrade him because there will be no shortage of clubs looking for someone of his class and versatility at the right price.

Our prediction: Jake Simpkin

Originally published as Bulldogs’ shining light as Roosters gun lives up to hype: Every NRL club’s breakout star

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