Cruz Topai-Aveai - Celebration Lions (Christchurch)
After moving from Shirley Boys High School 1st 15 to South Sydney Rabbitohs, Topai-Aveai has quickly slid into NRL contention with Cronulla Sharks. A mid-season move in 2017 saw Topai-Aveai make the move to Cronulla and the middle forward could add some spice to the Sharks forward pack if injuries/suspension fall in his favour. Chance of an NRL debut this year are slim, although if Ava Seumanufagai departs, look for Topai-Aveai to come into contention.
Ava Seumanufagai - Waunuiomata Lions (Wellington)
Plenty of noise around Seumanufagai moving to England to ease salary cap pressure on the Sharks, which would be a bummer as he has struggled to crack consistent NRL game time.
Shaun Johnson - Hibiscus Coast Raiders (Auckland)
Ah, Mr Johnson. Re-uniting with Chad Townsend will provide an interesting wrinkle to Johnson's work with Cronulla and he isn't short of weapons around him - most notably Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan. Johnson also re-unites with former Junior Warriros comrade Sosaia Feki and they could offer some funky combos out on the edge.
Sione Katoa - Chester Hill Hornets (Sydney - Hamilton)
Starting last season as one of the hottest Sharks prospects, Katoa suffered an early injury and struggled to wiggle back into a starting wing spot. The arrival of Josh Morris clutters the outside back unit and Katoa will be competing with Morris and Feki to start; experience will likely see him fall behind those to. Katoa is a great 'next up' winger though and will get NRL minutes at some stage.
Braden Uele - Glenora Bears (Auckland)
Snatched away from North Queensland Cowboys prior to last season, Uele hasn't been able to work his way in the Sharks middle mixer yet. Greater opportunities should come this season and as highlighted above, the battle between Uele with his seniority and Topai-Aveai with his young gun status will be a funky #KiwiNRL narrative to follow.
Sosaia Feki - Bay Roskill Vikings (Auckland)
One of the most solid wingers in the game, Feki is always a pleasure to watch.
Briton Nikora - Parkwoods Saints (Gold Coast - Tauranga)
A 2017 Junior Kiwi, Nikora was on the fringes of NRL footy last season and with Luke Lewis retiring, Nikora will be hunting for a chance this season. The likes of Wade Graham, Kurt Capewell, Scott Sorenson and Jayson Bukuya are still ahead of Nikora though so he'll need to demand an opportunity in reserve grade.
Gold Coast Titans
Jesse Arthars - Runaway Bay Seagulls (Gold Coast - Auckland)
Returning to Gold Coast after spending time with Melbourne Storm, then South Sydney Rabbitohs, Arthars offers fullback cover behind Michael Gordon and AJ Brimson. For someone still Under 20s eligible last season, moving around so much isn't usually a good sign, yet they all make sense for Arthars; plenty of Storm depth and going back home to clearer path to NRL footy at Titans (compared to Rabbitohs). Unlikely to crack NRL this season though and he could find a way on to the wing if the stars align.
Kevin Proctor - Currumbin Eagles (Gold Coast - Te Kuiti)
Stock, standard Proctor. Now a Titans leader, Proctor will hopefully enjoy some better times as the Titans should be better this season.
Moeaki Fotuaika - Greenbank Raiders (Brisbane - Gisborne)
Perhaps the beastliest #KiwiNRL youngster coming into this season, Fotuaika looked at ease in his debut campaign last year. This will see Fotuaika start the season on the bench and his impact will be mandatory viewing as he racks up plenty of efficient metres, plus he'll most likely add to Tonga's forward pack for their internationals. That's how good Fotuaika is; he will enhance Tonga's forward pack.
Manly Sea Eagles
Martin Taupau - Padstow Panthers/Greenacre Tigers (Sydney - Auckland)
Fizzing to see Taupau combine his powers with Des Hasler.
Toafofoa Sipley - City Newton Dragons (Auckland)
Intrigued to see how Hasler views Sipley, given that Sipley has struggled to demand regular NRL minutes despite appearing to have value in the middle. Unable to command further opportunities with the Warriors, leading to the Sea Eagles move which has largely yielded the same results and now Sipley has to impress Hasler to get a bench spot. I've got Sipley slightly outside the top-17 (behind Taniela Paseka, Kelepi Tanginoa, Lloyd Perrett, Jack Gosiewski), but he'll be next in line if there there is a vacancy.
Semisi Kioa - Mangere East Hawks (Auckland)
Well down on the depth chart at centre, Kioa is however an enticing prospect to keep an eye as Manly's outside back depth isn't exactly awesome. An interesting Kioa note: Kioa was in the same Counties Manukau Stingrays Under 15 (2014) team as Etene Nanai-Seturo and Steven Marsters - 2017/18 Junior Kiwi and Dragons prospect.
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