In great news for Titans fans, young forwards David Fifita and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui have taken out the top two spots in voting for the best player under 21 in the NRL.
The duo, who both arrived on the Gold Coast during the off-season, are expected to spearhead a finals charge in 2021.
There wasn't a lot between the pair, with Fifita (27 per cent) shading his new forward partner.
Eels five-eighth Dylan Brown and Panthers outside back Stephen Crichton were the other players to attract more than 10 per cent of the vote.
Top 10 players under 21
(In alphabetical order)
Blessed with a terrific name and a game to match, Bradman Best is already one of the most dangerous ball-running centres in the game at the age of 19. With size, speed and raw power, he's a threat on the Newcastle Knights' left edge whether taking the defensive line on himself or creating space for his winger. He scored eight tries in 11 games last season and will only get better from here.
The highlights of Bradman Best's breakout 2020 season
Parramatta five-eighth Brown has already shown a ton of promise after two seasons in the NRL, improving his running and defensive game in 2020 while taking giant leaps as a playmaker with 11 forced dropouts, 10 line breaks, five try assists and four tries. He's on track to be a future Kiwis star and could help the Eels end their long wait for their next premiership.
Stuck behind minor premiership-winning duo and long-time teammates Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai at the Panthers, Burton showed what he could do in a couple of brilliant cameos at five-eighth last year and will get his chance to shine when he joins the Bulldogs in 2022. He's quick, is strong in defence and has a great long-kicking game, and his signing has already been hailed as a coup for Canterbury.
Still only 19, Coates was one of the few Broncos players to impress in last year's wooden spoon season and played his way into a State of Origin-winning Maroons side – scoring tries in both his Origin appearances. With explosive speed and the strength and footwork to break out of tackles, Coates is an example of the bright future still ahead for Brisbane.
Welcome to Origin, Xavier Coates
After four try-less games on the wing in 2019 few would have predicted Stephen Crichton's try-scoring rampage last year, with the Panthers young gun crossing 17 times in 22 games (3rd best in the league) as Penrith cruised to the minor premiership. One of the new generation of strike centres coming through the ranks, Crichton rapid rise to stardom has immediately made him a player in-demand in the NRL.
All of Stephen Crichton's 2020 tries
After a stunning 2020 that included playing major roles in Melbourne winning the premiership and Queensland shocking the rugby league world in the State of Origin series, Fa’asumaleaui enters the new season with a hefty level of expectation placed upon his broad shoulders. If he can advance his game again in 2021, great times appear ahead at the Titans.
The best of Tino Fa'asuamaleaui's breakout 2020 season
The season gone wasn’t the best Fifita has enjoyed in the NRL as he was limited to just nine matches. That didn’t stop him from being in a tug-of-war between the Broncos and Titans for his services. The Titans won that with a lucrative offer and now it is time for Fifita to live up to the hefty price tag. There is no doubting his ability. Along with fellow new signing, and rising star, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, the Titans have arguably the most promising young forwards in the game.
David Fifita shows his explosive speed
Niu had an extremely rough initiation to life in the NRL in 2020. The Broncos were all-too-often on the wrong end of lopsided scorelines and there often seemed little he could do about it. But now, with Kevin Walters taking over and all their young players a year older, Niu will be looking to turn potential into performance. With Walters believed to be considering shifting Niu to the centres, he is likely to have an extended period in which to prove himself.
The hype surrounding his 2020 debut was something else. After burning up the pre-season Perth Nines with a combination of blistering speed and superb agility, there was plenty of people waiting for his first appearance in the big time. He scored six tries in 14 first grade appearances but found his defensive duties a little tougher – his tackle efficiency rate was just 62 per cent. With new Cowboys coach Todd Payten hoping to speed up the North Queensland attack, expect 'The Hammer' to come into his own in 2021.
Hammer time in Townsville
Talau had a great strike rate in the matches he played in 2020 – scoring eight tries in 12 games. When added to his ability to make yards from inside his own half, he is a young player the Wests Tigers will be expecting big things from and they’ll want that to start this year. If recently re-signed David Nofoaluma can continue his fine career and James Roberts can get back to something near his best, expect that pair and Talau to continually test opposition defences.
Talau shows his finishing prowess