The 2017 Rugby League World Cup kicks off on Friday night and a number of players aged 20 and under will take part in the competition.
From NRL and Super League first graders to Holden Cup regulars, these young guns are ready and eager to make their mark on the international stage.
Salesi Junior Fainga’a – Fiji
Parramatta Eels (NYC) – 27 games in 2017
The youngest player in the Fijian squad, Fainga’a was a key part of the Parramatta Eels’ charge to the NYC Grand Final. A Macquarie Fields Hawks junior, he played in all 27 of the Eels’ games in 2017, averaging 108.3 metres and 28.7 tackles in 71.6 minutes. Standing at 197cm, the second rower is an imposing figure on the edges.
Joe Lovodua – Fiji
St George Illawarra Dragons (NYC) – 26 games, 4 tries
A regular for the Dragons’ NYC side in 2017, Lovodua has been named to make his international debut off the bench for his country this weekend. A versatile player, the Hurstville United junior spent time at five-eighth, prop, lock and hooker during the season. He played every game for the Dragons this past season.
Mikaele Ravalawa – Fiji
Canberra Raiders (NYC) – 22 games, 12 tries
Recruited from Burnside College in New Zealand, Ravalawa had a breakout season for the Raiders’ NYC side, being named their Player of the Year. Comfortable on the wing or at centre, he averaged 134.2 metres and 4 tackle breaks per game in 2017. He is a former Fiji under-18 rugby sevens representative.
Lucas Albert – France
Catalans Dragons (Super League) – 10 games, 1 try
Catalans youngest player in 2017, Albert made his Super League debut for the Perpignan-based club just days after his 17th birthday in 2015. Since then, the half has played 24 games for the side. The 19-year old has been named to make his international debut in France’s opening game against Lebanon this weekend.
Lambert Belmas – France
Catalans Dragons (Super League) – 4 games
Called into the squad to replace Castleford’s Gadwin Springer, Belmas made his Super League debut in 2017 in Catalans’ Round 9 win over Huddersfield. The 188cm prop played four games for the Dragons this past season, starting in three of those games.
Jack Higginson – Ireland
Swinton Lions (Championship) – 1 game
Workington Town (League One) – 2 games, 1 try
A product of the Wigan Warriors academy, Higginson made his debut for the club last season at the age of 18. In February he made an appearance for Wigan’s dual-registation side Swinton, before being loaned to League One side Workington Town. Injuries hampered much of his 2017 season.
Jack Johns – Italy
Newcastle Knights (Holden Cup) – 24 games, 6 tries, 24 goals, 1 field goal
The son of Newcastle legend Matthew Johns, Jack was a standout for the Knights NYC side in 2017. A Harbord United Devils junior, he played 24 games in 2017, recording 6 try assists, 5 line break assists and 2325 kick metres. He has been named at halfback for the Azzurri in their opening game against Ireland.
Joey Tramontana – Italy
Canterbury Bulldogs (Holden Cup) – 21 games, 3 tries
A Peter Sterling Medal winner in his schoolboy days at Patrician Brothers Blacktown, Tramontana first represented Italy in 2016. In 2017, he played 21 games for the Bulldogs NYC side, where he averaged 41.5 tackles per game. In 2013, the Marconi Mustangs junior captained the New South Wales under-16 side.
Adam Doueihi – Lebanon
South Sydney Rabbitohs (Holden Cup) – 12 games, 4 tries, 50 goals
North Sydney Bears (NSW Cup) – 13 games, 2 tries, 1 goal
Recruited from the Balmain Tigers SG Ball side in 2017, Doueihi quickly made the jump from Holden Cup to NSW Cup. A rangy half at 190cm, he played 12 games for South Sydney’s NYC side before moving up to the North Sydney Bears, where he spent time at fullback and five-eighth.
Anthony Layoun – Lebanon
Parramatta Eels (Holden Cup) – 26 games, 14 tries, 5 goals
After limited appearances for the Eels’ NYC side in 2015 and 2016, Layoun became the side’s starting fullback in 2017. He played 26 games in the club’s run to the Grand Final, scoring 14 tries. A Wentworthville junior, he has been named to start at fullback in Lebanon’s opening game against France.
Bilal Maarbani – Lebanon
Manly Sea Eagles (Holden Cup) – 14 games, 7 tries, 13 goals
After starting 2017 in Manly’s NYC side, Maarbani spent time in the Sydney Shield with Blacktown Workers before earning a recall in the side’s run to the Grand Final. The bustling winger scored a try in the Sea Eagles’ premiership victory and earned a spot in Lebanon’s World Cup squad.
Raymond Sabat – Lebanon
Lycans FC (Lebanon Rugby League)
Lebanon’s lone domestic player, Sabat was born in Australia and played his first rugby league in Sydney before moving to Lebanon. The fullback previously played for Jounieh before switching to his current team, Lycans FC in 2016. He has represented his country at the 2016 and 2017 Mediterranean Cups.
Lachlan Lam – Papua New Guinea
Sydney Roosters (Holden Cup) – 22 games, 12 tries
The son of PNG rugby league legend Adrian Lam, Lachlan will represent his father’s heritage at the World Cup. The five-eighth scored 12 tries in 22 games for the Roosters in 2017, averaging 73 run metres and 3.7 tackle breaks per game. He is a former Queensland under-16 and under-18 representative.
Jarome Luai – Samoa
Penrith Panthers (Holden Cup) – 6 games, 3 tries, 4 goals
Penrith Panthers (NSW Cup) – 17 games, 9 tries
The Junior Kiwis captain 2017, Luai started the season in the NYC before ending it as a member of Penrith’s NSW Cup and State Championship winning sides. An NYC premiership winner in 2015, the St Marys junior spent time at fullback in the NSW Cup before ending the season his more familiar five-eighth position.
Jarred Anderson – Scotland
Sydney Roosters (Holden Cup) – 23 games, 11 tries
A regular for the Roosters’ NYC side over the past two seasons, Anderson started a centre in the side’s 2016 NYC Grand Final winning side. A Raymond Terrace and Kurri Kurri junior, he scored 23 tries in his 46 NYC games. He has been named in the reserves for Scotland’s opening game.
Will Oakes – Scotland
Hull Kingston Rovers (Championship) – 8 games, 4 tries
Born in 1999, Oakes will be the youngest player at the 2017 World Cup. The Halifax-born winger, who joined Hull KR as a 16-year old, made his debut for the club in 2016 and played 8 games for them this season, scoring 4 tries. He will start on the wing in Scotland’s opening game against Tonga.
Brandan Wilkinson – Scotland
Bradford Bulls (Championship) – 17 games, 1 try
A product of the Bradford Bulls academy, Wilkinson made his debut for the club in 2017 and would play 17 games for them in his rookie season, starting 7 of them. A lock forward who plays well above his size, he has been named in the reserves for Scotland’s opening game.
Mafoa’aeata Hingano – Tonga
Warriors (NRL) – 13 games, 1 try
Warriors (NSW Cup) – 9 games
While still eligible for the NYC in 2017, Hingano spent the season playing in the NRL and the NSW Cup. In May, he made his international debut for Tonga in their 26-24 win over Fiji at Campbelltown Stadium. He has been named to start at halfback for Tonga’s opening game against Scotland.
Ben Morris – Wales
Oldham RLFC (Championship) – 5 games, 1 try
A product of the St Helens academy, Morris joined Championship side Oldham on loan for part of the 2017 season, starting 5 games at centre. Already a full Welsh international, he has been named to start at second row in Wales’ opening fixture against Papua New Guinea.
Josh Ralph – Wales
Newcastle Knights (Holden Cup) – 5 games, 3 tries
Signed from the Gold Coast Titans, Ralph played just 5 games for Newcastle’s NYC side in 2017 before returning north halfway through the season. A five-eighth or halfback, he joined the Tweed Heads Seagulls for the remainder of the year. He has been named in the reserves for Wales’ first game.