Toy Sexton, Charlie Staines and Xavier Savage in action during 2021. Photos: nrl.com

The start of the season brings hope that players will be able to step up and help their team achieve success. Which players will take the next step in 2022?

At the beginning of every season clubs and fans are filled with optimism, not only about their teams chances at making the finals, but who in their squad will become the next big thing.

The Inner Sanctum looks at who will be your teams breakout contender.

Brisbane Broncos

Selwyn Cobbo

After drawing comparisons to Greg Inglis and Latrell Mitchell, 19-year-old Cobbo has big potential and has shown his talent during his seven NRL games.

Cobbo needed a big off-season to become a regular starter, and has done that gaining a round one spot on the wing.

Given the acquisition of Reynolds, Cobbo could thrive with his strong kicking game being implemented which should help him to get to the try line.

Madeline Irwin

Canberra Raiders

Xavier Savage

When Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was ruled out of the Raider’s trials match against the Sea Eagles, it was 19-year-old Savage who was the benefactor. This gave him another chance to impress coach Ricky Stuart, with with his agility and speed.

Savage has only played three league games but has impressed so far. His season was sadly cut short after an AC shoulder joint injury suffered in his side’s win against the Sharks.

Despite missing out on round one selection, Savage is still predicted to have a breakout year and show what the Raiders can expect from him in the future.

Madeline Irwin

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

Bailey Biondi-Odo

After an encouraging rookie season where he burst onto the scene, Biondi-Odo will be looking to take his game to the next level in 2022. After two tries in nine appearances in his rookie season last year, expectations are high amongst Canterbury fans.

One of the most encouraging aspects surrounding the youngster is his ability to play in multiple positions. Although Biondi-Odo will start in the number 14 jersey, he has the ability to break into the number 9 role, or even play within the halves.

Biondi-Odo’s playmaking skills are among the best in the league and his speed and on-field vision is well beyond his years. If Biondi-Odo is at his best in 2022, he can help the Bulldogs make significant strides up the ladder, as they rebuild towards the finals.

Lachlan Dand

Biondi-Odo in action for the Bulldogs in 2021. Photo: bulldogs.com.au

Cronulla Sharks

Cameron McInnes

Despite being a 130-game veteran McInnes has a chance to reinvent himself as he begins his career at the Sharks.

McInnes has spent most of his career at dummy-half, but with Blayke Brailey holding down that position for the Sharks the 28-year-old has a chance to become a spark player off the bench or in the second row.

He will miss the first few rounds of the season after having clean-out surgery on his reconstructed knee, but will be an interesting proposition once fit.

Miah Shannon

McInnes training with his new team in the preseason. Photo: sharks.com.au

Gold Coast Titans

Toby Sexton

Following the departure of Jamal Fogarty to the Raiders, Toby Sexton will take control of the Titans attack stepping into the number seven jersey full-time.

The 21-year-old hopes to emulate the feats of former schoolboys teammates Reece Walsh and Sam Walker in 2021 and become one of the premier halves in the game.

The leader of the Titans new look spine, expect Sexton to deliver on his own expectations.

Miah Shannon

Sexton in action during 2021. Photo: titans.com.au

Manly Sea Eagles

Haumole Olakau’atu

The imposing second-rower made a name for himself last year, cementing his role in the starting squad for the Sea Eagles. Olakau’atu looks to be continually growing as a player and will take another step-forward in 2022.

As a notable mention in the Dally M second-rower of the year, Olakau’atu will be sure to make his presence felt towards the top of that list. The 23-year-old will play a massive role in Manly’s premiership run and could become a leader of the forwards when Jake Trbojevic is called up for the Blues mid-season.

The Western-Sydney native will look to bounce into 2022 after his first full season with Manly and assert himself amongst the elite back-rowers in the NRL

Dominic Criniti

Melbourne Storm

Xavier Coates

When it was announced in May of 2021 that Coates would be leaving his home state and signing with the Melbourne Storm, the fans of the Victorian club quickly became excited.

There is added pressure on Coates who will need to fill the void left by superstar Josh Addo-Carr who departed the Storm for the Bulldogs in the most recent off-season.

Coates will provide the Storm with genuine speed and power, as he looks to take his game to the next level under coach Craig Bellamy.

In what looks to be a Storm side destined for September, the prospect of Coates in full flight come the business end of the competition, is something that can excite the entire NRL.

Lachlan Dand

Newcastle Knights

Dominic Young

This towering winger/centre is set for a much bigger role in 2022 after making his first grade breakthrough last year.

After making just two appearances in his native England for Huddersfield Giants, the 6 foot 7 inches beast headed down under ahead of the 2021 NRL season and scored four tries in six games as he gave Knights’ fans a taste of what’s to come this year.

With a spot on the Knight’s wing up for grabs this year, expect to see a lot more from the 20-year-old.

Darren Notley

New Zealand Warriors

Viliami Vailea

After making his debut late last season Vailea has had a strong preseason and will start the season in the centres.

The 19-year-old impressed during last season in the Intrust Super Cup for Redcliffe, making 13 appearances, scoring seven tries, had 51 tackle breaks, seven linebreaks and averaged 108 run metres.

With the departure of Peta Hiku to the Cowboys, Vailea has a chance to solidify his spot in the Warriors centres in 2022.

Miah Shannon

Vailea warming up last season. Photo: warriors.kiwi

Parramatta Eels

Bailey Simonsson

After having a breakout year in 2019 at Canberra, Bailey Simonsson had a solid yet unremarkable last few seasons with the Raiders. Come the end of 2021 the young winger decided that the time was right for a fresh start, heading to Parramatta with his eyes firmly on a starting wing spot.

Whilst he was already guaranteed to be starting come round one with Maika Sivo out for at least the first month, Haze Dunster’s season ending injury in their trial against St. George essentially means the position will be his for the year.

The big winger will likely be playing outside Waqa Blake and will need to use his strong kick returns to start sets off positively for the Eels, especially with Sivo out. His natural try scoring ability should also be used to great effect outside Blake, who at the end of last season was beginning to find career best form.

Expect a big season from Simonsson as he looks to secure a spot on the Parramatta wing for years to come. 

William Makepeace

Penrith Panthers

Charlie Staines

Despite only making his debut in 2020, Charlie Staines’ NRL career has already been a bit of a roller coaster ride.

Beginning with his four tries on debut against Cronulla, the winger started 2021 in the starting squad, before surprisingly being dropped in the lead up to Penrith’s successful finals run. His struggles with errors and disappointing average run metres were the reasons given for his exclusion last year. However with Brent Naden, Paul Momirovski and Matt Burton all leaving over the off season a spot in the Panthers backline has opened up.

The winger has openly admitted that he mentally drifted out of games at certain stages last year, which along with his handling skills will need to be something he fixes if he wants to have a successful 2022.

The upside with Staines is that he is a proven try scorer, one that a team can rely on to finish even the smallest of opportunities. Whilst he is still only 21 this year may be a defining one in the wingers career, expect him to take it with both hands and run. 

William Makepeace

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Lachlan Ilias

2022 could be the year in which young halfback Ilias makes the number seven jersey his own at the Rabbitohs. The departure of Souths’ record points scorer Adam Reynolds at the end of 2021 has left a gaping hole next to Cody Walker in the starting side, with Ilias the favourite to fill the spot.

After performing well in the Bunnies’ narrow loss to the Dragons in the Charity Shield, the 21 year-old has been given first crack at the starting spot in round one, and an impressive showing against the Broncos could see him hold on to the jumper all year.

Darren Notley

St George Illawarra Dragons

Talatau Amone

Stepping up into the five-eight role for the Dragons at the back-end of last season, Amone showed flashes of becoming a potential superstar.

Replacing the now-retired Corey Norman, Amone will shoulder a lot of the spark in attack, with Ben Hunt likely to focus more on kicking and organising his team in attack. The 19-year-old proved he is up for the task in a struggling Dragons’ side last year and may prove to be one of the best in his position this season.

The Illawarra junior should be boosted by his long-time friends and teammates, Tyrell Sloan and Jayden Sullivan alongside him this year, the trio who have been playing together since their early teens will be keen to show-off their chemistry and fluid play when given the opportunity in 2022.

Dominic Criniti

Sydney Roosters

Joseph Suaalii

One of the most exciting aspects about the Roosters in 2022 is that they have one of the most exciting young talents in Australia at their disposal.

With the departure of the Morris brothers in the Roosters backline, spots have opened up for Suaalii to pounce on and he is right in contention.

While the Roosters have elected to go for experience with Paul Momirovski and Billy Smith for round one, Suaalii will still be in for a big year.

Possessing great skill at such a young age, as well as flair and physicality, Suaalii has many strings to his bow. This freak athlete has the potential to take his game to the next level in 2022, and assert himself as one of the best young talents in the entire NRL.

Lachlan Dand

Wests Tigers

Jackson Hastings

Hastings will make a return to NRL after 3 years in England playing in the Super League. The time away in England has allowed Hastings to develop his game and mature away from the public pressures of the NRL competition.

The Tigers who reached out to Hastings to bring support after their disappointing 2021 season last year, will now be looking for him to step up due to the injury to Adam Doueihi.

Doueihi, who was arguably the Tigers best player last season looks set to be out until at least round six this season. This gives Hastings the opportunity to make his presence felt and push coach Michael Maguire to keep him in the halfback position once Douhei returns. 

Kristin Davis

Hastings in action in the Super League. Photo: weststigers.com.au

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