Titans recruits Tristan Powell, left, and Alofiana Khan-Pereira, far right, pictured with Queensland under 18 team team Carsil Vaikai. Picture: Scott Davis/NRL
Titans recruits Tristan Powell, left, and Alofiana Khan-Pereira, far right, pictured with Queensland under 18 team team Carsil Vaikai. Picture: Scott Davis/NRL

Qld rookies aim to make a splash at our NRL clubs

A towering 2m tall middle forward from Cairns, a fleet-a-foot Gold Coast winger and a front rower from the league rich Darling Downs could be new faces glimpsed by Gold Coast Titans and North Queensland Cowboys' supporters in 2021.

The Cowboys have promoted three players on development contracts into the NRL summer training squad - Heilum Luki, Griffin Neame and Michael Bell.

Luki, 19, is an almost 200cm tall second rower who has entered his first off-season with the Cowboys' NRL squad after coming through the club's Cairns Academy system.

Despite his height, Luki is no string bean and the powerful right edge backrower from the famous Cairns Brothers club will be an exciting prospect for Cowboys' supporters in years to come.

North Queensland Cowboys complete an SAS style training exercise on Castle Hill. Heilum Luki . Picture: Alix Sweeney
North Queensland Cowboys complete an SAS style training exercise on Castle Hill. Heilum Luki . Picture: Alix Sweeney

Another 19-year-old, middle forward Neame, is a former junior Kiwi representative who came to the attention of the club's New Zealand talent scouts. Like Luki, Neame is enjoying his first off-season in the Cowboys' NRL squad.

The pacy Bell, 20, comes from Josh Hannay-Travis Norton country - Moranbah.

An outside back, Bell did last off-season in the NRL squad and was part of the Nines' squad which played in Perth.

Michael Bell training for North Queensland Cowboys. Picture: Evan Morgan
Michael Bell training for North Queensland Cowboys. Picture: Evan Morgan

He then benefited from a season playing for the Blackhawks against the men in the Intrust Super Cup.

The Gold Coast Titans also have their share of development contract players training in the club's top NRL squad.

Winger Alofiana Khan-Pereira is somewhat of a sensation at the Burleigh Bears where his raw speed has made Titans' coaching staff sit up and take notice.

Titans speed demon Alofiana Khan Pereira on a school visit. Picture Glenn Hampson
Titans speed demon Alofiana Khan Pereira on a school visit. Picture Glenn Hampson

With fan favourite Anthony Don now 33 and coming toward the end of his NRL career, Titans' staff could be looking for new blood and it would not surprise to see Khan-Pereira gain experience in 2021 ahead of a full tilt at the NRL starting team in 2022.

Powell, an admirer of former Broncos' great Corey Parker, is a proud Goondiwindi boy who boarded at St Mary's College, Toowoomba.

He has been a regular in Queensland age group representative teams and the young front rower will relish training alongside the Titans' all-star forward pack comprising David Fifita, Jarrod Wallace, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Kevin Proctor and Moeaki Fotuaika.

Tristan Powell is tackled playing for Burleigh in the Hastings Deering Colts
Tristan Powell is tackled playing for Burleigh in the Hastings Deering Colts

Tristan Powell and Helensvale Hornets junior Jayden Campbell were other Titans' development players lapping up training with the NRL big boys.

Powell, Khan-Pereira and Brisbane Broncos outside back speedstar Reece Walsh were team mates of Xavier Coates in the Maroons under 18 side in 2019.

Campbell is slightly built but is a born footballer whose uncanny counterattacking play from fullback electrified the colts competition last season.

The Brisbane Broncos also have high hopes supporters have not seen the best of their NRL novice Tesi Niu, rookie forward Ethan Bullemor or St Mary's College old boy Cory Paix, all of whom made their debuts during the club's horrid season 2020.

 

Niu, in particular, is a thrilling fullback prospect who, in the right environment can thrive.

Central Queensland product Bullemor had the toughest of initiations in a back-pedalling pack last season, and after playing against the men in both the Queensland Cup (Norths) and NRL (eight appearances), he will be a better player in 2021.

New Broncos coach Kevin Walters was also on the record noting the training effort of Walsh, a lightning quick winger or fullback from Keebra Park SHS.

Originally published as Qld rookies aim to make a splash at our NRL clubs


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