With each season of Super League there’s the opportunity for new talent to grace the pitch and entertain the fans, academy prospects graduate whilst overseas signings come and make major impacts.
One such overseas star last year was Edwin Ipape. There was plenty of pre-season hype around the Papua New Guinea prospect but having only featured for Leigh in the Championship and for PNG Hunters in the Queensland Cup there remained question marks.
Ipape answered those questions easily, taking Super League by storm and earning himself Dream Team honours, cementing his place as a true breakout star.
Other years have seen the likes of youngsters come through and claim a starting role, Jack Walker for Leeds Rhinos being a prime example with the current Hull FC man having started in a Grand Final at just 17 years of age for the Headingley outfit.
It can be hard to gauge what breaking out means as well, for example whilst Jason Qareqare is a well-known and exciting talent based on the 21 Super League games we’ve seen of him so far, a tally of 20 tries in 2024 would certainly represent a breakout year.
We’ve compiled a list of five players set to breakout in 2024, each with a range of experience and for different reasons.
Arthur Mourgue – Catalans Dragons
Plenty will see the name Arthur Mourgue and question how exactly a player with 68 Super League appearances to his name can break out, however for Mourgue this could be a huge transformative season. The Frenchman will turn 25 in May but 2024 could truly be the year he establishes himself as one of the best full-backs in Super League. Having been tied down to a multi-year deal the full-back should be the building block for Steve McNamara’s team, with the Dragons having lost multiple spine players from their 2023 Grand Final side. Without Sam Tomkins, Mitchell Pearce and Tyrone May there’s a major loss of creative play and much of the burden will land on the talented full-back. In what could be a sink or swim season we’re backing Mourgue to step up and confirm himself as one of the elite stars in Super League.
Ben Davies – St Helens
Davies is another who already has a decent amount of Super League experience under his belt, and he’s another that could flourish given the right opportunity. 2024 just may be the season where Davies is afforded the right chance with St Helens still without a starting centre, the club confirming they remain in the market for a Will Hopoate replacement. Davies himself will be making a charge in pre-season to try and claim that role for himself with the only other candidates in the Saints squad being an ageing Konrad Hurrell and younger academy prospects. New signing Matt Whitley could be dropped into the centres but Davies has shown that when healthy he’s got the talent to be a brilliant centre, and 2024 could be the year he proves it. After all in 2022 he registered eight tries in 16 games, indicating the talent is certainly there.
Fletcher Rooney – Castleford Tigers
The first name on the list that might not be familiar to the neutral fan. Fletcher Rooney is a youth product of the Tigers and made just one appearance for their first team in 2023. He debuted in the final game of the Super League season, a game in which Cas were thumped 46-0, however Rooney received immense praise from opposition head coach Rohan Smith. His own head coach, Danny Ward, commended the 17-year-olds performance, recovering from an early dropped ball to earn Man of the Match honours from a Tigers perspective. He could well have the opportunity to flourish again in 2024. Starting full-back Gareth Widdop has retired with Luke Hooley having been brought in from Leeds Rhinos as the presumed starter. Hooley will be favourite of head coach Craig Lingard given the pair’s time at Batley, but there’s a genuine chance that Rooney could earn game time and with it become a beacon of hope for the Tigers.
Harvey Barron – Hull FC
Winger Harvey Barron is another player that makes this list based on the strong opportunity they could get this season. FC have seen star winger Adam Swift depart the club and whilst ex-Leeds Rhinos man Liam Tindall has arrived, it certainly would seem that Swift’s role is up for grabs. Moreover the other wing spot wasn’t exactly nailed down by Darnell McIntosh. With it looking possible that Davy Litten will move into the full-back role it could be a case that Barron gets a serious shot on the wing, a position where he impressed in his three games last year in Super League. The youngster will turn 21 in May but is certainly one to watch out for if he can edge his way into Tony Smith’s plans.
Junior Nsemba – Wigan Warriors
Perhaps the most exciting name on this list and one that won’t be a surprise for most. After that iconic try in the Challenge Cup during which commentator Dave Woods uttered the line ‘Remember, remember, Junior Nsemba’, it’s been incredibly hard to forget about the 19-year-old. Whilst the second-rower hasn’t played week in and week out, he has played a decent amount of games and during each performance he has made sure to impress. With Kai Pearce-Paul having left the DW Stadium then you’d expect Nsemba to take on his role in almost a like-for-like switch, the two men of incredibly similar build and playstyle. Just this past week Pearce-Paul touted Nsemba to be one of the next British talents to make the switch to the NRL, confirming that there had already been interest for him. With 15 Super League games under his belt and a pack full of talent that he can learn from, the sky truly seems the limit for this man.