The NRL is full of stars and stand-out players and with the World Cup waiting at the end of the season, plenty of them will feel like they need to step up this campaign.
So, with the season just around the corner, we’re looking at six men with a point to prove in this season’s NRL.
Last season, Harry Grant impressed whilst on loan at West Tigers in the first loan agreement in NRL history. The hooker forced his way into the Queensland squad ad even went onto score the series- clinching try in a 20-14 Game III victory. With the World Cup on the horizon, the hooker will be eyeing up a place in Mal Meninga’s plans whilst also looking to cement himself as the Queensland number 9 or at least the replacement hooker. But on top of that, a return to Melbourne Storm brings its own demands. The Storm have set new standards over the last 15 years and it’ll be up to him to maintain them this season as he looks to replace legend Cameron Smith. But his place as Smith’s replacement isn’t nailed on with a battle with Brandon Smith likely on the cards.
Like Grant, Smith will want to establish himself as Melbourne’s hooker following the departure of namesake Cameron. The New Zealand international has played second-fiddle to his former skipper over the last few seasons and will be determined to show he can be a starting hooker. Harry Grant’s return questions this, forcing Smith to look into options outside of Melbourne. That has left the Kiwi with something to prove to Craig Bellamy as well as potential other suitors as the season unfolds.
When playing centre at the rampant Roosters, Mitchell was perceived as one of the best players in the world. He was trusted to change the game with a single run and was often unstoppable, being key to Sydney’s back-to-back Premierships in 2018 and 2019. However, that success hasn’t followed him to Souths. A change of position has somewhat capped his abilities and he feels less like the dominant force he once was. 2021 is a watershed year for the back to prove his quality once more.
The last few seasons have seen the English hooker struggle with injuries at times. That has left the number 9 desperate to prove he can go a full season and re-assert himself as one of the competition’s best in his position. Also, with the World Cup looming, Hodgson will want to show those back home that he should be England’s starting hooker when the tournament rolls around.
This might sound strange, but one of last year’s stars still has a lot to prove. There’s no doubt Cleary is an outstanding number 7, but he failed to deliver the Premiership at the end of the season and saw his New South Wales side well beaten despite being favourites in Origin. 2021 offers him a chance to rewrite those wrongs and show he can be this generation’s outstanding halfback.
On the other end of the spectrum to Cleary, Brooks has yet to produce the same kind of form as his Penrith counterpart. Still far too inconsistent, more pressure has been heaped on the Wests half with the departures of Benji Marshall and Josh Reynolds. He’s now being trusted to carry the Tigers forward and finally break into the top 8 and questions still remain over whether he’s the man to do that.