There’s set to be plenty of new young English faces in the NRL for 2024 with a handful of Super League stars having made the jump this off-season, one of those being ex-Wigan Warriors man Kai Pearce-Paul and he’s now tipped a surprise teammate to make the switch in the coming years.
Pearce-Paul signed with Newcastle Knights late last season on a contract to start from the 2024 season, signing alongside Huddersfield Giants’ youngster Will Pryce. This off-season has also seen Pearce-Paul’s Wigan teammate Morgan Smithies land a deal with Canberra Raiders, whilst Warrington Wolves’ Riley Dean has joined North Queensland Cowboys’ feeder team Mackay Cutters.
Both of the men that signed for Newcastle had breakout seasons in 2022, hence agreeing deals at the end of that campaign, but it was Pearce-Paul who kicked on massively during the 2023 campaign and became an integral part of a Wigan side that would lift the League Leaders Shield and subsequently the Grand Final.
The second-rower was also set to be part of Shaun Wane’s plans for the England and Tonga series but for Pearce-Paul’s foot injury, something that those at his new club have taken issue with given he has arrived injured.
It was confirmed to Knights’ fans that Pearce-Paul would undergo the knife and likely miss much of pre-season, with the club releasing a statement with a veiled dig at his former club Wigan.
The statement read: “Scans have confirmed nib Newcastle Knights new signing Kai Pearce-Paul has a toe injury which will require surgery this week.
“Pearce-Paul has been managing this injury for over 12 months at his previous club.
“Upon reviews conducted by the Knights medical and performance team, it was decided surgery was the best course of action to provide long term health and performance outcomes.”
The statement continued to explain that the 22-year-old would commence club activities from the 23rd November, of which includes the role of speaking with the media.
In doing so Pearce-Paul has spoken with the Daily Telegraph and revealed the young talent in Super League that he could foresee making the switch to the NRL, following in his own footsteps.
He specifically picked out a player that many have forecasted to be his long term replacement, explaining to the Telegraph: “In terms of young talent, there is a boy I play with at Wigan called Junior Nsemba.
“He is another young back rower. He is an absolute freak of nature. He is skittling people, full grown men. He has been absolutely smashing it.”
Nsemba is just 19 years of age but has an incredibly similar profile to Pearce-Paul, standing at 1.95 metres, relative to the Londoner’s 1.96 metre frame.
Whilst Nsemba didn’t play in the Grand Final he’ll be a name to look out for in 2024 as he will continue to develop, however he may not be playing his rugby on English shores for long with Pearce-Paul revealing the youngster has had NRL interest.
“I think he had a bit of NRL interest too. I would definitely say he is one to look out for,” Pearce-Paul teased.
“The potential is endless.”