The Championship season is almost upon us and it looks set to be one of the most competitive yet.
But in a competition full of well-known names and recent high-profile signings, there are a number of young, up-and-coming stars of the future who are set to blaze a trail for their teams.
Here are ten to watch out for this year.
Olly Ashall-Bott (Widnes Vikings)
Age: 21 Position: Fullback
Despite his tender age, the young fullback has been through a lot in his career already.
But despite serious injuries and now a relegation to deal with, Olly Ashall-Bott looks like a kid with the world at his feet.
When he played in Widnes’ struggling side last year, he handled himself with supreme confidence and composure.
Ashall-Bott has all the signs of a top-class talent. Hopefully, injuries (or a lack of) will let him flourish this year.
Ilias Bergal (Toulouse Olympique)
Age: 22 Position: Wing
The rapid Frenchman has had quite the blistering start to his professional career.
In 23 domestic professional games, the speedster has scored a remarkable 21 tries, a pretty remarkable record.
13 of those came in 11 appearances for Leigh last season, a run of form that has earned him a move back to his homeland this year.
Already capped three times by France, Bergal looks to have a big future ahead of him.
Chester Butler (Halifax)
Age: 23 Position: Centre/Second-row
Want to know how highly Butler is rated? He was named the League Express Championship Player of the Year in 2018.
Butler was a revelation for Fax last year, scoring ten tries in 24 games, playing predominantly in the back-row.
A fantastic ‘wrestler’ and a strong carrier of the ball, the homegrown talent is likely to be a force to be reckoned with again this year.
Super League clubs aren’t too far away, and it’s easy to see why.
Josh Guzdek (Sheffield Eagles)
Age: 23 Position: Fullback
The former Hull KR product is on the move in 2019, moving from Dewsbury to Sheffield.
The move could be a gamechanger for a youngster who probably lacked the service he desired at the back last year.
But playing in a strong team with experienced pivots could be the making of Guzdek, who has all the ingredients to be a top fullback.
Brad Hey (York City Knights)
Age: 24 Position: Centre
York have produced quite the product line in recent years.
Well, Hey could well be the next to follow the likes of Greg Minikin to the elite tier of the game.
The 24-year-old gets a chance at the Championship this year, having played a key role in York’s promotion from League 1.
Super League clubs will be watching.
Jordan Johnstone (Widnes Vikings)
Age: 21 Position: Hooker
With over 40 professional games under his belt already, this 21-year-old has an old head on his young shoulders.
Quick and strong with the ball, excellent at distributing it and not shy at throwing his weight around in defence, the Vikings man has a big future ahead of him.
This year will see him get regular first-team action, likely forming a partnership at number 9 with Liam Hood.
That could be the chance he needs to go to the next level.
Louis Jouffret (Batley Bulldogs)
Age: 23 Position: Halfback
The proclaimed ‘King of Batley’ is back in his town once again in 2019, looking to wreak havoc in the second-tier.
The Frenchman arrived at Mount Pleasant midway through last season and was a revelation, guiding the team round superbly.
His job is to do that again this year, and he’ll be doing so under the watchful eye of certain Super League subs.
Elliot Minchella (Bradford Bulls)
Age: 23 Position: Second-row
It’s crazy to think that Minchella is still only 23.
The back-rower is preparing for his seventh professional season, having started out at Leeds.
Last year was undoubtedly his best year yet, scoring an utterly ridiculous 33 tries at a rate better than one per game.
He’ll do incredibly to match that playing a division up but certainly returns to the second-tier a far better player, and one of the best young prospects outside of Super League.
Brandon Moore (Halifax)
Age: 22 Position: Hooker
Ask any of Moore’s team-mates to describe the Cumbrian and they’ll often use the word ‘freak’.
Richard Marshall, speaking about the hooker this off-season, revealed he was by far and away leading all the pre-season training tests.
He tends to be a top performer week in, week out on the pitch too, coming out on top of the tackle charts and metres gained.
With nearly 70 appearances already to his name, there are very high expectations hanging over the former Castleford youngster.
Matty Storton (Bradford Bulls)
Age: 19 Position: Second-row
You’ll struggle to shock John Kear too many times.
But after watching the back-rower dominate a pre-season game, he appeared genuinely stunned by the forward’s performance at such a young age.
The only word Kear could find to describe him was ‘unbelievable’.
Very young he might be, but expect Storton to feature during the year.