NRC: Top of the class

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The NRC has given a platform for a number of current Super Rugby, and Test, players to catch the attention of coaches in the back end of the year for the past four seasons.

Some built off solid club or U20s seasons to dominate the NRC and some came like a bolt from the blue.

Who have been the best NRC ‘graduates’ through the competition?

Here are our top picks.

Samu Kerevi

The original and pretty much the best to this point, Kerevi was the first NRC success story. It was his form for Brisbane City in the first two seasons of the NRC that really propelled his Super Rugby career. Since then, Kerevi has stamped his influence on the Reds and made his Wallabies debut against England in June last year. The 23-year-old has battled injuries in 2017 but showed glimpses of his talent again in Japan last weekend.

Izack Rodda

Izack Rodda has shown his wares in the NRC. Photo: Getty ImagesIt’s hard to separate Rodda and his Queensland Reds teammate Lukhan Tui when it comes to this one. Rodda improved immensely playing for Queensland Country in 2016, before making his Super Rugby debut in 2017. The 21-year-old was influential in a team that struggled last season, and that form carried into this year, with the second rower ultimately making his Wallabies debut in Dunedin. The lock won't be a part of their maiden final appearance this weekend, though, after undergoing shoulder surgery.

Jake Gordon

Gordon’s clean service and finishing ability propelled NSW Country to their first NRC final last season. It was his efforts for the Eagles that helped push him from a perennial fringe Waratahs player to the regular NSW starter. His Super Rugby form was good enough to earn an invitation into the June Series squad this year. HIs 2017 NRC campaign was stunted by injury, but the games he did play were impressive. 

Izaia Perese 

Perese grabbed attention as a schoolboy, but it was his NRC form that helped him graduate into the Super Rugby ranks. In a struggling Queensland Country side in 2016, Perese was a standout in almost every game he played, with his dynamism elusiveness. The teenager was handed a Spring Tour development spot off the back of that run of form, and has stayed in Wallabies contention ever since.

Isi Naisarani

Naisarani was an absolute revelation for Brisbane City in the 2016 NRC season, with his tackle-busting, ball-carrying ways at the back of the scrum. The 22-year-old was quickly snapped up by the Western Force in Super Rugby this year and his skills transferred with ease, the Fijian-born backrower winning the club’s Nathan Sharpe Medal. He isn’t eligible for Australian Test duty until early 2019 but there’ll be few surprised faces if he is straight into the Wallabies fold as soon as that day ticks over.

On the fringe:

Richard Hardwick

Perth product Richard Hardwick was named the inaugural Phil Waugh medalist. Photo: Getty ImagesHardwick was a relative unknown heading into the 2016 NRC season. Though he had played representative rugby, he didn’t have a professional contract for 2017. A super season for the Perth Spirit changed all that. Hardwick was one of their most consistent players throughout the year, and the tireless flanker was man of the match in the 2016 decider. A superb start to Super Rugby saw him parachuted into the June Series squad as well.Injuries curtailed his NRC campaign this year and his next move will be critical.

A number of players from this year's NRC could be well in the mix for this list, including Matt Philip, Jack Maddocks, Blake Enever or Tom Banks, but we'll wait and see how their next step unfolds.