To mark the National Rugby Championship entering its fifth season, RUGBY.com.au has launched the NRC Rising Star award to identify and celebrate the stars of tomorrow in Australian rugby.
Since the NRC was launched in 2014, 60 players have graduated from the NRC to earning Super Rugby caps, and a sizeable number have gone on to play for the Wallabies too.
Each year a new crop of exciting new faces - most young, some old - have emerged in the NRC.
Big names like Jermaine Ainsley, Allan Ala'alatoa, Tom Banks, Folau Fainga'a, Ned Hanigan, Rory Arnold, Reece Hodge, Jack Maddocks, Sefa Naivalu, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Joe Powell, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Tui, and Taniela Tupou all made their mark in the NRC before we knew much about them in Super Rugby.
This year, RUGBY.com.au will recognise the names of tomorrow via a new Rising Star award.
After each round a Rising Star nominee will be announced, and at the end of the NRC season, a judging panel drawn from media, playing and coaching circles will assess all the candidates and vote for the overall 2018 NRC Rising Star.
The only parameter for NRC Rising Star is that a player must have played no more than 3 Super Rugby games to be eligible.
There is no age limit, or maximum amount of NRC games.
It will rule out those who've already made it up to Super Rugby level but not the large numbers of aspiring club players, or professionals on the fringes of their Super squad, that make the NRC so vibrant, and valuable.
Players from the Fiji Drua squad will also be eligible for the Rising Star award.
After consultation with the Fijian Rugby Union, the eligibility parameter for the Drua will be that a player must have played no more than three games for the Flying Fijian team.
The first nominee will be announced on Wednesday. Stay tuned.