With the Rugby League World Cup winding down and NRL pre-season beginning, the focus and attention is being split across rugby league circles heading into the final between Australia and Samoa.
There have been plenty of standout performers during the RLWC, and many of these players will go into next season with renewed confidence from their work on the world stage.
Josh Addo-Carr has topped the try-scoring list, while young guns Jacob Kiraz and Joseph Sua’ali’i both took plenty from the international game’s showcase event.
The Sporting News have compiled a list of 10 players whose stocks have risen during the 2021 RLWC below.
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Josh Addo-Carr (Australia/Bulldogs)
You can’t talk about standout performers in the RLWC without mentioning Josh Addo-Carr.
After being snubbed for NSW in their 2-1 State of Origin series loss to Queensland, it felt like the 26-year-old had something to prove in his return to the representative arena.
The Fox has scored 12 tries and made nine linebreaks in just four games heading into the final against Samoa, and there’s no doubt he will be looking to make his mark in that clash.
He was left out of the Blues side during Origin as Brad Fittler placed an emphasis on yardage from his wingers Daniel Tupou and Brian To’o – but in this World Cup, Addo-Carr has averaged 185 run metres per game and made 23 tackle breaks.
It’s hard to see Fittler making this same mistake again.
Joseph Sua’ali’i (Samoa/Roosters)
Despite only featuring at fullback in limited periods for the Roosters in the early stages of his career, Joseph Sua’ali’i was a shining light for Samoa in this year’s RLWC.
The teenage sensation has been a revelation for the Tricolours on the wing, and could make a move into the centres next season depending on Trent Robinson’s plans.
But his work at the back for Samoa in their run to the final has got plenty of people talking, with the 19-year-old averaging 221 run metres per game and making 31 tackle breaks during the tournament to date.
The chances of Sua’ali’i playing fullback for the Roosters are slim-to-none, at least for now, but there’s no doubting the positive impact he had on Samoa’s World Cup campaign in the new position.
Dylan Brown (New Zealand/Eels)
If there was ever a time for a player to stand up and produce a big World Cup, Dylan Brown absolutely nailed it.
Fresh off a heartbreaking grand final loss to Penrith, the five-eighth stepped into the starting role for the Kiwis and helped push them to within two points of a spot in the final.
Brown scored two tries, produced three try assists and averaged 139 run metres per game, as his combination with Jahrome Hughes showed plenty of potential for future tournaments.
And for the Eels star, who is off-contract at the end of 2023 and now available to negotiate with rival clubs, his asking price may have risen following his performances for New Zealand.
Dominic Young (England/Knights)
Still growing into his career, Dominic Young should take plenty of lessons and confidence out of his RLWC campaign with England.
The 21-year-old, who boasts a hulking frame and has improved significantly during his time with the Knights, scored nine tries in just five games prior to England’s semi-final defeat at the hands of Samoa.
Young also made seven linebreaks and averaged 175 run metres per game – stats that will make Newcastle fans and head coach Adam O’Brien excited heading into an important 2023 season.
Soni Luke (Tonga/Panthers)
While the Tongan side will be disappointed to bow out of the RLWC in the quarter-finals, Soni Luke can hold his head high and go into next year’s NRL campaign with plenty of confidence.
The 26-year-old hooker finished the tournament with three try assists, four linebreak assists and 29 tackles per game, sharing the role with Siliva Havili.
And with two-time premiership winner Api Koroisau leaving Penrith following the 2022 season, Luke may have put himself in the box-seat to take over the No.9 position for the reigning champions following his World Cup efforts.
Jacob Kiraz (Lebanon/Bulldogs)
While his side may have been dismantled by the Aussies in the quarter-finals, Lebanon fullback Jacob Kiraz shined in his first RLWC.
The 20-year-old, who made his first grade debut for Canterbury this year, was among the Cedars’ best throughout the tournament as they made it out of the group stage comfortably.
Kiraz scored one try, produced one try assist and averaged 139 run metres per game in the unfamiliar No.1 role, and could contend for the spot at the Bulldogs next season under new coach Cameron Ciraldo.
Jimmy Ngutlik (Papua New Guinea/Tigers)
Likely the most unknown player on this list, Jimmy Ngutlik has put himself in the frame for an NRL contract heading into next season after his performances for the Kumuls.
The 21-year-old had been playing NSW Cup and Ron Massey for Wests in recent years, but the winger has reportedly caught the eye of Tim Sheens during the World Cup and looks set to train with the top squad in the pre-season.
Ngutlik score three tries in three games for PNG before they were eliminated by England, and his blistering pace could make him a huge asset in the top grade in years to come.
Brandon Wakeham (Fiji/unsigned)
The only player on this list without ties to a club for next year, Fiji playmaker Brandon Wakeham sent a timely reminder to NRL clubs of his potential and playmaking ability.
The 23-year-old had been used sparingly by the Bulldogs since making his in 2019, playing just 25 games in the top grade, before being let go at the end of this season.
Wakeham’s hunt for a new home was done no harm by his performances for the Bati, producing five try assists and three forced dropouts in his four games in the RLWC.
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Jaydn Su’A (Samoa/Dragons)
After an interrupted season with the Red V and missing out on the finals, Jaydn Su’A reminded fans why he is one of the best edge forwards in the competition during the RLWC.
The 25-year-old was enormous for Samoa, playing in all five games and scoring a crucial try in their narrow quarter-final victory over Tonga.
Su’A has averaged 113 run metres and 31 tackles per game throughout the tournament, and will be a focal point of the side’s attack heading into the final with Australia.
Dragons fans, get excited – Su’A should be in for a massive 2023 campaign.
Isaiya Katoa (Tonga/Dolphins)
Despite not making his NRL debut yet, Isaiya Katoa will go into next season as one of the NRL’s most talked-about players.
The teenage playmaker was fantastic for Tonga throughout the World Cup, even keeping Dragons five-eighth Talatau Amone out of the side in the quarter-final loss to Samoa.
Katoa scored two tries, produced two try assists and averaged 90 run metres in just three games for Tonga, and looked every bit the player that Wayne Bennett is hoping he will be for the Dolphins.
While they might not be breathtaking numbers, bear in mind that he is only 18 years of age and is yet to play first grade – but that could all change in 2023.