Young Cronulla Sharks and St George Illawarra Dragons emerge as future NSW State of Origin stars

Speed to burn: Young Dragons star Jai Field training at Wollongong last season. Picture: Adam McLean
Speed to burn: Young Dragons star Jai Field training at Wollongong last season. Picture: Adam McLean

The futures of St George Illawarra and Cronulla look bright if their representation in a trio of NSW squads is anything to go by.

Three Sharks and five Dragons players were invited to new NSW coach Brad Fittler’s Emerging Blues camp last weekend while a further four young Cronulla players were chosen in a  NSW under-16s and under-18s pathways program.

Sharks hooker Jayden Brailey was joined by under-20s star Kyle Flanagan and Jesse Ramien in the Emerging Blues squad alongside exciting St George Illawarra duo Matt Dufty and Jai Field. Dragons trio Hame Sele, Reece Robson and Zac Lomax were also included in the squad, though Sele was a late withdrawal due to the birth of his first child.

Fittler chose 38 players from across 13 NRL clubs for the session at ANZ Stadium where they were joined by specialist positional coaches Andrew Johns, Craig Fitzgibbon, Matt King, Mark O’Meley, Anthony Minichiello and Blues assistant coach Danny Buderus.

Fittler said last month the players chosen all had a bright future.

“I’ve brought these players in because they’re players I really respect and I believe they can learn a lot from the camp both on and off the field,” he said.

“The majority of these players are young stars already playing first grade or on their way to the top grade. These players will be the backbone of the NSW Origin team going forward.

“We’re hoping they get a lot from the Emerging Blues camp about expectations and learning from some of NSW Origin’s best former players who I have played with and really respect.”

Buderus also guided the under-16s and under-18s pathway players at their three-day camp at Narrabeen this week.

Young Sharks Franklin Pele and Bronson Xerri were chosen in the under-18s side while Billy Burke and Blake Hosking were named in the under-16s.

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