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Next Gen is a new weekly column by Fox Sports commentator Matt Russell which will cover the 2011 Toyota Cup competition. 

Never In Doubt

Round 1 of the NRL again highlighted the NYC’s value as a breeding ground for Gen Next.

Sam Williams, Beau Henry, Sam Kasiano... the list goes on.

Williams has been wonderful for the Raiders Under 20’s over the past two years, especially as a kicking option. He’s shown it all – 40/20’s, cross-field bombs, grubbers into the in-goal and cheeky chip-chases.

He is good to speak to – articulate and confident – and should thrive pushing that big NRL pack around the park.

Henry is also as solid with the boot but stands out for his passing game and put it on display with a try and try-assist in the romp against Penrith.

Sam Kasiano used his size, strength and off-loads to dominate Toyota Cup opposition last year and looked right at home in ‘open company’ on Monday night.

Even Gordon Tallis was impressed with the raging Bull(dog).

Three winning NRL debuts. Now to do it week in, week out.

Glen Fisiiahi had a tough time on debut in the Warriors’ loss to Parramatta but he is much better than that. “The Flying Fish” was electric in last year’s premiership winning New Zealand side. He also showed his ability to bounce back brilliantly from adversity. He’ll do it again.

Next In Line
When will we see James Roberts in the NRL?

Just 18, he scored three tries for South Sydney, including the winner, as the Bunnies beat the Roosters 32-28 to start the Toyota Cup season.

He finished  last year with two tries that saw him start in his own in-goal, surrounded by defendenders.

He’ll need to be closely watched by the Dogs, who opened 2011 with a 16-6 win against the Tigers on Monday.

You can see Roberts, Souths and Canterbury to start NRL Sunday on Fox Sports 2 from 11.30am AEDT. I’ll be joined by Cam Smith in commentary.

Still My Tip
Last week, I nominated North Queensland as the team to beat in the Toyota Cup in 2011.

After 18 minutes against Brisbane, they trailed 24-0.

It was a good, old-fashioned ambush.

The Broncos won 46-24 despite three tries from Nth Qld centre Moses Pangai.

Well done Brisbane, but I’m still backing the Cowboys.

This week they’re at home to the biggest winners from Round 1, Newcastle.

GoodKnight Penrith
One of my vivid Toyota Cup memories is seeing a furious Garth Brennan glowing red as he stood on his own after a loss in Penrith.

His Newcastle team had given up a massive lead and been beaten.

It still haunts Brennan and he didn’t rest when Newcastle  led 22-6 at halftime on Sunday.

The Knights scored tries with their first three sets after the break and won 62-16.

I received this text on Sunday evening: “’ll be happy to know I was in better shape today than the last time you saw me at Penrith Park. Brenno”.

‘Brenno’ will be in a good shape more often than not if the Knights can excite like they did at Penrith with some wonderful, long range tries.

They are trying to make the finals for the first time.

Nothing By Halves
Melbourne started its season by beating Manly 40-12.

It was a big finish by the Storm players, who trailed 12-10 after 30 minutes.

Their halves led the way. Ben Hampton scored three tries. Matt McGahan kicked 6/7.

McGahan is one of several famous rugby league names in Melbourne’s Under 20’s, joining Freeman, Sironen, Smith and Moi Moi.

This Saturday they play a Gold Coast team that was beaten 38-4 by St George Illawarra.

The Titans led 4-0 after three minutes but then went 77 minutes scoreless.

Join myself and Brett Kimmorley for all the AAMI Park action from 3pm AEDT on Fox Sports 2.

(Bombed) Try of the Year

Jacob Loko has an early entry in this category after his effort in New Zealand last Saturday.

After gapping the defence on halfway, he could have picked anywhere to put the ball down but instead ran towards the posts AND Carlos Tuimavave.

The Warriors’ five-eighth pulled off a brilliant one-on-one tackle and stopped the try.

The Eels went down 20-16.

Ticker Please
The Sharks Under 20’s showed their NRL players what will be needed against the Dragons on Monday night.

Trailing a big Canberra side 24-14 last Sunday, the young Sharks fought back to win 34-30, inspired by back rowers Tyrone Peachey, Duncan Reilly and Tyson Frizell.

The Sharks 20’s always had great spirit under Joey Grima and nothing seems to have changed under new coach James Shepherd.

Random Stuff
The amount of points scored in Toyota Cup games has long been fodder for critics of the Toyota Cup.

Well, did anyone notice that three of the NRL games from Round 1 featured more points than the Under 20’s game played before them!

Struck Out
Striking charges are set to see five Toyota Cup players suspended.

The match review committee has been instructed to come down harder on Toyota Cup offenders than their NRL colleagues.

There could be an argument the other way around, given the Toyota Cup is made up largely of young, part-timers, still fine-tuning their game... but that can wait until another day.

For the record, a brawl in the Manly v Melbourne match will see the Sea Eagles without Tim Burrell (2 weeks) and Jorge Taufua (3 weeks) while the Storm will miss Damien Sironen (1 week) and Kirisome Auva’a (3 weeks).

Knights enforcer Josh Ailaomai cops 1 week for an errant elbow.

View the Toyota Cup team lists for Round Two
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