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Best first impression: experts have their say

With a host of new signings and several rookies getting their first run in team colours at NRL level in round one, which new face impressed the most?'s experts view

Michael Chammas ( chief reporter)

David Klemmer has already shown that he will be worth every dollar spent for the Newcastle Knights. He’s added the aggression and go-forward that team needs to be able to compete with the top sides. While we didn’t see the best of the Knights halves in round one, you can be guaranteed they’ll reap the benefits of Klemmer’s output in the coming weeks.

Margie McDonald ( senior reporter)

Adam Keighran. Shaun who? With all the expectation of trying to fill the S. Johnson void, Adam Keighran steps in, scores a try, kicks six from seven conversions, makes 17 tackles and misses none, gets a repeat set with his left boot, along with a few bombs and grubbers to further annoy the Bulldogs in a 40-6 win. It was not only Keighran’s first game in Warriors colours, it was his first NRL game. But should we be surprised? The 2015 Australian Schoolboy and former Panther scored 10 tries and 81 goals in his 23 Canterbury Cup games in 2018.

Jamie Soward (Former Blues five-eighth)

John Bateman was all class in his NRL debut, playing the full 80 minutes for Canberra in their win over the Titans. He's got the ability to maintain this kind of output over the course of the season which should lead to the Raiders rising up the ladder and definitely help them conquer their habit of losing close games.

Toovey and Kimmorley back expansion

Maria Tsialis (Big League editor)

I'm not going to label him the new and improved version of a retired player - I've seen that ruin careers before - but Dylan Brown looks to be the answer to the eternal Parramatta halves question. He was cool, calm and collected in his first game, worked well with Mitchell Moses and set up the last try of the match beautifully. Looking forward to seeing more of what he can produce.

Brad Walter ( senior reporter)

John Bateman. One of the best performers in Super League and on the international stage last year, the English forward made an immediate impact on the NRL to lead Canberra to victory against the Titans by making a team-high 154 run metres, 36 tackles and five tackle busts.

Paul Suttor ( editor)

Adam Keighran’s eye-catching debut had a lot of NRL fans reconsidering their decision to leave the Warriors out of their finals predictions. If he can maintain that kind of form, the rest of the Warriors squad is virtually the same as last year so they’ll give the playoffs a good shake.

Dan Walsh ( reporter)

Blake Ferguson. He’s added seven kilos to his already hulking frame without losing a yard of speed. Penrith kicked to him repeatedly knowing he has an error in his game but he didn’t put a foot wrong. Bodes very well for the Eels and the star flyer.

Tony Webeck ( reporter)

If John Bateman can play 80 minutes at that intensity for the next 24 weeks – and his pedigree suggests he will – the Raiders will have to find a place alongside Josh Hodgson’s future statue at GIO Stadium for his fellow Englishman. Got cult hero written all over him.

Joel Gould ( reporter)

The NRL debut of Adam Keighran for the Warriors was a standout in round one. The pressure on a new number seven at the club in the wake of Shaun Johnson’s exit is enormous but the way Keighran handled it with composure against the Bulldogs bodes well for the future. With Blake Green beside him Keighran has the right man to guide him through the coming months.

Every try of Round 1

Chris Kennedy ( reporter)

There were some outstanding displays from new signings and debutants across the weekend so picking one is very tough. Rookie halves Dylan Brown and Adam Keighran were excellent, as were new Knights David Klemmer and Edrick Lee. I have to give it to Canberra’s newest Englishman John Bateman though. The Test centre got through 80 minutes, mostly at lock, and threw himself into his work in a fashion that could only be described as ‘old school’. Inspired his teammates, irritated his opponents and left a huge mark on the game, topping both the metres and tackles for his team. Top stuff.

Brett Keeble ( reporter)

David Klemmer said he was more nervous in the lead-up to his debut for Newcastle than before any other game in his career. The NSW and Australian metre-eater need not have worried. He ran for 218 metres against the experienced Sharks pack and made 33 tackles in an inspirational performance, leading the Knights to a 14-8 victory over Cronulla and earning selection in the NRL Team of the Week.

Lone Scout (NRL Fantasy expert)

There was good reason to be skeptical of the Warriors’ chances in 2019 without Shaun Johnson - a talismanic presence who the team had relied on for years to create havoc for opposition defences and slot a few goals to boot. But rookie playmaker Adam Keighran did all that and more on Saturday, going himself for a strong individual try, slotting goals like a veteran and making few mistakes in attack or defence. He’s no Shaun Johnson but he’s already proving he’s better than many were expecting.

Scott Hazlewood ( reporter)

It's tough to go past John Bateman for the Canberra Raiders given his impact on their first-round victory. His personal stat line too shows how he could be a hardworking backrow playmaker this season, with 36 tackles and 154 metres from 17 hit-ups and five tackle breaks giving a glimpse of what he is capable of over the course of the season.

Key kicking performances

Katie Brown ( reporter)

David Klemmer without a doubt. There was so much hype around Ponga and Pearce, but three Dally M points, more than 200 run metres and 100% tackle efficiency. This Australian prop is class and will drive the Knights into the top eight.

Corey Rosser ( reporter)

Dylan Brown. Reliable rather than remarkable in his first-grade debut, the way he led the Eels around the park in the victory over Penrith was impressive and he looked completely at home in the halves. Despite being just 18 years of age, he could be the on-field organiser Parramatta have been lacking for a long time.

Hit or Miss - Round 1

Jonathan Healy ( reporter)

Edrick Lee made an immediate impact on debut for the Knights as he scored the match-winning try against his former club. Whether he can do that consistently remains to be seen, but Knights fans will be hoping he can replicate his round one form again soon and lift the club into the top eight this season.

Tanisha Stanton ( reporter)

It’s been a while since the Newcastle Knights had a leader up front, but the addition of David Klemmer proved to motivate their young pack to lay a solid platform for their new halves duo Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce. The prop’s work rate set the standard for the season, topping the run metres (218) across both side, while the 25-year-old came in second amongst his teammates for most tackles made (33).

Alicia Newton ( reporter)

If you had to pick a signing to shine last week before a ball was kicked, Edrick Lee probably wouldn’t have made the list. His long-range effort to seal the Knights a round-one win might have bumped up his overall yardage metres for the clash but it was his reads in defence that gained even bigger respect from those in the Hunter. 

Mary Konstantopoulos (Ladies Who League)

John Bateman from the Raiders absolutely wowed me with his aggression and sass. I find it incredible he has come over from Super League and had such an immediate impact. I look forward to plenty more of his cheeky antics as the season continues. 

Zac Bailey ( reporter)

Tough question to answer for good reasons. I’m going with Dylan Brown. He was so impressive in his debut and showed maturity beyond his years. The 18-year-old playmaker was composed in attack and courageous in defence. Two great qualities that will hopefully set up a great debut season for the young Kiwi who has a very bright future in the game.

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