There were a lot of new faces in a busy week of trials for week one of 2020.
Each team was feeling their way in their first proper hit-out for the season after the excitement of the shortened format at the NRL Nines in Perth the previous weekend.
Here are the players who stood out in the opinion of NRL.com reporters who covered the games throughout NSW, Queensland, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, as well as the World Club Challenge in England.
Eels v Rabbitohs
Young fullback John Fonua was impressive for the Eels in their loss to Souths, showing good pace, positional awareness and support play and scoring the opening try.
Souths meanwhile had a number of standouts including centre Steven Marsters, hooker Josh Cook and halfback Blake Taaffe. But Jack Johns, son of Knights legend Matthew Johns, was particularly eye catching in the back row. In a position in which the Bunnies have lost plenty of experience, Johns produced an impressive stint on the left edge and scored a powerful try.
Match Highlights: Eels v Rabbitohs
Warriors v Storm
In a team which is fast running out of fit props, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard might have put himself in the NRL frame with an aggressive showing in the narrow Rotorua trial loss to the Storm, which included a nice try assist from an offload.
In a big-minute showing, Nicho Hynes was strong for Melbourne and looks a readymade replacement should anything happen to incumbent fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen.
Match Highlights: Warriors v Storm
Knights v Dragons
The fullback from the winning 2019 NSW Under-20 Origin team, Tex Hoy ran at No.1 for the first half in the trial loss to the Dragons in Maitland. He then slotted into five-eighth for the second half. Hoy, who is on a development contract but has trained the last two pre-seasons with the NRL squad, is on his way to first grade.
Young Fijian international Joe Lovodua is predominantly a half, who’s trained at hooker during the 2020 pre-season once he earned promotion into the top 30. He provides that depth for a club which seems to attract injuries.
Match Highlights: Knights v Dragons
Women's All Stars: Indigenous v Maori
Aside from Nakia Davis Welsh who had an epic return, Shaniah Power from the Indigenous team gave great energy from the bench and she was the best defender at Cbus Super Stadium.
Amber Kani was one of the Maori’s best. She ran some great lines and found the holes in the Indigenous team's defensive line.
Match Highlights: Indigenous All Stars v Maori Ferns
Sharks v Bulldogs
Franklin Pele was used off the bench for Cronulla in short stints in the trial loss to the Bulldogs in Port Moresby and with each carry the 20-year-old prop bent the Canterbury defensive line and managed a quick play the ball to give the Sharks momentum.
Winger Jayden Okunbor made a 50-metre bust through midfield to set up the Bulldogs' first try and was a constant threat both running the ball and in the air for kicks.
Match Highlights: Sharks v Bulldogs
Panthers v Tigers
Any signs of the dreaded second-year syndrome has virtually been dismissed for Brent Naden with the Panthers centre a clear standout in the trial win over the Wests Tigers at Penrith.
For the Tigers, Billy Walters stood tall in the early stages to prove the former Storm utility's more than capable of playing more first grade in 2020.
Match Highlights: Panthers v Wests Tigers
Cowboys v Broncos
Two-try hero Reuben Cotter proved to be a handful from dummy-half, giving Paul Green plenty of options to fill the No. 9 jersey. Cotter was tipped to be third in the pecking order, but did his selection chances no harm on Saturday night.
For the Broncos, his class is no surprise but in a frightening proposition for opposing sides, Payne Haas looks ready to take another step in 2020. The young forward was a game-breaker in the opening 30 minutes before being wrapped in cotton wool by Anthony Seibold.
Match Highlights: Cowboys v Broncos
Men's All Stars: Indigenous v Maori
Dragons prop Josh Kerr looks ready to cement his first-grade spot in 2020 after a strong Indigenous All Stars performance in the loss to the Maori. Kerr bent the line with some strong carries, but it was his ability to attract two defenders and offload close to the line for Josh Curran's try that caught the eye.
Bryson Goodwin may be one of the buys of the season. It's hard to call a 34-year-old former Test winger a breakout player to watch, but after two years in Super League Goodwin's return to Souths shapes as an astute recruitment move after his 15 runs, four tackle breaks, 143 metres and 35 post contact metres for the Indigenous All Stars. He won't be just a depth player for Wayne Bennett, he is still first-grade quality.
Match Highlights: Indigenous All Stars v Maori All Stars
St Helens v Roosters
Kyle Flanagan gave a top-notch account of himself in the Roosters' World Club Challenge win over St Helens considering it was teeming down – both with rain and big-bodied forwards – in what was still only his 10th game of top-flight rugby league. He set up two tries for Joey Manu as they combined well down the right edge and had two tough shots at goal from out wide hit the woodwork.
Canterbury-bound big man Luke Thompson was also outstanding in the middle for St Helens and impressed through the ruck with his trademark leg speed.
Match Highlights: Saints v Roosters