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Haas, Gasnier tied for rugby league's best rookie of all time

NRL fans couldn't be split when voting on the greatest rookie season of all time, with voting tied between league legend Reg Gasnier and reigning rookie of the year Payne Haas.

Most rugby league players take a year or two to really find their feet but some special talents have made it look all too easy from the get-go, producing stellar seasons that seasoned stars would be chuffed with.

From Haas's barnstorming efforts last season to the greats of yesteryear, selected 10 of the finest rookies we've seen. Fans gave 20% of the vote to each of Gasnier and Haas, ahead of the likes of Daly Cherry-Evans, Jarryd Hayne and Steve Menzies.

The top 10 (in chronological order) 

Bobby Lulham (1949)

A lethal finisher, Lulham registered a club-record 28 tries in his maiden campaign with Balmain while also representing NSW.

The winger scored five tries in one match and four in another and lined up against Canterbury in a grand final defeat.

Reg Gasnier (1959)

The Immortal Gasnier scaled the heights of the game right away, with his debut for St George quickly followed by NSW and Australian caps.

A phenomenal try-scorer, "Puff the Magic Dragon" scored a quartet in his fifth premiership match and bagged a hat-trick in his second Test.

He notched 13 tries for the Dragons, though injury kept him from playing in their grand final win over Manly.

Sit back and marvel at this try from Payne Haas

Michael Cronin (1977)

Having debuted for Australia in 1973 while playing for Gerringong on the NSW South Coast, Cronin lived up to all expectations when he finally arrived in the NSWRL Premiership with Parramatta.

The goal-kicking centre scored a season-high 225 points and won the Rothmans Medal for Player of the Year as the Eels reached the grand final, going down to St George in a replay after drawing the first decider.

Larry Corowa (1978)

The lighting-fast Corowa bagged an astounding 24 tries in 21 games when he burst on to the scene for Balmain.

On the back of his stellar maiden season, "The Black Flash" was chosen for that year's Kangaroo tour, but he didn't play a Test.

Phil Blake (1982)

An 18-year-old Blake debuted for Manly off the bench in round 12 of 1982. By year's end, he was the Dally M Rookie of the Year, a starting halfback and a try-scorer in the team's grand final loss to the Eels.

The versatile Blake was considered unlucky not to represent Australia after scoring nine tries in 14 games and bamboozling defences with his speed and signature chip-and-chase.

Paul Sironen (1986)

After playing two premiership games late in 1985 following his return from the University of Hawaii where he was on a gridiron scholarship, Sironen wasted no time making his presence felt in his first full year.

The imposing second-rower was named Dally M Rookie of the Year, playing 24 games to help Balmain reach the preliminary final. 

Steve Menzies (1994)

Menzies played six games for Manly in '93 before truly announcing himself to the rugby league world the next season, claiming the Dally M Rookie of the Year and Second Rower of the Year awards.

A 20-year-old "Beaver" scored 16 tries in 23 matches — a super strike-rate for a second-rower — as the Sea Eagles made the minor preliminary final. He was duly selected for the '94 Kangaroo tour.

Manly half Daly Cherry-Evans was 2011 Dally M Rookie of the Year.
Manly half Daly Cherry-Evans was 2011 Dally M Rookie of the Year. ©NRL Photos

Jarryd Hayne (2006)

Entering first grade on the wing for Parramatta, Hayne's exceptional speed, athleticism and skills were on display from the outset.

He scored 17 tries in 16 appearances — including four tries in one match — in a season where the Eels made the qualifying final.

Daly Cherry-Evans (2011)

After Trent Hodkinson left the Northern Beaches for the Bulldogs, Manly turned to a fresh-faced Cherry-Evans to wear the No.7 in 2011.

He played every game, belying his inexperience to guide the Sea Eagles to the premiership. The ice-cool DCE won the Dally M and RLPA Rookie of the Year and the RLIF Halfback of the Year gongs.

Payne Haas (2019)

Haas showed promise in three NRL games in 2018 but he developed beyond anyone's expectations last season. The teenage monster destroyed defences while pumping out big minutes for Brisbane.

He was crowned the Dally M Rookie and Prop of the Year, becoming the first rookie to win a positional trophy since Menzies in '94. And he achieved all that despite being suspended for the first four matches.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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