Five players to watch in 2013

  • By: Ian Laybourn, Press Association Sport Rugby League Correspondent
  • Last Updated: January 25 2013, 10:06 GMT

The Super League returns on February 1. Here Press Association Sport's Rugby League Correspondent Ian Laybourn looks at five players set to be stand-out performers in 2013.

Stevie Ward: One of the players to watch

BEN CURRIE (Warrington)

After holding him back in 2012, Warrington coach Tony Smith is set to unleash the exciting teenager onto the Super League scene this year.

The second-rower was just 17 when he made his Super League debut against Widnes in April and he went on to make another five senior appearances before going on the England academy tour to Australia.

"We made a conscious decision to hold him back," said Smith. "He's now had a full year of development of his body so I think he'll be ready."

JOHN BATEMAN (Bradford)

Like Sam Burgess, Bateman made his Super League debut for the Bulls at the age of 17 and many pundits believe he could go on to enjoy just as much success as his predecessor.

The skilful back-row forward was a virtual ever-present during Bradford's difficult season in 2012 until being freed up to lead England's academy side on their tour to Australia which only enhanced his already burgeoning reputation.

The Bulls did well to hang onto their prized possession during a precarious financial period and, still only 19, Bateman is set for a big season in 2013 despite missing the opening weeks with a shoulder injury.

STEVIE WARD (Leeds)

After bursting onto the scene as an 18-year-old last season, playing in both the Challenge Cup final and the Rhinos' Super League Grand Final triumph, Stevie Ward must battle to avoid the curse of second-season syndrome.

His form at centre, half-back and in the back row marked him out as one of the most promising prospects in the British game, drawing comparisons with his club captain Kevin Sinfield.

"He's a good lad and he's going to be a star," said Sinfield. "I find it quite humbling to be compared to him."

"He's going to be a great asset to the Leeds club and to rugby league in general."

ZEB TAIA (Catalan Dragons)

New Zealand international John Zebulon Taia - his middle name comes from an Israeli tribe descended from the sixth son of Jacob - has been recruited by the Dragons as a straight replacement for Setaimata Sa and he comes in the same mould.

An explosive back-row forward who can also slot in dangerously at centre, the 6ft 1in, 16st 5lb Pacific islander spent five seasons with Newcastle Knights during which time he made a big impact after coming back from a career-threatening neck injury.

The 28-year-old made his debut for the Kiwis in the 2010 Anzac Test in Melbourne alongside hooker Aaron Heremaia, who is now with Hull.

KIERAN DIXON (London Broncos)

The Broncos have high hopes for the 20-year-old Hackney-born winger, who became the pride of London in 2012 by scoring 16 tries in 27 appearances in his first season in senior rugby.

Dixon had been at the Broncos for two years, having been scouted by the development team while playing for Hemel Stags, but made the most of his opportunity.

He scooped the club's player-of-the-season award and also caught the eye playing for England Knights, scoring tries in each of their Alitalia European Cup matches against Ireland and Scotland at the end of the season.


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