1. Panthers (Josh Mansour, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak)
This pairing is one with a bullet. Josh Mansour has been a highly rated youngster for a couple of seasons now, but matured into a top class winger in 2014, finishing the season as a starter for the Kangaroos in the Four Nations final. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak burst onto the scene early in the season with a matchwinning double on debut and would have capped his remarkable rookie year with a spot in New Zealand’s Four Nations winning side if not for a broken foot.
2. Knights (Akuila Uate, Sione Mata’utia)
After debuting midway through the 2014 season, Sione Mata’utia has already gone some way to establishing himself as one of the premier wingers in the competition, at just 18. He finished the Four Nations as a first choice winger for the Kangaroos and has seven tries from seven games in his early NRL career. Whether he’s paired with Uate or James McManus (both Origin wingers) this will be one of the NRL’s top combinations.
3. Sea Eagles (Peta Hiku, Jorge Taufua)
After an outstanding 2014, Peta Hiku has established himself as one of the top wingers in the game, and was a star for New Zealand in the Four Nations tournament. Jorge Taufua is still one of the most dangerous ball runners in the game, but he was found out under the high ball at the end of the season. Taufua needs to make this weakness a strength to maintain his spot in the side.
4. Warriors (Manu Vatuvei, Glen Fisiiahi)
The Beast has been one of the top wingers in the competition for years and looks set to break more tryscoring records in 2015. Fisiiahi is known as The Flying Fish, and if he can start the season well he will be in a good position to improve an already good tryscoring record by taking advantage of the Shaun Johnson wizardry inside him.
5. Broncos (Dale Copley, Daniel Vidot)
On the verge of a call up to the Queensland Origin side this year, Dale Copley is one of the brightest young prospects among the outside backs breaking into the NRL at the moment. Vidot, meanwhile, is one of the most powerful runners in the competition, taking the pressure off his side’s big forwards early in sets.
6. Roosters (Daniel Tupou, Nene Macdonald)
Two tall, raw, athletic young men are likely to be the starting wing pair for the Roosters (unless of course Blake Ferguson’s contract is registered by the NRL, which would likely force a reshuffle). Tupou has made great strides in his two years in first grade, earning a spot in the victorious NSW Origin side, then backing up as a Kangaroos squad member in the Four Nations. Macdonald has played just a handful of games, but he already looks a star of the future.
7. Cowboys (Antonio Winterstein, Matthew Wright)
There is plenty of competition for places in the outside backs up in Townsville, but this looks to be the most likely pairing to kick off 2015. Winterstein is one of the best finishers in the game and had an excellent 2014, further enhancing his reputation. Wright has endured a tumultuous period, forced to serve an ASADA ban as a member of Cronulla’s 2011 squad. Wright’s angry with his treatment and fired up to hit back with a big 2015 on the field.
8. Bulldogs (Sam Perrett, Corey Thompson)
With Brett Morris arriving at Belmore for the 2015 season, Sam Perrett’s experiment at fullback looks set to end, restoring him to his preferred wing position. Perrett has always been a good all around winger — defensively sound and a strong finisher, giving the Bulldogs more flexibility out wide. Pocket rocket Thompson, meanwhile, emerged as one of the surprise packets of 2014, and has earned first crack at the other wing spot next season.
9. Eels (Semi Radradra, Vai Toutai)
Perhaps a tad harsh to have the Eels combination this far down the list, given one of the duo, Radradra was one of the great excitement machines of 2014, finishing with the gong for Dally M Winger of the Year. Toutai looks the man most likely to fill the other wing position, with the 21-year-old to get a big opportunity to cement his position at the club.
10. Rabbitohs (Alex Johnston, Joel Reddy)
It was a tremendous 2014 for Alex Johnston who finished with a premiership ring, and a Four Nations jersey in his rookie season. Johnston is good under the high ball and an electric finisher, but with Lote Tuqiri exiting the club, he will be joined by a new offsider in 2015, most likely Joel Reddy. Reddy has had a tough time establishing himself since arriving at the Rabbitohs from the Tigers, but should get an extended run in the side to do just that next year.
11. Storm (Marika Koroibete, Justin O’Neill)
The Storm made a savvy mid-season purchase this year when they swooped on out of favour Tigers flyer Marika Koroibete. Koroibete has speed to burn and finishing instincts matched by few others, although there are question marks over his defensive capabilities. An ankle injury created a frustrating 2014 for O’Neill but he has plenty of ability and will be looking to bounce back in 2015.
12. Tigers (Pat Richards, David Nofoaluma)
So good was veteran Richards’ early season form he was being spoken about as a legitimate contender for the vacant NSW wing spot that caused selectors plenty of headaches. He missed out and his season fizzled at the back end, but his goalkicking and his unorthodox kick offs are important components of the Tigers’ make up. David Nofoaluma was one of the many Tigers young guns to spend a stint on the sidelines with injury in 2014, but who could forget his Superman try the year before that highlighted his ability.
13. Raiders (Sisa Waqa, Edrick Lee)
The Raiders have some big decisions ahead of them on the make up of their back five with a host of talented youngsters competing for the starting spots. Much will depend on where Ricky Stuart decides to play Jack Wighton, but regardless of whether the multi-talented 21-year-old plays fullback or centre, Sisa Waqa and Edrick Lee appear in best position to claim the wing spots. Waqa impressed during his time at the Storm, while Lee is enormous and has talent to match.
14. Titans (Kevin Gordon, David Mead)
This experienced pair of outside backs have been two of the Titans most reliable tryscorers in recent years, and with James Roberts and William Zillman set to play inside them in 2015, they could be in for another good year. If either of them falters, however, Anthony Don will be waiting in the wings ready to pounce.
15. Sharks (Sosaia Feki, Mitch Brown)
Cronulla is another side with plenty of outside backs to choose from, particularly with the recent arrival of former Dragons Gerard Beale and Kyle Stanley. Feki is a powerful runner who improved his finishing in 2014, and he is set to be joined by Bulldogs discard Mitch Brown on the other flank, although there will be some serious pressure coming his way from young prodigies Jacob Gagan and Valentine Holmes.
16. Dragons (Jason Nightingale, Peter Mata’utia)
This could be the biggest slip in the rankings of an off-season. If you were to rate the wingers at the start of last season, the Dragonsa would almost certainly have sat at the top with international stars Brett Morris and Jason Nightingale both boasting legitimate claims as best in the game. But with Morris gone, the Dragons suddenly look thin on the ground for a quality second winger, with Peter Mata’utia likely to fight it out with Charlie Runciman, both of whom are yet to prove themselves at first grade level.
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