The Panthers head north to take on the Gold Coast Titans on Saturday, in what is a huge game in determining the make-up of the top eight.

The showdown will see two of the game's brightest young stars, Nathan Cleary and Ashley Taylor, go head-to-head in a matchup that could well be decisive in the race for Rookie of the Year honours.

Taylor is widely regarded as the front-runner for the title but the impact of Cleary since making his NRL debut in Round 13 forces him into contention. Here's what the stats say.

The try assist numbers for both players are similar. Cleary has had 6 assists in his 11 games compared to Taylor's 11 in his 19 games, translating to 0.5 and 0.6 a game respectively.

Both rookies play a major role in their team's kicking games, with Cleary edging out Taylor with 9.6 kicks a game compared to 7.9 for Taylor. However it is the young Panther's running game that sets him apart from his Titans opponent.

Already Cleary has 91 runs for 710 metres, averaging approximately 65 metres a game, including a 113 metre effort against Manly in just his second NRL game.

In eight more games this season, Taylor has managed 892 metres from 125 runs, translating to just under 47 metres a game.

On top of this, Cleary has made 4 line breaks and 25 tackle breaks. In this regard he has outperformed Taylor, who boasts 4 line breaks and 19 tackle breaks despite his eight-game headstart.

With the game already a crucial contest in the context of the NRL competition, these two young playmakers are sure to take centre stage as the race for Rookie of the Year honours heats up.