One season is all it can take for a talented youngster to rise from relative unknown to bona fide star.
That was the case for Harry Grant in 2020 as the Storm hooker was loaned to the Wests Tigers, finishing the season as the Dally M Rookie of the Year and a key part of Queensland's State of Origin triumph.
Meanwhile, Panthers centre Stephen Crichton also established himself among the game's elite, scoring 17 tries in his team's minor premiership-winning campaign that ended in a grand final loss.
Who will be the inexperienced wonders of 2021? NRL.com has earmarked one young gun to watch from all 16 teams.
Only those players with fewer than five first-grade games were deemed rookies for this list (in line with the Dally M Rookie of the Year criteria).
Rookies to watch in 2021 Brisbane Broncos – Keenan Palasia Date of birth:
Second rowNRL games:
Unable to build on his brief NRL experience because of a knee injury last year, a fit-again Palasia will push for a place in the forward pack. Perhaps not as badly scarred by Brisbane's 2020 horror show given he didn't take the field, Palasia could enjoy a breakout campaign.
Keenan Palasia on debut in 2020. Canberra Raiders – Harley Smith-Shields Date of birth:
Named by NRL.com as Canberra's rookie to watch last season, Smith-Shields now has a couple of first-grade games under his belt and is poised to step up. With co-captain Jarrod Croker to miss the start of the campaign with a shoulder injury, Smith-Shields could replace him at centre.
Harley Smith-Shields looks set for a big season. ?Keegan Carroll/NRL Photos Canterbury Bulldogs – James Roumanos Date of birth:
Second row/lockNRL games:
Yet to debut
While Canterbury have bolstered their backline stocks with a plethora of marquee signings, there's still competition for spots in the forward pack. Don't discount Roumanos, initially a highly-rated Sharks junior who played for Lebanon in 2019, from staking his claim in the back row.