The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Rookie of the Year race is shaping as the closest in a number of seasons after six outstanding youngsters registered NRL debuts in 2020.
Workhorse forward Tom Gilbert and electric outside back Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow appear the main contenders after sensational maiden first-grade campaigns.
The reigning Queensland Cup Rookie of the Year, Gilbert was called on to make his debut in Round 4 and his aggressive style of play provided an immediate spark to the Cowboys’ forward pack.
The 20-year-old came through the Cowboys Pathways Programs as a middle forward, but was moved to the second row by Josh Hannay in Round 16 and remained there for the rest of the season.
In 12 games Gilbert averaged 83 running metres and 26 tackles.
Tabuai-Fidow burst on to the NRL scene at the Perth Nines in February and continued to take the rugby league world by storm upon making his debut in Round 5.
The 19-year-old missed only two games for the remainder of the season, splitting time between wing and fullback and produced a number of contenders for Try of the Year.
In 14 games, Tabuai-Fidow registered six tries and 40 tackle breaks, while averaging 98 run metres an outing.
Versatile outside back Daejarn Asi also impressed during his five games in the top grade.
The 20-year-old was only promoted to the Cowboys NRL squad in February after spending the pre-season on a training block contract.
Asi made a try-scoring debut at five-eighth against Penrith in Round 10 and also started a game at centre in Round 19.
Outside back Connelly Lemuelu and forwards Emry Pere and Ben Condon are also in the running for the award which will be presented at the Cowboys Annual Presentation Night at the Townsville Entertainment and Convention Centre on Saturday evening.