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Sporting stars to watch in 2019

Newshub logoNewshub 29/12/2018
a man playing a game of frisbee: George Bridge scores for the All Blacks against Japan. © Image - Photosport, video - Newshub George Bridge scores for the All Blacks against Japan.

This time last year, Isaiah Papali'i, Israel Adesanya and Karl Tu'inukuafe were relatively unknown to the wider New Zealand sporting public.

All three had breakout 2018s, with the best yet to come.

So who are the names that might just make their mark in 2019? The Newshub panel of experts go crystal-ball gazing.

Andrew Gourdie (Newshub sports presenter): Paul Turner

Who? I'd have said the same thing a couple of weeks ago.

But then Shaun Johnson departs for the Sharks and the Warriors reckon his replacement can be found in their wider squad.

Now, usually clubs don't like to overhype youth prospects, which made Brian Smith's comments to me a couple of weeks ago stand out.

"There's a young fella, Paul Turner," he said. "No-one's ever heard of him.

"He's cutting swathes through pre-season training at the moment. Just a young fella, he played in our Jersey Flegg team last year and we like the look of him.

a man with a football ball © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

"We've given him a shot at it in training full-time. You should see the guy - his body's just transformed in a few months.

"Things can happen fast with young guys."

It's enough to pique my interest. I'll definitely be keeping a close eye on Paul Turner in 2019.

Ollie Ritchie (Newshub sports reporter): George Bridge

The outstanding Crusaders winger was one of the unlucky ones to not make Steve Hansen's initial All Blacks squad and Hansen said then that Bridge would play several games for the All Blacks.

Well, he certainly took his opportunity against Japan, causing all sorts of headaches for the Japanese in just 45 minutes of rugby.

If Hansen decides to take five outside backs to next year's World Cup, then another strong Super Rugby season could put Bridge right in the frame for that squad. 

Nicky Styris (Newshub sports presenter): Etene Nanai-Seturo

Apart from having a cool name, this 19-year-old is a superstar that has already shown a talent in both rugby and league. 

Nanai-Seturo was at the centre of a tug-of-war battle between the NZ Warriors and New Zealand Rugby, which NZR eventually won.

a man smiling for the ball © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

Nanai-Seturo was named in the national sevens squad, despite being contracted to the Warriors until the end of 2019.

He got a release to pursue sevens and will no doubt be a star for them, come the  2020 Olympics - if the All Blacks haven't already come knocking.

Brad Lewis (Newshub online sports producer): Kyle Glogoski

This young man is well on the way to becoming the first-ever homegrown Kiwi to play Major League Baseball.

The right arm-pitcher has spent a year playing rookie ball in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system and is showing how much he learned there, with some stellar outings for the Auckland Tuatara in their inaugural season.

© Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

He has been described as 'the teacher's pet' by some within the Phillies organisation - they have big plans to make the Kiwi a key part of their pitching rotation in the near future.

Glogoski has great 'stuff', as they say in the baseball world, and should find his way to the minor leagues in 2019, with the majors well in his sights.

John McNeil (RadioLive sports reporter): 

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Ajeet Rai

You've got to have a steely resolve to make a go of life on the tour as a tennis pro, but 19-year old Ajeet Rai's not one to stand back and wonder.

He's also set some lofty goals as he starts out.

The Taranaki teen is currently ranked 698 in the world order, off the back of 13 tournaments in 2018, and won his first title on the ITF Tour in Thailand in October.

a man holding a racket © Provided by MediaWorks NZ Limited

That followed his inclusion in New Zealand's Davis Cup team for the tie against Korea, where he gained valuable experience, alongside the likes of Michael Venus, Artem Sitak and Marcus Daniell.

Time will tell if he's the next big thing in New Zealand tennis, but Rai's not short on ability or confidence, aiming high and intent on winning a Grand Slam title, before he finishes his career.

Newshub.

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