Who are the best sons of a guns in NRL history?

THEY might not be familiar faces yet, but there are some well-known names appearing on NRL pre-season team-sheets as the latest 'Sons of Guns' start filtering through.

And there is another batch snapping at their heels.

Confirmation that Cooper Johns, son of Knights' premiership playmaker Matty Johns, will be the Storm's starting halfback at the NRL Nines this weekend, sees him become the game's latest second generation player.

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Others who got a taste of the NRL last year and are hoping to make a bigger mark this season are Tristan Sailor - son of Wendell - at the Dragons, Kevvie Walters' son Billy at the Storm and Lachlan Lam who, like his father Adrian, plays with the Roosters.

They join an illustrious group of current first-graders who are following in the stud marks of their equally illustrious fathers.

Storm young gun Cooper Johns training for his start in the NRL Nines. Picture: David Crosling/AAP
Storm young gun Cooper Johns training for his start in the NRL Nines. Picture: David Crosling/AAP
Both halfbacks used by Blues' coach Brad Fittler in last season's winning Origin campaign were sons of prominent ex-players: Newcastle captain Mitchell Pearce, son of Balmain Tigers legend Wayne, and the Panthers' Nathan Cleary whose father - and coach - Ivan was the premiership's top point scorer when playing for the Roosters in 1998.

Also at halfback and making a huge impression in the UK Super League - winning last year's Player of the Year award and earning a call-up to the Great Britain side - is former NRL player Jackson Hastings, son of Roosters stalwart Kevin "Horrie" Hastings.

Jackson Hastings makes a break for Great Britain in a Test against the Kiwis in Auckland. Picture: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
Jackson Hastings makes a break for Great Britain in a Test against the Kiwis in Auckland. Picture: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

And while there is always a massive leap from schoolboy and junior football to the NRL - even without the added pressure of a famous surname - big things are being predicted for another exciting batch of sons of guns.

Topping the list is teenager Sam Walker, son of former Broncos half/five-eighth Ben. Last year's Queensland under-18s halfback was touted as the most exciting prospect for years when the Sydney Roosters beat offers from the Broncos, Bulldogs, Titans and Rugby Australia to get his signature on a contract said to be in the vicinity of $300,000 a season.

Sam Walker in action for the Ipswich Grammar School 1st XV last year.
Sam Walker in action for the Ipswich Grammar School 1st XV last year.

Playing for the Broncos in a trial against the CQ Capras on Saturday night is Kobe Hetherington, a hooker like his father Jason who played for the Bulldogs, Queensland and Australia.

Last year teenaged fullback Jayden Campbell followed the path worn by his father Preston when he signed with the Titans.

And also last season Iona College student Max Plath - whose father John played off the bench in the Broncos' first four grand final wins - was one of Wynnum Manly Seagull's best from fullback and five-eighth in their charge to the final of the Mal Meninga Cup.

Like all the other sons of famous players, the new breed will do well to eclipse, or even match, their father's on-field achievements. It's no insult to say that not many have managed to do it yet - although some have come close.

Colman's Top Five Sons of Guns

Styeve “Slippery” Morris with twin sons Josh and Brett in 2006
Styeve “Slippery” Morris with twin sons Josh and Brett in 2006

1. Brett and Josh Morris

PROBABLY the only sons to have outpointed their father - although it's a close call.

Steve "Slippery" Morris was a sensation for the Dragons and Roosters with his blinding pace off the mark.

Starting at halfback and then moving to wing later in his career, he was voted Player of the Match in the Dragons' 1979 grand final win and twice won the Dally M Winger of the Year award.

While Steve played just one Test for Australia his twin sons have been regular Origin and Test players and have earned universal respect for their professionalism, solid defence and try-scoring skills, crossing for 291 tries between them going into the 2020 season.

‘Prince of Centres’ Steve Rogers with son Mat, aged 8, in 1984.
‘Prince of Centres’ Steve Rogers with son Mat, aged 8, in 1984.

2. Mat Rogers

HIS father Steve was called 'The Prince of Centres' in a glittering career for the Sharks and Dragons.

A member of the Blues in the first Origin match, the 1981 Dally M winner played 31 Tests for Australia. Mat also began his career with the Sharks and played Origin for Queensland before signing with Rugby Australia and becoming a dual-international.

He played 11 rugby league and 45 rugby union Tests before returning to the NRL and ending his career on a high as one of the Titans' best-ever signings.

Penrith Coach John Lang and son Martin celebrate the Panthers 2003 grand final win over the Roosters.
Penrith Coach John Lang and son Martin celebrate the Panthers 2003 grand final win over the Roosters.

3. Martin Lang

HOOKER Johnny Lang made his name with clever ball delivery and quick darts from dummy half with Brisbane Easts before moving to Sydney with the Roosters, representing Australia and playing for Queensland in the first Origin game.

His front rower son Marty was less subtle. His crash-dummy charges into opposition defenders were legendary - and effective.

He earned respect for his wholehearted Origin performances and had a career highlight playing in the 2003 Panthers' grand final winning side coached by his father.

Mitchell Pearce with his father Wayne after the Blues clinched victory in Game 3 of the 2019 Origin series. Picture: Brett Costello
Mitchell Pearce with his father Wayne after the Blues clinched victory in Game 3 of the 2019 Origin series. Picture: Brett Costello

4. MITCHELL PEARCE

THE younger Pearce will never be held in the same esteem as his father Wayne who played 184 games for the Tigers and captained NSW and Australia, but he can boast something his father cannot.

In 2013 Mitchell played in the Roosters premiership-winning team, the one career goal Wayne failed to achieve despite coming desperately close with back-to-back grand final losses in 1988 and 1989.

They are the only father and son to have each won an Origin series.

Grand final legends Scott and John Sattler
Grand final legends Scott and John Sattler

5. Scott Sattler

IF not for one unforgettable moment Scott Sattler's career would probably never be mentioned in the same breath as that of his father John, but his sensational tackle in the 2003 grand final earned him a place in rugby league folklore.

A whole-hearted player who earned a single Origin jersey for Queensland, his cover-defending tackle on the Roosters' Todd Byrne is forever linked to the performance of his father in the 1970 grand final in which he played 75 minutes with a broken jaw.

A four-time premiership winning captain with the Rabbitohs, John Sattler was in 2008 selected in the official ARL 100 Greatest Players list.