Well folks this is it! It is finally time to announce the NSWRL.com.au VB NSW Cup Team of the Year (TOTY) for 2012.
Firstly we would like to start by thanking you all for your assistance and feedback via your comments on NSWRL.com.au and also via twitter @NSWRL. We have had such an amazing response by you the public and the VB NSW Cup footy fans in kind.
This type of response just goes to prove what a passionate bunch of supporters the VB NSW Cup fans are and we will continue to work with you all in promoting what we feel is the best second tier rugby league competition in the world.
Secondly we promise you we have been monitoring your suggestions vigorously over the past few days and have taken all of your feedback on board with an open mind and no preconceived judgments about any player in any position.
We fully appreciate that regardless of the makeup of this side that we are about to announce, that the debate will continue and not everyone will be satisfied, but with that said, we have had a job to do and we believe we have done it to the best of our ability with no favour shown to any team or individual.
Just so this procedure is fully transparent let me explain who, we, are.
Our panel consisted of the two NSWRL Media Officers in Brad Preston and Jamie Anderson who have provided you all with the popular @NSWRL Twitter Game-Cast right throughout the 2012 season.
Never before have the fans had such access and the opportunity to keep in touch with more of the VB NSW Cup action than they have had this year. TV, Radio, Game-Cast’s, Photo Galleries, LIVE Streams and Score Updates have all been made available in 2012, and we thank you all for your support and hope to continue to grow these areas with your help in 2012.
In providing this service, both Brad and Jamie have each attended at least one VB NSW Cup match per weekend right throughout the 2012 season, and in a lot of cases often more. We also have access to the full match highlights which you the punter view each and every week on this very website. To top this all off, Brad Preston was also the VB NSW Cup Representative Team Media Manager, and in this role was privy to many selection discussions which was also used as a reference when forming opinions for our selections.
While most fans giving their opinions on whom they feel should make the side often have formed said opinions based on only ever really focusing on their favourite side, and to be fair this is only human nature, we feel we have a less influenced view whilst having probably witnessed a wider spread of matches involving more teams in the process.
The third and final member of our selection panel is the Chief Editor of Rugby League News, Terry Liberopoulos.
Terry’s knowledge of both the VB NSW Cup and the Bundaberg Red Cup is second to none and like our NSWRL Media Officers, Terry is present around the grounds each and every weekend as part of his role for Rugby League News.
A couple of final points before we move onto the side, the first being that it is important to remember that this side is purely the opinions of the above panels members and is in no way the opinions of any other NSWRL staff or affiliated members and that the side is named purely as a point of recognition for all of the players hard work.
The second main point being that the panel has absolutely no knowledge of the Official Player of the Year points and hence these points were not taken into account when forming our sides. So it is quite conceivable that a player who misses out on our side may in fact still go on to be named as the VB NSW Cup Player of the Year.
Also lastly we have tabled the following criteria in regards to being eligible for selection. The main point for these criteria is to attempt to name the fairest and best side possible in regards to games played and overall exposure to the NSW Cup.
1) To be considered eligible for the TOTY a player must have played a minimum of 10 matches for their club/clubs during the 2012 VB NSW Cup season.
2) A player will only be considered eligible for selection in the position that he has played the majority of his matches in during the 2012 NSW Cup season.
3) Any player who has served more than three weeks suspension in total during the 2012 VB NSW Cup season will not be considered eligible for selection.
Ok so with all that out of the way, let’s move onto the fun stuff. Here is the NSWRL.com.au VB NSW Cup Team of the Year for 2012.
1. Michael Lett (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs/Illawarra Cutters)
2. Josh Mantellato (Newcastle Knights)
3. Siuatonga Likiliki (Newcastle Knights)
4. Ricky Leutele (Cronulla Sharks)
5. Daniel Tupou (Newtown Jets)
6. Joel Romelo (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
7. Ryan Carr (North Sydney Bears)
8. Shane Shackleton (Wentworthville Magpies/Windsor Wolves)
9. Nathan Smith (Wentworthville Magpies) (vc)
10. Jack Stockwell (Illawarra Cutters)
11. David Gower (Illawarra Cutters) ©
12. Marvin Filipo (Newcastle Knights)
13. Harlan Alaalatoa (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
14. Justin Hunt (North Sydney Bears)
15. Josh Davis (Balmain Ryde-Eastwood Tigers)
16. Mitch Achurch (Windsor Wolves)
17. Paul Vaughan (Mounties)
18th Man. Sam Lousi (Auckland Vulcans)
Coach – Rip Taylor (Newcastle Knights)
So there it is folks… Now let’s look at each position a little closer and also point out the player/players that were ‘Dead-set unlucky’ and also hand out some honourable mentions to those who were thereabouts, and trust me there is plenty of them which once again probably speaks volumes about the depth of talent in the VB NSW Cup.
FULLBACK - Michael Lett
The competition’s leading tryscorer by a country mile and he did it with two different clubs. Lett scored 15 tries earlier in the season for the Dogs and repeated the dose again after moving to the Cutters. There is not much left to say about this guy that has not already been said. No coincidence that the Cutters season turned around about the same time he arrived.
DEAD-SET UNLUCKY – Jake Mullaney
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Matt Moylan, Glen Fisiiahi and Zoram Watene
WINGERS – Josh Mantellato and Daniel Tupou
Another vintage year for wingers in the VB NSW Cup but it was very hard to go past these two as far as we were concerned. Mantellato easily won the point scorers title in 2012 with an impressive haul of 294 points in the regular season, and while his goal kicking is one of his main strengths, he is also an excellent aerial exponent of the high ball, which has seen him become the Knights number one kicking target. Daniel Tupou has been equally impressive for the Jets in 2012, and while he doesn’t kick goals, he does know how to find the line. Tupou registered an impressive 19 regular season tries for the Jets this year, and this form saw him selected to make his NRL debut for the Roosters in the latter part of the season. Both of these wingers are still involved in the Finals Series, and both of them will play a pivotal role in any Grand Final charge.
DEAD-SET UNLUCKY – Drury Low
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Travis Robinson, Bronx Goodwin, Michael Oldfield and Greg Davis
CENTRES – Siuatonga Likiliki and Ricky Leutele
Another really tough position for the selectors but ultimately we felt Likiliki and Leutele more than deserved their selections. Likiliki has been the form centre of the VB NSW Cup in 2012 and has been one of Knights best all year while Leutele registered a number of NRL games after impressing in the VB NSW Cup and he was also one of the VB NSW Cup Representative Teams best up in Brisbane.
DEAD-SET UNLUCKY – Adam Henry
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Junior Vai Vai, Sami Sauiluma, Brett Lane, Troy Savage
FIVE-EIGHTH – Joel Romelo
Romelo is a rough and tumble five-eighth and we think he is one of the reasons the Bulldogs held onto the Minor Premiership. He takes no prisoners and will always lead from the front with his confrontational style of play. You could argue Hunt could have forced his way into this spot but we though his versatility would serve the team better from the bench. Romelo could also slip into the back row when Hunt came onto the field.
DEAD-SET UNLUCKY – Daniel Mortimer
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Dane Chisholm, Liam Foran, Jason Wehbe, Tom Humble and Matt Mundine
HALFBACK – Ryan Carr
Carr led the Bears to equal first on the premiership table this year and he and Romelo would form a tough as nails halves combination. Carr played plenty of hooker at Balmain Ryde-Eastwood so he isn’t afraid to buckle down in defence and he also possesses a more than handy kicking game. Carr’s workman like attitude has been a big bonus for Bears Coach Wayne Lambkin who has struggled with a settled halves combination in seasons past.
DEAD-SET UNLUCKY – Arana Taumata
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Nathan Waters, Adrian Davis, Jeremy Smith and Nigel Millgate
PROPS – Shane Shackleton and Jack Stockwell
The old hand and the superstar in waiting. Shackleton stepped up to the plate after playing the majority of the year with Wentworthville and Windsor. He could have let his head sink but he was one of the best players on the paddock for each club whenever he took the field. He grabbed a representative jersey this year and is one of the favourites for VB NSW Cup Player of the Year. Like Shackleton, Stockwell also grabbed representative jerseys of his own. He played for the VB NSW Cup Representative side as well as the NSW Under 20’s. He made his NRL debut and will feature heavily next year for the Dragons in the Telstra Premiership.
DEAD-SET UNLUCKY – Tim Browne
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Seffa Silafu, George Burgess, Chris Armit, Josh Cordoba
HOOKER – Nathan Smith
In one of the hardest positions, if not the hardest, to choose, Nathan Smith got the nudge ahead of some very good opponents. Smith burst onto the NRL scene for Parramatta and maintained his place until the end of the year. He has the ability to slip into the back-row and even into the halves if need be. He gets through plenty of work around the ruck and in defence so he would be a real asset to this team.
DEAD-SET UNLUCKY – Shane Pumipi
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Cameron King, Nafe Seluini and Masada Iosefa
SECOND ROWERS – David Gower and Marvin Filipo
We are big fans of these two gentlemen because you can’t fault any aspect of their play. Gower is in everything when he is on the park and Filipo is a human wrecking ball both in attack and defence. Gower won the Illawarra Cutters player of the Year and Filipo was VB NSW Cup Representative Player of the Year courtesy of his performance against the QLD Residents.
DEAD-SET UNLUCKY – Jarrod Farlow
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Jesse Sene Lafao, James Gavet, Pat Galea, Mark Nicholls
LOCK – Harlan Alaalatoa
Another Bulldog you would love to go into battle with. Alaalatoa even managed to grab a few 18th man jerseys for the Bulldogs NRL side which proves he is in Coach Hasler’s future plans. He is everything you want in a lock. Hits like a bus in defence and never shies away from the tough carry in attack. We bet Coach Barry Ward would love to have a few more Harlan’s for their Grand Final Qualifier next weekend against either Newtown of North Sydney.
DEAD-SET UNLUCKY – Tyrone Peachey
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Ethan Cook, Adam Docker, Bennett Leslie
THE BENCH – Justin Hunt, Josh Davis, Mitch Achurch and Paul Vaughan
Justin Hunt was very unlucky not to be slotted straight into the number six jersey however we felt his versatility was too good not to have on the bench. Hunt can play several positions and would easily fill in should players get injured. Balmain back-rower Josh Davis showed his ability in the VB NSW Cup Representative match against QLD when he was one of the best NSW players on the park. He has been a damaging ball runner for Paul Fletcher this year and an NRL call up isn’t far along. Our two big boppers round out the 2012 VB NSW Cup TOTY. Mitch Achurch and Paul Vaughan have burst onto the scene this year. Achurch made the move over from Western Suburbs to Windsor and it has been a successful move at that. Achurch made his NRL debut and has now secured a deal to play in the Super League with the Leeds Rhinos. Vaughan is another success story but this time for new VB NSW Cup Club Mounties. Vaughan was originally named 18th man for the Representative side but was called into the team when a few players withdrew late. Vaughan certainly didn’t miss a beat in what is an NRL standard game. He is another one who we believe will feature in the Telstra Premiership next year.
Our 18th man in Sam Lousi is one of the biggest human beings on the earth. He was one of the most damaging ball runners on the field this year for the Vulcans and we expect him to feature heavily in the NRL next season.
COACH – Rip Taylor
Rip was VB NSW Cup Representative coach this season and he is at the reigns of what many people believe to be the competition favourites. Rip successfully negotiated the changeover from the Central Coast Centurions relationship to the Newcastle Knights VB NSW Cup team and has led the Knights admirably. He is tipped to move on at the end of the season and maybe, just maybe, he will leave with a VB NSW Cup Premiership.
DEAD-SET UNLUCKY – Brett Cook
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Barry Ward, Paul McGregor
Well there it is folks, a fine team and one that could challenge any side in the NRL on their day we would dare say.
Congratulations to all of our players selected and good luck to all of those in particular that are still in with a chance of winning the 2012 VB NSW Cup.
But with that said we now throw it open to you, the fan, once again. Where did we get it right? Where did we get it wrong? In all honesty we could have named three or four sides and still not pleased everyone but once again I believe that just speaks volumes of the quality of players in our competition and that must be a good thing… right? Leave your comments below or tell us on twitter @NSWRL using the #NSWCUPTOTY hashtag.