Macarthur Rugby League Wrap Team of the Year
Firstly, let me thank everyone that took part in voting for the Facebook Fans team of the year. Your involvement really gave this concept legs. Some positions were hotly contested. There were a total of 637,987 votes tallied (estimate only, it’s not like I counted them all, but seriously, there was a whole bunch).
Secondly, let’s make a few things clear. There is no real point to this. It’s all just for fun. If nothing else, this showed that the Picton Magpies supporters are the most active on Facebook! Even I was surprised how much the ‘Pies’ dominated in the fans team*. Pick up your game everyone else!!
(*Disclaimer. I am a biased Picton guy, having played, coached, and been on the committee for the best part of 2 decades. But, I try to keep that bias out of my reporting.)
Now, on to my team. Here’s the criteria:
Must’ve played either in Group 6, for East Campbelltown in the Sydney Shield or for Wests in Shield or Ron Massey Cup. Why? Because that made up 90% of what I spoke about on the Macarthur Rugby League Wrap on C91.3fm. The station already had some guy called Tedesco to talk about the Wests Tigers, so my job was to promote the other local footy.
There’s been plenty of debate all year about how certain teams would go playing in the other competitions (especially Picton or Camden against the Eagles, or Picton and Camden in the RMC). My thoughts? Well, I saw plenty of footy in all three comps this year, so I think I’m qualified to answer, but…… I won’t. That’s a story for another day. Might make a great podcast topic though!!
Anyway, I digress. Back to my team. Basically, I picked it as if I were assembling a squad to represent the area against a touring English side or Intergalactic team of Aliens. Again, only from the teams/comps listed above.
In some cases I’ve relied heavily on what the player has done in their career. In others I relied more on what they’ve achieved in 2015. And, I have the luxury of picking players out of position to fit them all in. I can do that because it’s my team and I’m picking it to represent the Macarthur, Earth, and The Milky Way Galaxy, remember?!
Without further ado, here it is:
- Shannon Gallant – Western Suburbs Magpies
Mighty Mouse had a mighty season for Wests in the Ron Massey Cup this year. While the black and whites fell agonisingly short of a semi-final birth, Gallant led by example, playing a huge part in their late season charge of five wins in a row. He was also 2nd highest point scorer in the RM Cup.
- Ben Baker – East Campbelltown Eagles
A player who has always polarised opinion, but there can be no doubting his ability or the amazing season he had in 2015. His electrifying attacking game and goal kicking saw him win both the top point scorer and player of the year awards in NSWRL’s Sydney Shield.
- Michael Lett – Picton Magpies
The class of Lett was never in question, but just in case it was, the former Dragon, Rooster & Bulldog really stood up, being Group 6’s leading try scorer with 26 (from 12 games) and captaining the Magpies to their 3rd straight premiership.
- Dean Collis – Camden Rams
If the Camden side had a perceived weakness early in the season, it was a lack of top class talent out wide. The mid-season signing of Collis immediately rectified that. The 29 year old veteran of 104 NRL games and 53 in the UK Super League was rock solid in defence and provided plenty of potency out wide.
- Drury Low – Narellan Jets
If anything, Low’s season for Narellan may’ve been a tad disappointing when compared to the massive expectations that arrived with the news of his signing. The speedster missed a number of games due to injury, but his record and his selection for the Cook Islands test team ensures his selection here.
- Donny Thompson – Picton Magpies
I was tempted to opt for Wests Blake Lazurus, but it was just impossible to leave Thompson out. The Group 6 player of the year was dynamic in the black and white. His class in attack and rock solid defence was an integral part of the Magpies premiership. He was amongst the top try scorers, also, with 22 to his name.
- Scott Borg – Camden Rams
Possibly the hardest position to pick. With Tim Dengate at Picton and Wade Dunley at Wests the other obvious contenders. I finally went with Borg due mainly to the many occasions I have seen him single-handedly win a game for the Rams and his previous club the Mittagong Lions. Has a long career playing at a higher level. All class.
- Bryce Gibbs – Appin Dogs
Missed a large portion of the season due to injury and suspension, but you can bet that the Dogs would’ve come a lot closer to a maiden premiership if he’d been there when it counted. 197 NRL games, 4 city origin games and an NRL premiership in ’05 ensures he gets a run here.
- Stuart Flanagan – Appin Dogs
See above. Flanagans selection here is due largely to his record and his undeniable talent. I believe that, on his day, he is the best hooker in any competition based in and around the Macarthur, outside of the NRL.
- Ray Cashmere – Camden Rams
Much like Gibbs, big Rays record speaks for itself. An 80 minute machine, his tireless efforts for the Rams provided the foundation for their charge to the minor premiership. His effort in the 2nd round win over the eventual premiers, Picton, had to be seen to be believed. 80 minutes, 40 odd tackles, 20 odd hit ups, half a dozen offloads. Standard weekly stats for him.
- Jakiel Mariner – Picton Magpies
Amongst a squad full of NRL ‘has beens’ and ‘almost made its’ (I use both terms as a compliment) Mariner is the exception. The 21 year old had no business running around in Group 6 this year. After playing for the NSW U20’s in 2014 and being a part of Trent Robinson’s top 25 at the Roosters in pre-season, circumstances saw him divide his time between making music and winning a G6 premiership instead. He picked his moments, but when he did he showed he is simply too good to be playing park footy. Hopefully we’ll see him on TV in 2016.
- Mason Talolua – East Campbelltown Eagles
The other back row spot was outrageously hard to pick. With Contenders like Peters and Twist at Picton, Campbell and Innosesio at Camden, and Tom Morrison at Wests to mention but a few, I went for Talolua due largely to the memories of him terrorising opposition sides in Group 6. The former Wests Tiger and Wests Magpie gave the Eagles pack extra grunt in 2015.
- David Harris – Western Suburbs Magpies
Talk to the Wests Magpies Fanatics and they would not swap Harris for any forward in the RM Cup. Harris picked up the Magpies best & Fairest award as he was a model of consistency for them. He was also selected in the RMC rep team and has previously been selected in the NSW Cup team of the year and been runner up as NSW Cup player of the year (2011).
- Wade Dunley – Western Suburbs Magpies
Along with Borg is among the best playmakers I’ve ever seen in Group 6. Was a huge loss for the Wests Magpies when injured at seasons end. Edged out his partner in crime in Lazurus, Mittagong’s Matt Thorp, and Picton’s Anthony Provost for this bench spot.
- Benson Tupou – Picton Magpies
Tupou, being his own harshest critic, believed his season was below par leading into the Grand Final, so he proceeded to dominate the more fancied Rams pack, especially in the opening 40. Super impressive forward who represented Greater Southern Stars and has previously played for the Country rep team and the Wests Tigers in U20’s and NSW Cup.
- Neil Begovich – The Oaks Tigers
Another quality forward who has played for the Wests Tigers U20’s. Consistently among the best front rowers in Group 6 and was a huge part of the Tigers’ impressive late season form.
- Jack Twist – Picton Magpies
As mentioned earlier, the back row was the most hotly contested. The former Panther and Illawarra Cutter managed to edge out a super impressive field due largely to the fact that he is just as effective in the 3 or 4. Is equally at home hitting a hole, make the tough metres, or putting a team mate into space and loves nothing more than jamming an opponent right under the ribs.
- Chris Browne, Camden. Browne took his game to a new level this year scoring a ridiculous 336 points for the Rams. Electrifying in attack.
- Alex Peters, Picton. Was his usual wrecking machine self all year, putting fear into opposition ball runners everywhere. Cruelly missed the GF after breaking himself on Cashmere.
- Blake Lazurus, Wests Magpies. Was crucial for the Magpies, and really stepped up when Dunley went down late in the year.
- Josh Goulton, Camden. Super impressive on the wing for the Rams all year. Very nearly got a spot on the picket here.
- Matt Thorpe, Mittagong. Consistently among the best players in Group 6 for the last 3 years. Showed his class this year by playing plenty at 7, as well as his favoured 9.
- John Da Silva, East Campbelltown. Has led the Eagles with distinction for many years and showed his versatility playing hooker when required.
- Josh McIlvenny, Picton. Not many had heard of him before this year, but no opponent ever got the better of the former Cabramatta Two Blue.
- Josh Burke, Campbelltown City. Outstanding year in the centres scoring 20+ tries and representing Group 6 from a team that struggled.
- Tom Morrison, Wests. The towering back rower/centre impressed all year for the Magpies, being rewarded with selection in the RMC rep team.
- Anthony Provost, Picton. Improves every year and is now considered one of the best players in the comp. Outstanding dummy half and amazing goal kicker.
- Sam Campbell, Camden. Giant back rower with superb skills. Any team around would love to have him on board.
- Mitch Brasington, The Oaks. Out of four Brasington brothers at The Oaks Mitch received the most accolades playing and starring at 5/8, but they’re all great players.
- Ray Stone, Moss Vale, Wests. This 18 year old kid is going to be a star. Ripped into much older forwards when playing for Mossy. Went on to play U20’s for the Tigers and Australian Schoolboys for the 2nd year running. Watch this space.
- Matt White, Picton. The stiffest man in Group 6 who truly believes that stepping is for cowards.
- Ryan Borg, Camden. Doesn’t get the accolades his brother does, but is a brilliant playmaker with a superb kicking game.
- Tim Dengate, Picton. Pocket rocket that loves the rough stuff. Outstanding in defence, especially front on, and great organiser.
- Nick Taylor, Picton. Only started late in the year, but the Picton jr and NSW Cup premiership winner was enormous for the black and whites in the GF.
- Bart Masters, Appin. I didn’t see much of Masters this year, but can honestly say he’s one of the best I ever played against, being equally at home at halfback or back row.
I’ve reached the stage now where I simply must stop writing. Every name that pops in to my head reminds me of another. It’s a constant loop. I’m a snake trying to eat its’ own tail.
I shall conclude by saying that the amount of talent on display across the Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly and Southern Highlands areas every weekend is extraordinary. I am already looking forward to 2016 and can’t wait to update you all on C91.3 every Monday and Friday morning.
Thank you so much to everyone that has tuned into my segment during the year or read something that I’ve written. I truly love the game and believe that we have such a great product in this area. If I can do anything to help promote it, then it is my great pleasure to do so. I have been humbled by the feedback I have received. The Facebook page has recently ticked over 1,000 likes so thank you for giving me this platform.
Lastly, special thanks to Ben and Julie at League Zone Sports, the fantastic sponsor of my segment, and especially Josh Webster from the Fresh Breakfast show who gave me the leg up with C91.3. I am eternally grateful.
If you made it this far, I congratulate you on your stamina. I’d like to shout you a beer.*
*By shout, I mean drink one with you. You’ll have to pay. For both. Thanks again.