1. Henare Wells - Newtown Jets
2. Josh Mantellato - Newcastle Knights
3. Peter Mata'utia - Newcastle Knights
4. Stewart Mills - Cronulla Sharks
5. Eto Nabuli - Windsor Wolves
6. Darren Nicholls - North Sydney Bears (C)
7. Chad Townsend - Cronulla Sharks
8. Josh Starling - North Sydney Bears
9. Mitch Williams - Wyong Roos
10. Suaia Matagi - Auckland Vulcans
11. Ken Edwards - Wentworthville Magpies
12. Tupou Sopoaga - Cronulla Sharks
13. Tyrone Peachey - Cronulla Sharks
14. Damien Cook - Illawarra Cutters
15. Kane Evans - Newtown Jets
16. Sam Anderson - Windsor Wolves
17. Jason Clark - North Sydney Bears
18. Jarred Farlow - Wests Tigers
COACH: Tony Herman - Cronulla Sharks
So there it is folks… Now let’s look at each position a little closer and also hand out some honourable mentions to those who were thereabouts and perhaps a touch unlucky to have missed out, and trust us there is plenty of them which once again probably speaks volumes about the depth of talent in the VB NSW Cup.
FULLBACK - Henare Wells
Wells has taken the VB NSW Cup by storm in his debut season following his graduation from the Roosters NYC squad. Wells has played in all bar one of the Jets games in 2013, and following a sluggish start to the season, Wells has since scored 21 tries in his last 20 outings. His support play has been brilliant and Wells has an innate sense of being in the right place at the right time. Wells talents would certainly not have gone unnoticed this year, and given he is behind Minichiello and Tuivasa-Sheck in the fullback pecking order at present, don’t be surprised to see some other clubs come calling in the near future.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Matt Moylan, Justin Hunt, Peta Hiku and Kevin Naiqama
WINGERS – Josh Mantellato and Eto Nabuli
12 months ago no one had heard of Eto Nabuli… The same cannot be said anymore though. The VB NSW Cups leading tryscorer with 26 tries from 23 outings, Nabuli has taken to his newly adopted sport like a duck to water. Phil Gould has already gone on record to say that he feels Nabuli will play NRL next year at the Panthers. Nabuli has great top end speed, and also has the size and strength to bother the opposition physically. The second winger named in our TOTY is also the only player in this year’s side that also featured in the 2012 TOTY. Mantellato was once again the competitions leading point scorer in 2013 as he amassed in excess of 200 points for the second consecutive season. Mantellato also played a starring role in the VB NSW Cup Representative sides victory over QLD at ANZ Stadium earlier this year and looks a shoe in for a trip to the UK to represent Italy at the World Cup next month.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Taqele Naiyaravoro, Mitchell Buckett, Daniel Moroko, Semi Radradra, Brett Lane and Chanel Mata’utia
CENTRES – Peter Mata’utia and Stewart Mills
The centre positions were certainly two of the more contentious selections with several of the honourable mentions staking great claims for a start. Ultimately though Stewart Mills could not be overlooked after he has played an integral role in the Sharks successful season in 2013. Despite scoring nine tries in 18 outings, Mills has built a reputation as a top notch defensive centre and has been largely responsible for negating many of the Sharks opposition strike weapons. Peter Mata’utia has had another wonderful season in the VB NSW Cup and has rebounded brilliantly from a horrific season ending injury in 2012. Mata’utia also provides this team with great flexibility as he can also slot into fullback and even five-eight. Mata’utia, like his Knights team mate in Mantellato, also represented the VB NSW Cup prior to Origin Three earlier this year.
One of the more deserving selections in this year’s side is that of the North Sydney Bears Captain, Darren Nicholls. Playing in all but one of the Bears 24 regular season games, Nicholls has been the glue that has held the Bears halves together with the likes of Keary and Koroisau both spending time on his inside throughout the year. A true club man, Nicholls has lead this team with distinction in 2013 and very rarely misses a training session. He may not be the flashiest player on a star studded Bears roster but he is arguably one of the most important.
A linchpin in this Sharks side right throughout 2013, Townsend has been one of many very good halfbacks in the VB NSW Cup this season. Having led his side to the Minor Premiership with a month to spare, Townsend’s accurate kicking game and ability to put his outside men away has seen him catch the eye of the Warriors who have signed him for the next two years.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Luke Keary, Adrian Davis, Ryley Jacks and Sam Williams
PROPS – Suaia Matagi and Josh Starling
Another position that was full of depth and highly debated at the selection table was prop. Suaia Matagi has been a revelation for the Vulcans this year and deservedly made his NRL debut back in Round Nine against the Bulldogs. The man, who spent a year in prison during his teens, reformed his bad ways and has now been rewarded for his years of hard work since and is on the verge of a very promising career in the game. Josh Starling is another whose form cannot be ignored. Starling along with the likes of Clark, Hyland, Turner and Leslie has turned the Bears pack into one of the most feared in the competition. Starling is another who performed well in the VB NSW Cup Representative sides victory over QLD earlier this year. Starling has been unlucky to have only played four NRL games this year however he has signed with Manly for the next three years and will be hopeful of more game time at the top level.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Charlie Gubb, Tom Burgess, Dayne Weston, Shaun Spence, Junior Palau, Shannon Wakeman, Sam Mataora, Magnus Stromquist, Levi Pulu, Ligi Sao and Toka Likiliki
HOOKER – Mitch Williams
It has been a massive year for the diminutive number nine from Wyong as he captained not only his club, but also led the VB NSW Cup Representative side to victory as well as claiming the VB NSW Cup Player of the Year award at the recent Brad Fittler Medal night. Williams made the decision to leave the Newcastle Knights in the off season and return to his junior club for their inaugural season in the VB NSW Cup. Williams has led his club with distinction and will be hoping that with some further recruitment over the next few months, as well as the addition of his ex-Knights coach in Rip Taylor, will see Wyong become an even bigger threat in 2013.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Pat Politoni, Joel Luani, Apasai Korisau, Siliva Havili, Liam Higgins, Dean Parata and Chris Adams
SECOND ROWERS – Kenny Edwards and Tupou Sopoaga
Two of the most exciting prospects in the VB NSW Cup form our second row pairing with Kenny Edwards and Tupou Sopoaga teaming up. Edwards finally cracked it for his NRL debut in Round 26 however you get the sneaking suspicion that there will be plenty more NRL appearances for this kid in the future. Sopoaga’s backrow partnership with Peachey has been a thing of beauty this year as the two have run rampant and caused destruction everywhere that they have gone. Sopoaga has the ability to break the line with his size and footwork, and once he has broken the line he has the speed to go on with the job. Sopoaga is another who has debuted in 2013 when he faced the Raiders in Round 26.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Jesse Sene Lafao, Korbin Sims, Zane Tetevano, Bennett Leslie, Daniel Harrison, Sitaleki Akauolo, Lachlan Burr, Atelea Vea, Jarrad Kennedy, Dylan Napa, Saulala Houma, Anthony Cherrington
LOCK – Tyrone Peachey
One of the first players chosen in any position this year was Tyrone Peachey of the Cronulla Sharks. Peachey’s season has been nothing short of sensational as he has scored 18 tries in his 17 regular season games as well as make his NRL debut against the Raiders back in Round 10. Peachey is not your traditional lock however he is certainly the most exciting. Peachey has signed with the Panthers from 2014 and beyond, and one gets a sense that much bigger things are just over the horizon for this young tyro.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Paul Carter, Will Matthews, Matt Hilder, Tinirau Arona and Pat O’Hanlon
THE BENCH – Damien Cook, Kane Evans, Sam Anderson and Jason Clark
Our bench is one that provides impact in terms of speed and strength as well as versatility. Damien Cook beat out the likes of Justin Hunt and Blake Austin for our utility spot after a stellar back end of the season. Having begun the season at hooker, Cook was eventually called upon to move to fullback after Quinlan was ushered into the six jersey at Cutters and then NRL level. Cook provided us with some of the highlights of the season particularly once he switched to fullback where he scored six tries in his final four outings. Kane Evans and Sam Anderson have earned spots on our bench as part of our four man prop rotation. Despite missing the last third of the season due to injury, Evans caused more than enough destruction early on in the season to warrant inclusion. It would appear that Evans will be a part of Trent Robinson’s plans for next year with Evans likely to be pushing hard for an NRL start during the pre-season. Sam Anderson has been brilliant for the Wolves this season playing in 15 regular season games as well as making three appearances for the Panthers. Not only has Anderson led from the front and been a big time metre-eater for the Wolves, he has also managed to score a very respectable seven tries, putting his status in the front rowers club in severe jeopardy. The final man on our bench is the Bears workhorse, Jason Clark. Clark played 12 games for the Bears this year as well as another nine for the Bunnies and one would have thought that had Clark been at any other club in the NRL, he may very well not have even played in the VB NSW Cup this year. Clark was a standout for the VB NSW Cup Representative side earlier this year and his achievements in that match were recognised recently at the Brad Fittler Medal night.
Our 18th man in Jarred Farlow is the consummate professional who is always one of the Tigers best each and every week. Farlow is one of nearly 50 players who have made there NRL debut via the VB NSW Cup in 2013 and not one of them were more deserving of it than this man.
COACH – Tony Herman
A standout candidate to coach this team, Herman has had a season that was second to none. The Sharks didn’t taste defeat until Round 17 as they reeled off 15 straight wins to start the season. The Sharks dominance was also further exhibited when they had the Minor Premiership secure at the conclusion of Round 22. Many will point to the fact that the Sharks receive additional personnel from a secondary club in the Melbourne Storm as a large reason for this clubs success, but you must also weigh up the large logistical issues that this also throws up, with Herman’s final team often not locked in until the night before a game and their team often having very limited practice together as a unit. The Sharks have had a wonderful year, and Herman should justifiably take a lot of credit for it.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Wayne Lambkin and Rick Stone
Well there it is folks, a fine team and one that could challenge most sides 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 2013 VB NSW Cup.