After much deliberation, it is finally time to announce the NSWRL.com.au VB NSW Cup Team of the Year (TOTY) for 2014.
Firstly though we would like to start by thanking you all for your assistance and feedback via your comments on the VB NSW Cup facebook page and also via twitter @NSWRL by using the #VBNSWCupTOTY hashtag. 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 can assure you that we have been monitoring your nominations vigorously over the past few weeks 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 final makeup of this side, 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.
Never before have the fans had such access to and also the opportunity to keep in touch with more of the VB NSW Cup action than they have had this year. Live TV coverage in both Australia and New Zealand on Fox Sports and Sky Sports NZ, Radio, NSWRL Match Centre Coverage, Weekly Video Highlights packages, as well as extensive coverage across our social media channels have all been made available in 2014, as well as launching our LIVE streaming late in the season, which we will be looking to expand on next season. We thank you all for your support and hope to continue to grow these areas with your help in 2015.
Anyway without further delay here is the NSWRL.com.au VB NSW Cup Team of the Year for 2014.
1) Nathan Ross - (Newcastle Knights)
2) Bureta Faraimo - (Wentworthville Magpies)
3) Sami Sauiluma - (Mounties)
4) Asipeli Fine - (Wests Tigers)
5) Josh Mantellato - (Newcastle Knights)
6) Will Smith - (Penrith Panthers)
7) Michael Dobson - (Newcastle Knights)
8) Magnus Stromquist - (Wyong Roos)
9) Mitch Williams - (Wyong Roos)
10) Tim Robinson - (Cronulla Sharks)
11) Jake Foster - © (Mounties)
12) Raymond Faitala-Mariner - (Vodafone Warriors)
13) Ryan Simpkins - (Penrith Panthers)
14) Tyler Randell - (Newcastle Knights)
15) Shannon Wakeman - (Illawarra Cutters)
16) Sam Anderson - (Penrith Panthers)
17) Lachlan Burr - (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
18) Clinton Gutherson - (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)
COACH: Rip Taylor (Wyong Roos)
So there it is folks, your 2014 VB NSW Cup Team of the Year. Now let’s look at each position a little more closely 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 – Nathan Ross
Straight off the bat we can tell you that this was perhaps the most keenly contested position of all and as a result there was some extremely vigorous debate at the selection table. Had our side been chosen at let’s say the completion of round 16, Clinton Gutherson would have almost certainly got the spot, but Nathan Ross’ finish to the season has been nothing short of electric and it has seen him leapfrog Gutherson in the pecking order. Due to injury, Nathan Ross has only managed to play 15 of the Knights 25 games thus far, however he has crossed for 17 tries at better than a try a game when he has been on the park and is also a big reason why the Knights have not lost since round 17.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Clinton Gutherson, Kieran Moss and Kyle Eather
WINGERS - Josh Mantellato and Bureta Faraimo
Yet another position with an abundance of depth right throughout the competition. Josh Mantellato has been one of this competitions greatest success stories and he has been rewarded for his consistency with not only a third straight berth in this team, but also with a Super League contract with the Hull Kingston Rovers. Mantellato was easily the competitions highest point scorer once again, posting in excess of 200 points for the third straight year which included a very respectable 16 tries. Faraimo was the competitions leading try scorer at the conclusion of the regular season and was also recently announced as the VB NSW Cup Player of the Year for 2014 at the Brad Fittler Medal dinner. It’s been a whirlwind 12 months for Faraimo after he represented the Tomahawks at the World Cup and then has gone onto make his NRL debut with the Eels.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Eto Nabuli, Jarrod Tua, Chanel Mata’utia, Kevin Naiqama, Setefano Taukafa, Marika Koroibete and Yaw Kiti Glymin
CENTRES – Sami Sauiluma and Asipeli Fine
Two very different styles of player here but nonetheless very deserving. Sami Sauiluma bagged himself 20 tries in 15 appearances for Mounties in 2014 as well as making a few NRL appearances for the Raiders. Mounties were one of the most explosive offensive teams this year and Sauiluma was a large reason for that. Fine is more of a defensive centre as opposed to Sauiluma, but his work rate and consistency saw him get the nod ahead of perhaps more fancier peers. Fine started 21 games for the Tigers in 2014 and was always amongst the leaders in hit ups and tackles. A real worker with a bright future.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS - Geoff Daniela, Jeremy Hawkins, Tony Satini, Waqa Blake and Solomone Kata
FIVE-EIGHTH – Will Smith
A young star on the rise who may find himself in an NRL Grand Final side in a fortnight’s time, Smith has made a great fist of his first season at the foot of the mountains. A player who could, and often did play in a number of positions at Newcastle, Smith has taken the six jersey and for the most part made it his own this season. Understandably, Smith, much like the Panthers, took a few weeks to find his feet earlier in the season, but his work since then has been outstanding and clearly the likes of Brennan and Cleary were not afraid to thrust the young man into the thick of the Panthers NRL Premiership campaign.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Sam Duggan, Carlos Tuimavave, Jack Ahearn and Johnathon Ford
HALFBACK – Michael Dobson
Most certainly a position where the depth was crazy good in 2014 with guys like Luke Kelly, Tom Humble and Mitch Cornish all well and truly in the conversation, but when push came to shove we simply couldn’t overlook the form of Dobson, particularly late in the season. After spending the first month or so of the season in the NRL, Dobson has gone on to play 19 games in the VB NSW Cup with Newcastle and his combination with the likes of Ross, Minto and Newton has seen the Knights playing a brand of football that is a pleasure to watch.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Tom Humble, Luke Kelly and Mitch Cornish
PROPS – Magnus Stromquist and Tim Robinson
Every team needs a Magnus Stromquist! The former Manly NYC player has been nothing short of sensational for the Roos in 2014, and playing alongside of former Kangaroo Mark O’Meley has given Magnus the confidence to take his game to another level. Stromquist lead the league in hit ups and run metres with a staggering 420 runs and he also played in all 26 of the Roos games. And he didn’t just put his hand up to carry the ball, Magnus was also top ten in the league for tackles too. As for Tim Robinson, it was a tough season for last year’s Premiers however Robinson once again stood tall in the face of adversity. Robinson spent plenty of time in the NRL this season for obvious reasons but when he was in the VB NSW Cup side at Cronulla they won more games than they lost.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Mark Nicholls, Jack Buchanan, Charlie Gubb, Tyson Andrews, Rory O’Brien, Daniel Alvaro, Nathaniel Neale, Paterika Vaivai, Josh Ailaomai
HOOKER - Mitch Williams
There is not much you can say about this guy that hasn’t already been said. The body of a mouse with the heart of a lion, Williams makes this team for the second straight year and perhaps had more influence in 2014 than what he had in 2013 when he claimed VB NSW Cup Player of the Year honours. Always busy and always scheming, Williams was once again up near the pointy end of the tackle count for the season, but it is his ability to play through pain and injury, as he did late in the season, that sets him apart from many others who may have been sitting at home with their feet up on the couch.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Chad Redman, Siliva Havili, Jayden Hodges, Matt McIlwrick, Kevin Kingston and Joel Luani
SECOND ROWERS – Jake Foster and Raymond Faitala-Mariner
Certainly a position where there was tremendous depth and although we felt Jake Foster picked himself, the selection of Faitala-Mariner may raise an eyebrow or two. Mariner played in 23 of the Vodafone Warriors games this year and also chimed in with seven tries to boot. He is a busy second rower that likes scouting a few passes wide of the ruck, but as he showed us last weekend against the Cutters, when he gets in the clear, he is capable of moving the ball down the field. As for Jake Foster, he is the consummate professional. Foster made 22 starts for Mounties this year and also bagged himself 12 tries, many of those coming early in the year when he was scoring them for fun. Foster was one of the VB NSW Cup Representative sides best in their loss to QLD, but his endeavour and leadership both on and off the park sees him as a standout candidate for not only this side, but as its captain.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Tekina Vailea, Saulala Houma, Rhyse Martin, Nathan Smith, Lagi Setu, Sione Masima, Agnatius Paasi, Tevita Pangai Jnr and Willie Mataka
LOCK – Ryan Simpkins
Plenty of good locks this year with the likes of Matt Hilder, Daniel Harrison and Harlan Alaalatoa all having good years but in the final wash-up Simpkins is another who basically picked himself. Simpkins has started all but one game for the Panthers, and although when we talk about Penrith, we often refer to their high octane offence and flashy outside backs, when their defence needs to stand up, Simpkins is usually front and centre and driving the shoulder in. He is just a good old fashioned worker whose offensive game is also beginning to expand as he matures as a footballer. Unfortunately for Simpkins there are guys like Adam Docker, Elijah Taylor and Lewis Brown in front of him at present but no doubt his time will come.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS – Matt Hilder, Daniel Harrison and Harlan Alaalatoa
THE BENCH – Tyler Randell, Shannon Wakeman, Sam Anderson and Lachlan Burr
A really nice bench with plenty of versatility. Randell can play any one of a number positions and his durability was on show for all when he played almost an hour of a VB NSW Cup match against Newtown in round 25 before being dragged off and then being told he would be starting in the Knights NRL side against Parramatta just over an hour later. Shannon Wakeman was very close to making this side last year, and with an even more impressive 2014 he has knocked down the door. Wakeman can play in both the back and front row and has great pace for a big man. Sam Anderson got the nod for a bench spot when he probably beat out his Panthers team mate Reagan Campbell-Gillard, who can definitely count himself unlucky. Anderson has played in 19 games for the Panthers and would have played in more had he not been called up to the NRL recently. The fact that Anderson has started in each of his 19 appearances while Gillard has spent some time coming off the bench tells us that they (Panthers) still feel Anderson has the edge, and that’s good enough for us. Lachlan Burr was one of Canterbury’s best in an otherwise ordinary year for the Bulldogs. Burr also represented the VB NSW Cup Representative side in 2014 and has recently signed with the Titans from the 2015 season. Hopefully Burr sees plenty of NRL up north because he was unlikely to sitting behind the likes of Josh Jackson and Dale Finucane at Canterbury.
Our 18th man is Clinton Gutherson for no other reason than the debate between selectors over him and Nathan Ross was so vigorous and ongoing that we felt he was perhaps the unluckiest of all the ‘honourable mentions’. There is little doubt that this prodigious talent will have a long and illustrious career in the NRL, but we have enjoyed watching him during his time in the VB NSW Cup.
COACH – Rip Taylor
We know that this will upset many Panthers fans but after much deliberation we have given the nod the Roos Rip Taylor. Yes Brennan lead his team to the Minor Premiership, and perhaps ultimately a Premiership, and yes the Panthers eclipsed the Sharks 2013 record of 43 competition points, and yes Tony Herman got the nod last year having done all of the things we just touched on, but where did Wyong finish last season? 13th! The job that Garth Brennan has done with the Panthers has been outstanding, but with the roster they have and the calibre of player that they have at their disposal, a result much less than that would have been a disappointment. Rip Taylor came in and took over the Roos for just their second campaign and took them from stone cold last to within a couple of converted tries of a Preliminary Final clash against the Panthers. And while Taylor made some shrewd signings with players such as Mark O’Meley, Mark Kheirallah, Jono Ford and Tekina Vailea all bringing something to the table, the fact remains that he has done all of this with a side that currently has no NRL affiliation and that ultimately tipped the scales in his favour.