For the best part of a decade, rugby league fans have been treated to a new brand of footy by the best up-and-coming talent on the game's biggest stage. But with confirmation that the Holden Cup will no longer exist beyond the 2017 season, we've decided to take a trip down memory lane and count down the finest 50 moments from the under-20s competition.
50. The NYC is born
When the Under 20s competition kicked off on March 14, 2008, it did so without much fanfare. No one really knew what to expect from rival teenagers keen to make a name for themselves on the big stage. But from humble beginnings, it has blossomed into one of the most important breeding grounds rugby league has ever seen. It all started on a Friday night back in 2008 between traditional rivals the Rabbitohs and Roosters. In a far cry from today's attack-laden contests, the Tricolours eked out a three-tries-to-one 14-10 win at ANZ Stadium to claim the competition's first win. Chris Sandow was the Rabbitohs' halfback while the Roosters' bench included James Tamou, Mose Masoe and Tom Symonds.
49. Sea Eagles upset Cowboys to book a spot in the GF
This was meant to be the night the Cowboys booked their spot in the 2015 Holden Cup grand final to take on Penrith in a match to determine once and for all who the best under-20s team in the country was. Someone forgot to tell the Sea Eagles. The young men from Manly travelled down to Melbourne as rank outsiders, but that mattered little as they ground out a 25-24 win to stun the second-place Cowboys. North Queensland had run out convincing winners in their two regular season meetings, but were out-disciplined and out-enthused by a Manly side that was outscored four-tries-to-three, but kicked three crucial penalty goals. Locked at 24-all in the 77th minute, Sea Eagles skipper Will Pearsall received the ball 15 metres out from the posts, but instead of taking the shot himself, shifted it back to the left for Nicho Hynes. The interchange utility back calmly stepped past the onrushing defence of Kalyn Ponga and slotted the drop goal to seal the dramatic win. While obviously shattered, the Cowboys did manage to win the first-grade preliminary final that night en route to their maiden NRL title.
48. Someone stop those men!
When an NRL player registers 10 or more tackle breaks in a match, the rest of us stop and take notice. They are the point of difference plays that turn a solid footballer into a Fantasy gun, they turn average plays into attacking raids, and they are the runs that put defenders on their backs and bring fans to their feet. If bulldozing plays are what you like, then the NYC is the competition for you. Four players have broken 21 tackles in a single game (Konrad Hurrell and Dane Gagai did it twice), a further four players have busted 22 tackles in a game (plus Gagai who is once again on that list), while two players have broken an incredible 23 tackles in 80 minutes of action. Panthers star Josh Mansour was the first to achieve the feat back in 2010 when he was still at the Rabbitohs, while another Bunny, Adrian Ha'angana, joined him the following season in a match his side lost!
47. The defensive exception to the rule
The Dragons and Sharks couldn't have asked for better conditions when they did battle at the neutral Olympic Stadium on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon back in 2008. The local rivals headed into the contest in good form, with the Red V scoring 93 points in their first three matches, while the Sharks had tallied a respectable 56 points. What followed was a contest that would buck the NYC trend of end-to-end action as the teams combined for just 10 points in what was – and still is – the lowest-scoring match in under-20s history. Cronulla's 6-4 loss set the tone for a lean season as they managed a competition-low 394 points in 2008 to finish in 14th place. While the fans were deprived of entertainment in that match, the first grade teams put on a thriller with the Sharks stealing victory via a Luke Covell penalty goal in golden point.
46. Warriors belt Bulldogs 64-0 in the finals
The writing was on the wall for the Bulldogs when they were drawn against the minor premiers in the 2011 Under 20s preliminary final. The Warriors had lost just four games in the regular season and had enjoyed a week off after thrashing Newcastle 54-6 in the first week of the post-season. The blue and whites had snuck into the grand final qualifier on the back of a two-point win over the Storm, and had pushed the New Zealanders in their only previous meeting, eventually falling 22-14 in Auckland. The early signs weren't good for the Bulldogs as they fell behind 18-0 at the break, and things only got worse from there – much worse in fact. Konrad Hurrell, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Adam Henry and Carlos Tuimavave each crossed twice, while four other Warriors grabbed four-pointers as the minor premiers blew the Bulldogs off the park with a 64-0 win – easily the biggest in finals history.