Top 50 greatest moments in NYC history: 45-41
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.
45. DCE has 40/20 vision
One of the best rule changes in rugby league saw the ARL introduce the 40/20 in 1997 to reward high-class general-play kicks. The ploy has seen games turned on their head in the blink of an eye, with hookers recently replacing halfbacks as the best exponents of the tactic in the NRL. Former Eels halfback Chris Sandow nailed seven 40/20s in 2014 – easily the best return by an NRL player in recent years – but even his exploits were bettered by Daly Cherry-Evans in the inaugural NYC season. The Sea Eagles No.7 kicked nine of them in 2008; an incredible effort given he's only kicked six in the past three NRL seasons. Beau Henry is second best with eight 40/20s in 2009, while Michael Parker-Walshe and Harry Siejka each kicked five in 2011.
44. The Flying Fish gets reeled in
Warriors fullback Glen Fisiiahi will look back at the 2010 season with plenty of pride. He scored 20 tries from 25 appearances, won the grand final and represented the Junior Kiwis in the end-of-year Test. However, there is one moment that stands out above all the rest, and unfortunately for the 'Flying Fish' it's one he will never live down. In the Round 20 match against the Rabbitohs, Fisiiahi collected a loose ball following a failed chip-and-chase by Adam Reynolds. Having sprinted the best part of 75 metres, the Warriors custodian reached the in-goal, and with seemingly no one near him, decided to blow a kiss to the crowd. Sadly for the Fish, he never saw Hayden O'Donnell coming, and just as he went to put the ball down, the Rabbitohs backrower jolted the ball free. The highlight has been watched more than 275,000 times on YouTube and is considered one of the worst (or best) bombed tries in history. Thankfully for Fisiiahi, they not only won that game (19-18) but he also scored a try in the grand final win against who else, but South Sydney.
43. Butcher carves up in 2016
It's hard enough to top the stats in one category, let alone two. But that's exactly what Roosters lock forward Nat Butcher did in 2016. The 19-year-old finished the year with 1,049 tackles (23 more than second-best Jayden Brailey) and 4,526 running metres (354 more than Tyrell Fuimaono). His regular-season numbers were impressive, but his post-season stats were the stuff of legend. Butcher averaged 209 metres in his four finals matches and made roughly 49 tackles per game as well, and despite his incredible workload, only sat on the bench for 12 minutes. Butcher made his NRL debut in Round 26 at Suncorp Stadium and you get the feeling is on track to forge a glittering first-grade career. He was deservedly named the RLPA Player of the Year for 2016, and was the Jack Gibson Medal winner in the Roosters' grand final win.
42. Nathan is 'Cleary' going to be a star
One of the major benefits of following the NYC is that you can watch the stars of the future before they become household names. Take Nathan Cleary for example. The Panthers halfback was always going to make it in the NRL, and those who watched him in the Holden Cup would have had the inside mail. Cleary didn't set the world on fire in his NYC debut as the Panthers fell 10-6 to the Wests Tigers – the second-lowest scoring game in history – but announced himself with a 24-point haul two games later. He would finish 2015 with 106 points from 10 matches, but missed out on the grand final win while on Schoolboys duties. His 2016 campaign was scarily better as he contributed 156 points to finish third on the points-scoring leaderboard despite only making 10 appearances. Still only a teenager, Cleary amassed a staggering 56 points in his final two matches to force his way into the first-grade side via a one-week detour in reserve grade.
41. NYC graduates take centre stage in Liverpool
Of the 34 players who took part in the Four Nations final at Anfield, 21 of them featured in the NYC. For the Kangaroos, Blake Ferguson, Josh Dugan, Valentine Holmes, Aaron Woods, Boyd Cordner, Matt Gillett, Trent Merrin, Michael Morgan, David Klemmer, Tyson Frizell and Shannon Boyd started their careers in the 20s. For the Kiwis it was Jordan Kahu, David Fusitu'a, Solomone Kata, Jordan Rapana, Tohu Harris, Shaun Johnson, Kevin Proctor, Jason Taumalolo, Martin Taupau and Joseph Tapine. Of the six try scorers on Monday morning (AEDT) only one player (Darius Boyd) did not play in the NYC. Incredible numbers that will only get better in the years to come.