Top 50 moments in NYC history: 20-16
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're taking a trip down memory lane and count down the finest 50 moments from the under-20s competition.
20. Unrivalled Warriors the kings of the NYC
This isn't necessarily a moment, but it certainly deserves recognition. It's easy to quantify what the Warriors have achieved in the NYC, but when it's all said and done their impact on rugby league over the past decade will be immeasurable. The Warriors have had 56 players graduate from the NYC to the NRL – more than any other club – and they have had 34 players represent the Junior Kiwis. They are the only team to record back-to-back premierships, and their three titles are the most in competition history. Their consistency over the years has been second to none, with the New Zealanders making the finals for eight straight seasons – another competition record. Their longest losing streak is just four games. They boast the biggest win in finals history (64-0 over the Bulldogs) and have missed the playoffs just once.
To illustrate their success across the park, current Kiwis superstar Shaun Johnson never won the Sonny Fai medal as the club's best player, while only eight players have been named in the NYC Team of the Year. A lot of the credit for the Warriors dynasty has to go to former coach John Ackland who developed a lot of their current stars. Sure they have generally been bigger and faster than a lot of other teenagers, but he regularly turned a team of champions into a champion team. And any man who makes his players run mousetrap plays on a weekly basis is a hero in my eyes.
19. Great Dane
Last week's list took a look back at the players to have scored five tries in an NYC match. Today, we focus on the only player to achieve the feat in a finals match. Back in 2009, Storm five-eighth Dane Chisholm etched his name into the history books with a five-try haul against the Rabbitohs in Week One of the finals. Melbourne were simply unstoppable that day, running out comfortable 54-18 victors. There was plenty of NRL talent on the park with Justin O'Neill, Jesse Bromwich, Matt Duffie, Jason Clark and Josh Mansour all scoring, while Gareth Widdop and Adam Reynolds combined for 10 goals. However, the real story was Chisholm's five tries. Only one player (Francis Meli) has scored five tries in an NRL finals match, while three players (Tui Lolohea, James Roberts and Gideon Gela-Mosby) have crossed four times in NYC finals. Chisholm was tipped to do great things in the NRL but only managed one match at the Storm before stints at the Wests Tigers, Sea Eagles and Bulldogs that yielded no appearances. He now plays in the UK Super League.
18. Unlucky 13 curbs winning streaks
For a competition that is meant to be as unpredictable as season three of Game of Thrones, there have been a number of teams that epitomised consistency with lengthy winning streaks. The 2015 Cowboys won 13 matches in a row before falling in Round 26 to the Titans. Last year we saw the Panthers equal that mark, although Penrith fans will tell you they should hold the record outright. After being pipped on the siren in Round 1, the Panthers bounced back with 13 straight wins by an average of 33 points. However, their streak only came to an end after drawing 34-all with the Sharks in an epic contest in Round 18, which they followed with another two wins. Their 16-game undefeated streak is the longest in competition history, but the sceptics will argue their abandoned Round 13 match against the Storm should make the record null and void. (That seems like a stretch given Melbourne comfortably missed the eight.) Despite their incredible streaks, neither the Cowboys nor the Panthers won the premiership that year.
17. Broncos bucked by captain's challenge
Cricket has the DRS, NFL coaches use a little red flag and tennis players challenge calls willy-nilly when they know the ball clearly caught the line. We saw the captain's challenge trialled in Round 26 of the NRL last year in the match between the Knights and the Dragons, and given its success, it could be used more often down the track. Fans of the Holden Cup are well accustomed to the captain's challenge, especially those who support the Wests Tigers.
In Week One of the 2013 NYC finals series, the black and golds took on the Broncos in a classic encounter at ANZ Stadium. The Tigers raced out to a 16-0 lead at the break, but Brisbane dominated the second stanza to send the game into golden point. Luke Brooks missed a chance to win it in the 83rd minute when his field goal attempt sailed wide, and that's where the fun started. Barely 60 seconds later, the Broncos were awarded a penalty 15 metres out for interference in the ruck. Rather than bow out on a gift two points, Tigers skipper Kyle Lovett challenged the ruling, with replays showing Broncos fullback Paul Byrnes had in fact lost the ball, resulting in a Tigers scrum. Incredibly, the Broncos were awarded another penalty within range in the 85th minute, and unsurprisingly, the Tigers opted to challenge. The on-field call of 'offside' was quickly overturned, sending the game into a second period of sudden-death football. Having somehow survived through back-to-back challenges, the Tigers took just one second-half set to end the game with centre Salesi Funaki crashing over to break Broncos hearts. Hopefully we'll see more of it in the future.
16. Kata's triple treat
Scoring a hat-trick in the NYC is nothing new. In fact, it feels like one is scored every other week. But to score three tries in a grand final? Well that's something only one man can lay claim to, and that's Warriors centre Solomone Kata. Michael Robertson was the most recent player to score a grand final hat-trick in first grade (in 2008). Steve Renouf achieved the feat in the 1997 Super League grand final, Alan Brady scored a hat-trick in the 1930 grand final, Eddie Lumsden did it twice for the Dragons (1959 and 1961), while Johnny Graves scored four tries for Souths in 1951. In the 2014 NYC decider against the Brisbane Broncos, Kata crossed for a first-half hat-trick to etch his name into the annals of history. The first came from a controversial strip in the seventh minute before he doubled his tally four minutes later as he brilliantly collected a deflected kick to score in the corner. His third came seven minutes before the break when he sped past a couple of would-be defenders to score before he raced to the nearest television camera and planted a big kiss on the lens. His efforts highlighted what was an outstanding grand final, but more on that later in the countdown.