Top 50 greatest moments in NYC history: 10-6
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.
10. NYC trailblazer leaves a lasting impression
Here's one for all you trivia buffs playing at home: who was the first person to go from the NYC to the NRL? If you said Obadiah Geia then give yourselves a pat on the back. The now 28-year-old made his first-grade debut in Round 2 of the 2008 season, a week after he played in North Queensland's first NYC clash (a 46-10 loss to the Titans). Geia replaced Ty Williams on the wing for two matches before he returned to the NYC where he scored 25 tries from 35 appearances. While his NRL career was nothing flash, Geia's rugby league legacy is going from strength to strength. The Obe Geia Challenge was formed in 2009 and has used rugby league to help bring Indigenous communities closer together. Held in his hometown of Palm Island, the tournament has grown over the years with students aged 10-12 taught about the importance of fitness, health and education.
9. Sandow stands tall on debut
As you just found out, Chris Sandow wasn't the first player to make the transition from NYC to NRL. But that doesn't make his achievements any less remarkable. Tipped to struggle in first grade because of his lack of height, the rookie halfback proved the doubters wrong in 2008 to establish himself as an NRL regular. Having won just one of their opening 12 rounds, the Rabbitohs turned to Sandow for their trip to New Zealand to take on the Warriors; a side they hadn't beaten since 1999. The diminutive No.7 overcame some nervy moments to help his side overturn an early deficit with his field goal proving telling in the 35-28 win. His right boot proved the difference a few weeks later as the Bunnies fought back from 28-4 down to stun the Cowboys 29-28 thanks to Sandow's field goal. A try and four goals the following week led to a 34-30 win over the Bulldogs, and when Souths downed the Eels in Round 18, Sandow had started his NRL career with five straight wins. The rookie halfback finished the year with two tries and 19 goals from 13 appearances and helped Souths avoid the wooden spoon. He was later recognised as the Dally M Rookie of the Year and also made the NYC Team of the Year despite only playing 11 games.
8. Points, points and more points
When Warriors fans heard that they had scored 44 points against the Storm in Round 26 of the 2009 season, they must have thought their side had enjoyed a big win over the eventual premiers. How very wrong they were. In one of the most amazing scorelines ever seen, Melbourne rallied late to earn a 46-44 win in Auckland. It was the highest losing score in NYC history, and comfortably surpassed the NRL record of 36 points held by the Mariners (1997), Bulldogs (2005) and Knights (2010). A chance conversation with former Storm winger Justin O'Neill – who scored a double that day – revealed just how epic the win was. "I'm pretty sure it went from one side of the field to the other, and it ended with Matt Duffie who scored in the corner to win the game. It was unreal. It was a heap of passes on the final play of the game… it was unbelievable," he told NRL.com. Former teammate Robbie Rochow was equally pleased to relive the contest, although he still remembers the spray coach Brad Arthur gave the team after the game. "He wasn't happy at all with how we played. Our defence wasn't great, but it was still an incredible game. I can't believe I remember that game!" he told NRL.com. The 90-point thriller isn't the highest scoring game in NYC history, with Penrith's 64-32 win over Newcastle in 2010 taking home that honour. Remarkably, the average points total per game in Round 26, 2009 was a whopping 70.75.
7. Sharks snatch victory from the jaws of defeat
Star of the 1975 film Jaws, Roy Scheider famously told Robert Shaw "You're going to need a bigger boat". His words of wisdom mightn't have been overly pertinent on a footy field, but they can be loosely linked to one of the craziest games in Holden Cup history. In Round 4 of the 2016 season, Melbourne opened up a 34-6 half-time lead over the Sharks and looked destined to run out big winners. With 20 minutes to play, they still held a commanding 22-point lead, and the two competition points looked secure. Enter Holden Cup Player of the Year Jayden Brailey. The dynamic No.9 set up Josh Tuilagi and then crossed for his second of the afternoon to cut the gap to 10 points. A try to winger Sione Katoa brought the Sharks within a try, before Brailey sliced through the middle of the ruck to put Jack Williams over for the lead-changing score. A second try to Katoa at the death put the icing on the cake as the hosts somehow ended up 48-40 winners. It was one of the most bizarre matches you're likely to see, and was the second time in three weeks the Storm had scored 40 and still lost. The result eclipsed North Queensland's 26-point comeback against the Panthers back in 1998, but it wasn't the first time a side had fought back from 28 points in the NYC; more on that later. The moral of the story: against the Sharks, you're going to need a bigger lead.
6. The greatest (regular season) game of them all
The fact this is the sixth-best moment in NYC history speaks volumes about next week's top five. In nine seasons of under-20s footy, this is the undisputed crème de la crème of regular-season matches, and one that had to be seen to be believed. Down 34-10 with 13 minutes to play, the Roosters stormed back to lead the Titans by a point, only to have their hearts broken at the death. The game started brightly for the Tricolours with Joseph Manu the beneficiary of two miracle passes from Joey Lussick and Jackson Hastings to grab a double inside 20 minutes. But six tries in a whirlwind 33 minutes saw the Titans open up a commanding lead that should have been enough to seal the win. However, they didn't bank on Hastings's right boot as he set up three tries and scored one from a perfect chip-and-chase to bring his side within two points with five minutes left on the clock. His sideline conversion after Latrell Mitchell's try levelled up the scores, before he coolly slotted a 78th-minute field goal to make it 35-34. That should have been the ball game, but there was time for one last sting in the tale as Hayden Schwass collected the short kick-off unopposed to carry the ball within five metres of the line. With the defence at sixes and sevens, winger Greg Leleisiuao sensed his opportunity, scooped the ball up from acting-half and burrowed over to bring an end to one of the most amazing games you will ever see, thus halting Gold Coast's eight-game losing streak in the process.