NSWRL name 2017 ISP Team of the Year

NSWRL name 2017 ISP Team of the Year

Wyong Roos, Warriors and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs players dominate the 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Team of the Year, announced following the conclusion of the regular season.

Selected by the NSWRL.com.au staff writers in consultation with experts from broadcast partners Fox League, Steele Sports, Hawkesbury Radio and Triple H FM, the side highlights the most consistent performers who have played the majority of the season in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW. Selections are also influenced by the amount of times players have featured in the Team of the Week, published after each round on NSWRL.com.au.

While NRL experience is littered throughout the side – headlined by 137-game veteran Mitch Rein – players selected have worked hard to push their case for debuts or regular game time in the NRL Telstra Premiership. Previous Teams of the Year have included numerous players who have since established successful careers at the highest level.

On the eve of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals Series, the competition’s top seven-placed teams are represented, while minor premiership-winning Wyong Roos coach Rip Taylor is deservedly named Coach of the Year.

1 – Luke Sharpe
Club: Wyong Roos; 2017 TOTW selections: 5.

13 line-breaks, 84 tackle-breaks, 12 tries, 123 metres per game.
Luke Sharpe was nothing short of electric in season 2017, playing a highly instrumental part in the Wyong Roos’ minor premiership success and will be imperative come finals time. Time after time this year Sharpe would break a game wide open when nothing seems to be on thanks to his awareness and acceleration, and he certainly brings a high energy to the Roos’ team. He does not have the biggest frame, yet he still managed to break more than five tackles a game this season while running for over 2000 metres.

2 – Tom Hughes
Club: Newcastle Knights; 2017 TOTW selections: 2.

17 tries, 18 line-breaks, 120 metres per game, 49 tackle-breaks.
Tom Hughes is the top try-scorer in the 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW season by a long way, three tries clear Chris Centrone, Bureta Faraimo and George Jennings who all sit on 14. Hughes has taken his game to a whole new level since moving from North Sydney as a 2016 mid-season transfer, and it turned out to be the right move after a wonderful year. His form has him knocking on the door for an NRL debut, but his focus will solely be on playing his old team in the first week of finals next week.

3 – Matt Ikuvalu
Club: Wyong Roos; 2017 TOTW selections: 4.

Six tries, 10 line-breaks, 133 metres per game, 55 tackle-breaks.
While Sharpe has got the best out of a classy Wyong back line throughout the season, Ikuvalu has also formed an important part as the Roos have put teams away in 2017. The minor premiers are the second-best attackers of the regular season – with just three fewer points – than the Panthers – and while the load is shared, Ikuvalu has been among the side’s most consistent in the year to date.

4 – Ed Murphy
Club: North Sydney Bears; 2017 TOTW selections: 3.

Five tries, seven line-breaks, 47 tackle-breaks.
While Ed Murphy is having a fantastic year at centre for North Sydney, his standing as a senior leader of the side gives him extra points. He’s only 24 years old, and his captaincy and performances this year have been a huge reason as to why North Sydney will play finals football next week. A highlight for the year is a ridiculous try against the Wentworthville Magpies where he athletically leaped into the corner and planted the ball down, and his two first grade games will not be last if he takes his form beyond this finals series into future seasons.

5 – Bureta Faraimo
Club: Warriors (formerly Wentworthville Magpies); 2017 TOTW selections: 6.

13 tries
It’s been an interesting year for Bureta Faraimo, who started the season playing for the Wentworthville Magpies, and will line up for the New Zealand Warriors in the first week of the finals next week. He’s been performing at this level for a long time, having made the Residents side for the past two years, and made the team of the year equivalent back in 2014. Faraimo played a handful of NRL games for Parramatta between 2014 and 2016, but he clearly believes the move to the Warriors will help him add to that tally on a week-to-week basis in the near future.

6 – Josh Cleeland
Club: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs; 2017 TOTW selections: 8.

12 tries, 10 try assists, 13 line-breaks, 57 tackle-breaks.
Josh Cleeland has been a shining light for the on-fire Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in season 2017; whenever he has the ball in hand, he is a massive threat to any opposition defensive unit. He’s formed a wonderful halves combination with Lachlan Lewis that has seen the Bulldogs cement a top four position after a slow start to the year, and is the most dangerous player to keep your eye on in the finals. Success seems to follow Cleeland, who steered Ipswich to a premiership two years ago, and took the Newtown Jets to a preliminary final last year where he was also named as five-eighth of the year. No doubt Josh Cleeland is incredibly close to an NRL debut.

7 – Cameron Cullen
Club: Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles; 2017 TOTW selections: 7.

Eight tries, 12 try assists, 11 line-breaks, 13 line-break assists, 58 tackle-breaks.
Despite being a part of a team that missed the Intrust Super Premiership NSW finals, Cameron Cullen stood out as one of the competitions great players in season 2017. A massive threat with the ball in hand, Cullen always had opposition defenders on notice, which most of the time was not enough as he frequently broke the line with his acceleration and awareness. He scored eight tries for the year, and managed to form a nice combination with Jackson Hastings as both players look to play consistent first grade after getting a handful of games this year. Blacktown had a disrupted start to the season, but were the biggest improvement as the year progressed, and that comes off the back of the brilliance of Cameron Cullen. 

8 – Eloni Vunakece
Club: Wyong Roos; 2017 TOTW selections: 4.

Three tries, 102 metres per game, 27 tackles per game, 44 tackle-breaks.
Vunakece, along with Cleeland, has enjoyed a sustained period of success in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, also making the Team of the Year for the second consecutive time. His reasons for selection are exactly the same as they were in 2016: a consistent effort in defence and when carrying the football is something to expect of the Fijian forward. While Vunakece was unable to add to his tally of nine NRL games this year, he will play a major role in the Roos’ bid for premiership glory.

9 – Mitch Rein
Club: Penrith Panthers; 2017 TOTW selections: 7.

Seven tries, eight line-breaks, five try-assists, 40 tackles per game.
Rein’s inclusion in the season’s best 17 will not surprise many, given the former Dragon’s obvious class at both NRL and Intrust Super Premiership NSW level. Few would have expected Rein to play the majority of the season in Garth Brennan’s side, but he has been a welcome addition as the Panthers pushed towards their top-four finish. The hooker’s motivation, of course, is to return to regular NRL football and there is little doubt that he has plenty to offer to any first grade outfit.

10 – Kurt Dillon
Club: Newtown Jets; 2017 TOTW selections: 8.

Three tries, 145 metres per game, 32 tackles per game.
At 22 years of age, Dillon has improved to career-best form in 2017, now taking significant responsibility in the Newtown pack. The only Jet to feature in the current Team of the Year also played a major role in getting the side to the 2016 semi-finals and while the side fell short this season, Dillon was a consistent performer. His average metres and tackles tell the story of a very solid year at Henson Park.

11 – Jamil Hopoate
Club: Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles; 2017 TOTW selections: 9.

Four tries, 134 metres per game, three try-assists, 33 tackles per game.
It’s no secret that Hopoate is unable to make his NRL debut due to off-field reasons, but the second-rower is a certain highlight in his team’s first season as the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles. Playing at lock and edge second row, Hopoate is hard to handle at the best of times and has performed strongly for a long time; alongside Rhyse Martin, he also has the most Team of the Week selections to his name this year.

12 – Rhyse Martin
Club: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs; 2017 TOTW selections: 9.

Seven tries, 53 goals, 122 metres per game, 30 tackles per game.
The move to Belmore has proven extremely successful for Martin, who has been one of the Bulldogs’ finest additions in 2017. After two strong seasons at the Townsville Blackhawks, Martin has adapted to life under Des Hasler and Steve Georgallis with a regular defensive output, exceptional try-scoring ability and solid form with the boot, featuring in the Team of the Week more than any other player alongside Hopoate. Working hard alongside fellow PNG International Rod Griffin, Martin is key to Canterbury-Bankstown’s success in September.

13 – Cheyne Whitelaw
Club: North Sydney Bears; 2017 TOTW selections: 8.

37 tackles per game, 104.1 metres per game, two tries.
Cheyne Whitelaw is arguably Ben Gardiner’s most important player for North Sydney. He does a mountain of work on a weekly basis for the Bears, having made 740 tackles in season 2017, and having run over two kilometres with the ball in hand, and also has a lightning-quick play the ball that gets his team on the front foot. He was rightfully picked for the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Residents side earlier in the year, and for what he adds to the team, an NRL contract does not seem far away for the young powerhouse forward. 

INTERCHANGE

14 – Mason Lino
Club: Warriors; 2017 TOTW selections: 3.

142 points, 15 try assists, seven line-break-assists.
Mason Lino is among a group of halves who had an outstanding 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW season, and he has done extremely well to beat the in-form Darren Nicholls to the post for the utility spot. Lino is such a complete player with an incredibly large skill set, and has arguably the best kicking game in the competition. He steered the Warriors to the top four this year, and was rewarded for his amazing form with five NRL games this year. There is no doubt he will have many more in the future, but as is the case with a handful of players in this team, his focus now is on the Intrust Super Premiership NSW finals. 

15 – Toafofoa Sipley
Club: Warriors; 2017 TOTW selections: 3.

1771 total metres, eight tries, 307 tackles.
The Warriors forwards are one of their strengths, and Toafofoa Sipley is a leader of the pack who isn’t afraid to score a barge-over try. He stands out when he plays due to his massive frame, and loves getting into the thick of the action whether that is with the ball in hand, or working hard in defence. Sipley was picked in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW residents side, and his great form at this level has seen him earn an NRL contract with Manly for next season.

16 – Scott Sorensen
Club: Mounties; 2017 TOTW selections: 7.

1951 total metres, 408 tackles, four tries, nine line-break assists, six line-breaks.
Scott Sorensen has been massive for Mounties once again in 2017; he does all of the hard-yards but also provides his fair share of x-factor to break a game wide open. The 24-year-old is an imposing figure in any Rugby League team, and it puts opposition sides on notice when someone of that stature is making 26 tackles per game and is also running for 122 metres per match, not to mention putting no less than nine teammates away for line-breaks at different stages of the year. No doubt Sorensen will play a massive part for Mounties in the upcoming Intrust Super Premiership NSW finals series.

17 – Rod Griffin
Club: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs; 2017 TOTW selections: 8.

132 metres per game, 30.9 tackles per game, 45 tackle-breaks.
The most experienced player in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW team of the year, Rod Griffin has had an outstanding maiden season for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. He gets through a mountain of work on a weekly basis and adds plenty of experience to a young Bulldogs side thanks to his 10 international appearances for Papua New Guinea. The Bulldogs' improvement this season is no coincidence - all three of the club's representatives in the Team of the Year joined in 2017.

COACH – Rip Taylor
Club: Wyong Roos.

For the second time in three years, Wyong Roos coach Rip Taylor has been named as the Intrust Super Premiership NSW coach of the year. His Wyong side cruised to the minor premiership after only dropping one game up until Round 18, but have since had shaky form to finish the season proper. Nevertheless, he has most of his team back for the first round of finals next week, and his Wyong side are still certainly the team to beat.

This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au