Boasting some of the greatest young talent that Australian rugby league has to offer, the Holden Cup never disappoints and this year, new talents emerged. Whether it was Gideon Mosby who shattered the Holden Cup try-scoring record, Tom Trbojevic who ran rampant in all the games he played, Bevan French who was a shining light in a largely poor year for the Eels or any other player that excelled, they have all put themselves on the map as potential, future talents.
As strong followers and supporters of the Holden Cup and the opportunities it provides, we enjoy watching it and so, have decided to put together our view on the team of the year, or what we believe it should look like.
Without further adieu, here it is:
1. Tom Trbojevic (Manly) – One of the best players currently running around in Holden Cup, Trbojevic has had a taste of first-grade and excelled, prompting calls to retain him at that level. There were other ideas, though, and the live-wire fullback fired on all cylinders throughout the year, carving up teams for fun and at will. Tall, lanky and rather quick, he chimes in from the back when required and does so meticulously, often causing problems for opposition defences. His form, style of play and leadership on the field are one of the major reasons as to why Manly is doing so well this season. Racking up stats galore in basically every game he has played, Trbojevic has a multitude of tries, line-breaks and try assists to his name, justifying his status as an elite, young player and a potential, future star.
2. Gideon Mosby (Cowboys) – The one thing to take out of Mosby being named in the side, is that in just his first year in the Holden Cup, he broke the record for tries scored. One year. And it was not just broken, it was shattered and done so with ease. The first-year winger excelled extensively and used a mixture of power, speed, acceleration and natural ability and deserves not only every success that comes his way but also a selection in the team of the year. His plight and quick success is remarkable when you consider that he only played his first NRL game four years ago with the Cairns Kangaroos after leaving his home in Darnley Island. Such is his speed and acceleration, that opposition players cannot keep up. His success over the last 18 months has been astonishing and he also enjoyed numerous representative honours with the QLD U20’s side and the Australian Schoolboys.
3. Addison Demetriou (Manly) – It is often rare to see a Holden Cup player excel in two positions but that is what young Addison Demetriou has done. The prop-turned centre has enjoyed a stellar season in a flourishing Manly side, using his experience through the middle as a bruiser to bustle and bust his way over the line. A powerful player, his time at Manly in particular has been filled with numerous individual successes, most recently recording the most ever tackle breaks in any professional Australian rugby league game. A powerhouse player because of the time he spent at prop, he has made a seamless transition into the centres and his time barging through the middle has helped him find his mojo on the fringes and make life difficult for all opposition teams. He and Trbojevic have formed potent partnerships and have guided Manly to one of their best seasons in recent Holden Cup history.
4. Obed Karwhin (Tigers) – Natural athletes and talents are hard to find but the Wests Tigers may well have unearthed the first African rugby league player, with Karwhin excelling in what is his debut season in the Holden Cup. Still eligible for Holden Cup next year, Karwhin, from the Ivory Coast, as slotted seamlessly into the Tigers side – both the Holden Cup and NSW Cup sides – as he forges a career in the Tigers system. Predominantly a winger, the tall, athletic utility back is set to finish the season as the Tigers highest try-scorer for the season, a testament to his determination, perseverance and belief within himself to succeed. His plight and journey is being tracked by many, all keen to see him perform and make the most of the opportunities that come his way, for should he succeed and play NRL, he would be one of just a handful of African-born players to play NRL.
5. Joseph Manu (Roosters) – His Roosters team-mate Latrell Mitchell may get all the plaudits but the work of Joseph Manu this season cannot be understated. A relative unknown at the beginning of last years Holden Cup competition, he slowly forged his way into the side and regularly and this year, 2015, is where he truly exploded. The talented and live-wire utility back has come through the club ranks and has impressed many fans with his astute awareness, solid positional play and some blistering speed from the backfield. His try-scoring exploits saw him finish up as the Roosters leading try-scorer, playing mainly on the wing and showing the competition that like Mitchell, he deserves a chance to test himself at a higher level.
6. Te Maire Martin (Tigers) – There are good halves that come into the Holden Cup system and then there are great halves. Te Maire Martin is a great half and has been one of the most consistent halves in the competition across the last two seasons. Despite some changes throughout to the Tigers side as a whole and perhaps some performances that could be labelled as inconsistent, Martin has impressed continually and led from the front to give his team chances to score. To watch him play is remarkable, as the exciting young talent possesses a level-headed nature, great vision and awareness and a natural ability to play the game. The Tigers have done well to help the Keebra Park local grow and develop but his talents will now be utilised at the Penrith Panthers, after they snapped him up. If he continues to develop and perform well, it is only a matter of time before first-grade beckons.
7. Ash Taylor (Broncos) – Like Martin, when a great half comes along and shows off his skills and talents, you notice it straight away. His chance to play first-grade finally arrived in Rd 26 of the NRL season but it was cut short when he suffered an injury. That aside, Taylor’s ability is second to none as he has also forged a reputation as one of the elite halves in the Holden Cup this year. Surprisingly quick, his experience playing touch football has helped him develop into a quality, young player, and his skills are evident from the very first moment that you watch him play. Not a very big player, he does not let size get the better of him as he performs valiantly both in attack and defence and often puts his body on the line. With a chance to cement a spot at the Titans in 2016, you can expect Taylor to take it with open arms.
8. Viliame Kikau (Cowboys) – Rarely do you see a forward dominate one season let alone two, but Kikau has done just that. His 2014 season was brilliant to watch and yet somehow, his 2015 season was even better. The Cowboys high finish came on the back of his monumental runs and performances, on an almost consistent basis. He finished with a remarkable number of tries – 20 to be exact – a number rarely seen by a prop in terms of tries scored. It is that energy and enthusiasm he brings, as well as hard-nosed aggression and raw power, that has seen him revered by Cowboys fans and by Holden Cup enthusiasts. All and and honours he receives are completely deserved and he too will have a new challenge in 2016, signing with the Panthers. With his Holden Cup days over, Kikau’s challenge is to make the most of opportunity in the lower grades and battle alongside the men, further showcasing his talents.
9. Aaron Booth (Souths) – Sometimes, teams will have relatively bad seasons and will struggle throughout but each time, there is that one shining light who puts his hand up for further honours, accolades and recognition. For Souths in 2015, it was Aaron Booth. A highly rated youngster at the Souths club, Booth has been in immense form throughout the year, and has led from the front in the only way he knows how, even if as an overall team, the results have not come as Souths would have liked. His tenacity, determination and heart are what makes him a special player, along with his vast array of skills to produce attack and make opportunities appear. With a potential spot at the club up for grabs in terms of hooker depth in 2016, the Bunnies may not have to look far to find their next star.
10. Liam Knight (Manly) – A versatile forward, Knight has been a big bopper with a point to prove for Manly in the 2015 season and has catapulted the Manly forward pack into the finals with some dominant performances. A powerful prop and back-rower, Knight’s efforts are not about to go unnoticed as many will get a chance to watch him perform during the finals series for the Manly side, who have been rampant at times throughout the 2015 season. Whilst perhaps not accruing such accolades that Demetriou or Trbojevic may command, his work-rate and work-ethic, and the desire to succeed, have helped both his own individual form and the team’s form, as they work doubly hard to take something out of the season.
11. Coen Hess (Cowboys) – For Holden Cup enthusiasts like ourselves, when you see a dominant player such as Coen Hess playing any form of competition, let alone first-grade, you get excited. His form and play over the last 18 months has been nothing short of remarkable, for he has taken his game to a new level and helped shape the Cowboys into one of the most dominant teams in the Holden Cup this season. A crafty, skilful back-rower, Hess is a young clone of some of the games best modern forwards like Nathan Hindmarsh or Craig Fitzgibbon – hard, solid players who play with passion, determination and give 100%. Add a knack to find the gaps and score tries to his arsenal, and you have an almost complete player in Hess. His form was so good, it was rewarded with a first-grade opportunity where he showed that he belongs after just one game, excelling. The sky is the limit for Hess and he will reach it and surpass it.
12. Matiu Love-Henry (Warriors) – Making a debut is one thing but taking the bull by the horns and making the most of an opportunity to the point where you then excel on a regular basis is rare and great to see. Matiu Love-Henry is in that boat, with the powerhouse back-rower an absolute dynamite player on the fringes, causing problems left, right and centre for his opposition players. He has racked up a solid number of tries for a back-rower and with the added ability of playing prop when need be, he can transition seamlessly among the forward pack and still maintain the same intensity and form regardless of where he plays. With the Warriors producing so many quality juniors, Love-Henry may well just be the next cab off the rank to truly make his mark in the team.
13. Jai Arrow (Broncos) – Another club starlet coming through the Broncos ranks, the back-rower/lock has impressed throughout the year and kept fans intrigued with his development as to whether he can progress. A hard-runner with a strong work-ethic, he has helped form the Broncos in a sturdy, resolute side, performing well on an individual basis throughout. A core player in the Broncos system, the development and growth of Arrow has been noticeable and will continue to improve, as many keep an eye on him to determine if like many other Broncos youngsters before him, he can crack first-grade at some point over the next 18 months.
14. Kalolo Saitaua (Broncos) – One of the surprise packets of the year in the eyes of many, with Kalolo Saitaua not a name that you would be hearing about very often, if at all. Emerging as a formidable, potent bench player, the young utility has made the most of every opportunity afforded to him and cemented his spot in the Broncos side as a result. His crafty, dynamic play, has helped the Broncos to relative success throughout the year despite not being one of the biggest names within the club. Whilst there is somewhat of an overload in his particular position, he has the talent to succeed and has worked hard to ensure he stays at the top of his game. Over the next couple of seasons, he is one to keep an eye on for further progression.
15. Tevita Pangai Jr. (Raiders) – This particular player you would have heard of, for he has been an absolute beast over the last couple of seasons for the Raiders in every sense. A powerful, destructive runner of the ball, Pangai hits as hard as he runs and often causes continual problems for opposition teams in both defence and attack. Able to cover a multitude of positions across the field, he has proven his worth over the past couple of years and is slated for higher honours in the years to come. Playing first-grade on a regular basis is just a matter of time for Pangai who will only get better as he plays more games and in other competitions.
16. Joe Stimson (Storm) – Coming into his own as a player last year, Stimson won the 2014 NYC Player of the Year Award at the Storm and has only gone from strength-to-strength in 2015, continuing to impress. A key player in the Storm’s forward pack, his development and growth has mirrored that of fellow, budding superstar, Nelson Asofa-Solomona. With both equally impressive as youngsters, NAS has made his debut and whilst Stimson is yet to do so, like many others, it is just a matter of time. With a potential need for more forwards to step up in light of some departing, the opportunity is there for Stimson to make the most of the opportunity and play first-grade in 2016.
17. Braden Uele (Cowboys) – Another important player in the Cowboys stellar season, Uele joined the club from the Sydney Roosters and took the chance. Since then, he has excelled and formed a solid foundation for the club over the 2015 season and performed well in the process. Along Kikau, their go-forward and attacking momentum often stifled any defensive prowess among the majority of teams, with the duo outperforming their other respective forward packs and playing consistently. With Kikau moving on, Uele has the chance to become the elite prop in the Cowboys system and within Queensland Cup affiliates.
18. Bevan French (Eels) – Every team needs an 18th man and in what has been a largely poor season for the Eels in 2015, one player that has impressed on an almost weekly basis is highly touted youngster, Bevan French. A fullback by nature but equally adept at five-eighth as well, his creative play, instinct and nous from the back, has catapulted him into major contention among the Eels faithful as a candidate to play fullback in the future. Leading from the front for the Eels in their stagnated attack, French made a smooth transition into the NSW Cup in the one game he played, prompting many to ask why he was not retained there to help further his development. Under the tutelage of Michael Gordon, French will have a great mentor as he continues to grow and develop as a player, readying himself for what is to come in his career.
Honourable mentions also go out to Brent Naden, Tony Tumusa, Alex Twal, Thomas Carr, Tomas Aoake, Brian Kelly and Moses Leota, for their stand-out seasons, all of whom just missed out on a spot in our particular Holden Cup Team of the Year.
Our Holden Cup Player of the Year: Gideon Mosby
Coach: Todd Payten.