Bryce Cartwright

Well, thus marks the end of another regular season of NRL. With finals around the corner, we still have more footy to look forward to, though.

Here’s my NYC team of the year, one that will be largely different to the side the NRL put out – though there are some of those players in my list, too – as I spool through the vast array of talent and narrow it down to 17 players.

If they’re not deemed as stars just yet, it’s only a matter of time before they are, with all the players named in this side producing dominant displays for their respective NYC sides on more than one occasion.

So, without further adieu, here are the stars of tomorrow from the Holden Cup class of 2013:

1. Patrick Templeman (Canterbury Bulldogs) – There might be a lot of him but the tall, lanky fullback has shown he has a bucketload of talent and handy ball skills to boot, as he weaves his magic on a weekly basis. Leading the NYC competition in try assists and in the top three when it comes to line-break assists, it shows you just how involved he gets in the play. Not bad for a fullback.

2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers) – Ask any Panther fan and they’d have this young man high up on their list when it comes to budding juniors and rightfully so. Blessed with natural ability and speed to burn, he’s in the Milford class of young players and is adept at filling in anywhere from fullback to centre to wing. With a bit more experience in the NSW cup to prepare himself against bigger bodies, it’s only a matter of time before DWZ is playing first-grade.

3. John Sila (Canterbury Bulldogs) – Big, fast, powerful and just plain brutal. That just about sums up John Sila in a nutshell and his form this year has justified that. You only have to look at some games this season where Sila has finished with 5 tries, 4 tries or a hat-trick. He doesn’t just score one or two – chances are, he goes on with it. Although the Bulldogs sport a healthy back-line, Sila’s form, should he continue it into 2014, will see him playing there before too long.

4. Charly Runciman (St George Illawarra Dragons) – He’s enjoyed a recent return to the Dragons first-grade side and played perhaps his best game in the NRL this past week, but it was his consistency in all facets of his game that led to his initial selection. A big body, a great step, a solid offload and a knack for scoring tries and being in the right place at the right time, Runciman is a player that Dragons fans have been singing the praises of for several years now.

5. Javid Bowen (North Queensland Cowboys) – In case you ask, yes, Javid is related to soon-to-be-retired Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen. Javid is Matthew’s nephew, I believe. In any case, when it comes to form, Javid is another one that is just electric. Possessing a lot of the same skills his brother did when he came onto the NRL scene – skills he still possesses – you’d think the two are simply clones and cut from the same cloth. Another promising youngster & one sure to make an impact.

6. Luke Brooks (Wests Tigers) – To be frank, if you didn’t have a chance to watch Brooks in his NRL debut – just one game to date for him due to cap restraints – then you missed out on seeing just how good the kid is. He’s just about the complete halfback with a great running game, a solid passing game and an awareness of the game that is rare to see in a player so young. Next year will be his chance and with the form he’s shown, you can bet he’ll take it with both hands.

7. Christian Hazard (Christian Hazard) – Another young half who has excelled in 2013 and has at times, single handedly carried the Souths NYC side on his back with some top-notch displays. Like Brooks, he has an almost flawless all-round game and for a halfback, he has a knack for scoring a lot of tries. With a move to the Titans in 2013, it might just be a matter of time before a spot opens up and he gets a chance to play. He has all the tools to be successful in the NRL.

8. Pauli Pauli (Parramatta Eels) – Whilst it might not have been the best overall season for the Parramatta Eels, one shining light for their NYC side and one that played consistently for most of the season, was that of Pauli Pauli. A tall, lanky forward, he packs a punch in defence and attack, and constantly laid the platform for any Eels attack. With a bruising approach to his footy and a knack for getting offloads away at will, he may well be the next junior Eel to get a taste of first-grade.

9. Adam Clydsdale (Newcastle Knights) – Another young NYC player that has tasted a first-grade sniff and much like the others that have done so, he didn’t look out of place. With the departure of Buderus, the off-season and trials are a great chance for Clydesdale to show his talents to those that matter and to the NRL audience, in a bid to secure that seemingly vacant bench spot as a part of the hooker rotation.

10. Jake Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles) – Hands down, the best prop in the NYC all year. A very big body with a massive work-rate and a huge motor – surprising, given he does play prop – he just works tirelessly all game long. Made his first-grade debut this week and he looked as if he belonged straight away. Doesn’t shy away from the work nor from the big hits and when you can manhandle opposition opponents and amass double digit tries for a front-rower – to lead your NYC side – you know you’re doing something right.

11. Hymel Hunt (Gold Coast Titans) – When a team know they have a super talented kid on their hands, they do everything they can to retain him – but as Hymel Hunt departs the Titans in search of greener pastures, it his on-field ability that does all the talking. A dynamite player on the fringes, Hunt has dominated teams with his physical approach and ability to create something out of nothing. Equally adept at centre, his versatility is a key asset moving forward and you can bet he’ll play first-grade more consistently in the future.

12. Caleb Timu (Brisbane Broncos) – There’s only one back-rower that I’d rate on par with Caleb Timu and he’s coming up next in the lock position – but for Timu, who looks likely to undertake his Mormon mission, his form, to be blunt, has been phenomenal. Packing a punch at both back-row and front-row, his work-rate, controlled aggression and all-round ability catapulted the Broncos NYC side to some comfortable wins. Even in poor games by the team, you could just about bet that Timu was on fire.

13. Bryce Cartwright (Penrith Panthers) – When you think of Bryce Cartwright, he epitomises the meaning of the back-rower/lock position to the tee. A versatile player as he has shown throughout his career, his experience in the NSW Cup – and excelling there as well – hold him in good stead for a potential chance at first-grade come 2014. With some open spots & trials to excel in, the onus is on Cartwright to take his game even further and excel, something he’ll no doubt do in a bid to play first-grade.

14. Matt Lodge (Melbourne Storm) – Usually when a player gets injure early on in the season, they can find it hard to get back into a groove. Not Matt Lodge. Instead, if it’s even possible or if you can believe it, he seemed to not only find his mojo, but he took it to the next level. Consistency is the name of the game for Lodge and without fail, he has been close to the Storm’s best in just about every game this year, whether it’s been a win, a loss or a draw.

15. Samisoni Langi (Sydney Roosters) – It’s a tale of versatility yet again in the case of Langi, but don’t let that fool you into believing he doesn’t know his true position. Truth be told, regardless of where he plays, he does so well – whether it’s centre, back-row, lock or at five-eighth. In the mold of ball-playing back-rower – something helped by his many games at pivot – his skills were on show for all to see recently and you can bet you’ll see more of him in the coming years.

16. Lloyd Perrett (Canterbury Bulldogs) – I’ll be the first to admit that his omission from the NRL’s NYC side of the year shocked me somewhat, given how devastating his form has been. Rest assured, he’s in this NYC team of the year & deservedly so. His play in attack has been phenomenal in 2013, as he’s powered over defenders, stepped around defenders and carried defenders with him, showing why he’s an elite forward in the NYC.

17. Sione Masima (Cronulla Sharks) – When you think of special talents, Masima’s name may not immediately spring to mind but when you watch him play and get an opinion of him from Sharks fans, you’ll see why they have high hopes for him. Sheer power, a huge work-rate and a willingness to play and play well, you could say he has similar traits to the likes of Andrew Fifita or Tupou Sopoaga. On that basis, first-grade is just a matter of when and not if, for Masima.

Ricky’s NYC Player of the Year: Bryce Cartwright.

Christian Hazard & Caleb Timu a close 2nd.

By ricky

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