With little over 24 hours until the biggest day of the 2017 Blowes Clothing Cup season, sports journalists Matt Findlay and Nick McGrath have run the rule over this year’s competition and nailed down the best of the best.
With all of Forbes’ front-row, several Orange Emus stars and maybe a few surprise inclusions and omissions, it’s time to announce the Central Western Daily sports desk’s team of the year.
1 | SEAN FOGARTY (Bathurst Bulldogs)
As the cornerstone of his side’s powerful scrum, Fogarty was magnificent in 2017.
So much so, Bulldogs coach Nathan Pearce labelled him irreplaceable on more than one occasion.
That’s as good an indication of his value as any.
2 | JARROD HALL (Forbes Platypi)
We love this bloke.
He’s niggly, he doesn’t take a backwards step and despite being a hooker he kicks goals – and does it well.
He did lose the kicking duties later in the season, which we’re dirty about.
Hall forever, Brockmann never.
3 | KYLE SHARPE (Forbes Platypi)
Came from the clouds to be a contender for player of the year honours, Sharpe has developed into an excellent bookend in 2017.
He’s been excellent at scrum-time, he’s strong with the ball and, somewhat unexpectedly, is brilliant in the air from restarts – he’s the target for the Platypi’s short kick-offs.
4 | NICK HUGHES-CLAPP (Orange Emus)
The premier lineout jumper in the region and perhaps all of NSW Country, Hughes-Clapp plays a huge role for the greens with ball in hand too and is superb defensively.
He’s been the foundation for Emus’ set-piece and while perhaps not a natural leader his teammates follow him anyway.
Great moustache too, that wins him points.
5 | ISRAEL SYMINGTON (Parkes Boars)
Forget the fact Parkes fell off toward the end of the year, Symington was strong every single week he took the field.
He pushed, and pushed, and pushed to resurrect the Boars’ fortunes and was probably one or two wins from doing just that.
There’s a lot of respect around the region for the big, fuzzy-haired second-rower, and rightly so.
We’d be handing Symington the captaincy in this side too.
6 | TOM DEWHURST (Cowra Eagles)
Cowra’s best all year.
Tenacious at the breakdown, strong in the carry, clinical in the air at lineout time and rarely missed a tackle, he skippered the Eagles too and proved his leadership chops.
Put him at six or seven, he’d work together beautifully with Selwood.
7 | ANDREW SELWOOD (Orange Emus)
Easily the best player in the competition this season, ‘nuff said.
8 | PETER FITZSIMMONS (Bathurst Bulldogs)
In the years he’s been in Bulldogs’ top grade he’s rarely, if ever had a bad game and that didn’t change in 2017.
Skippered Central West at the start of the year as well.
9 | MAHE FANGUPO (Forbes Platypi)
Here’s a message to Shute Shield clubs – recruit this guy and do it now.
Fangupo doesn’t need justification, he’s first picked.
10 | JACKSON COOTE (Orange City Lions)
Some may consider this a surprise choice, but for us it’s a bit of a no-brainer.
Despite being more of a fullback naturally, Coote slotted into Orange City’s No.10 jersey and provided the calm, composed direction the young Lions needed.
No other player cut Emus’ powerful backline to shreds the way Coote did at Endeavour Oval in round 14 and, although he missed a couple of games with injury, his move to the halves was a huge catalyst for the side’s late-season surge and eventual finals appearance.
11 | HAMISH GORDON (Dubbo Kangaroos)
Just shy of claiming the top point-scorer honours for season 2017, he was pipped only by Emus skipper Nigel Staniforth.
This season was a breakout year for Gordon, who shifted around Roos’ backline but found his home on the wing.
Has an astute kicking game – long and short – and is an intelligent winger, he takes the right options.
The One Direction-ish hair is slightly questionable though.
12 | LACHIE HARRIS (Orange Emus)
Ask anyone in the competition who the best inside centre was in 2017 and you’ll get the same answer every time – that big, strong dude from Emus.
Bulldogs’ Sam Roberson was excellent too, but he wasn’t on the same level as Harris.
Though he was nigh on unstoppable through the middle third with ball in hand, his strength in contact without it is equally as big a deciding factor here.
Just monumental, expect him to clean up at Emus’ awards night.
13 | BILLY SING (Dubbo Kangaroos)
He scored a ridiculous amount of tries this season with a hat-trick or more on several occasions, in his first season of rugby union. And, in the most difficult position on the field defensively, he was superb.
No need to say anything else.
14 | CARTER HIRINI (Orange Emus)
Also scored a bucketload of tries, despite missing a handful of games at the end of the season.
Played a lot of centre for the greens, but for us he is an out-and-out winger, so we’ve picked him there.
He’s one of the most dangerous players in the competition, and Forbes cannot allow him any space in Saturday’s decider.
15 | LOCHIE ROBINSON (CSU Bathurst)
The biggest attacking threat in the competition, Robinson had a breakout year in 2017.
For us, whether it’s at fullback, on the wing or in the centres, this young custodian must play for Central West next year.
He’d just be scary good with that calibre of player around him.
16 | CHRIS PLUNKETT (Bathurst Bulldogs)
17 | TOM GOOLAGONG (Orange Emus)
18 | CHARLIE FRENCH (Forbes Platypi)
19 | TIM BERRY (Cowra Eagles)
20 | JAVARN NOFOAGOTOA (Dubbo Rhinos)
21 | SAM ROBERSON (Bathurst Bulldogs)
22 | VILIAME TURUVA (Dubbo Kangaroos)
23 | JACK KEPPEL (CSU Bathurst)
PAUL RINGLAND, JEREMY WALLACE (Orange Emus)
Forbes’ Heamani Lavaka is always a good show for this, Bulldogs’ Nathan Pearce did a great job, so did Dean Matthews at Dubbo and Scott Hatch at CSU came into consideration too, despite the students’ results.
But it’s impossible to go past Ringland and Wallace.
They’ve mentored Emus to an undefeated season so far, but they’ve also coached the greens’ second grade squad to the minor premiership and now a grand final as well.
Not a bad effort by anyone’s standards.
The story The cream of the crop: CWD sports desk’s Blowes Clothing Cup team of the year | Photos first appeared on Central Western Daily.