EVERYONE loves a countdown, and so it begins today as The Daily Advertiser lays out Southern Inland Rugby Union’s top 20 players for the season.
The past 16 rounds of competition have thrown up some shocking surprises, but the most exciting of all has been the influx of fresh talent that bolstered SIRU’s ranks in 2012. What makes a star? Dominance, talent, determination and attitude.
Locked in as tight as the competition ladder, these 10 athletes are the foremost SIRU sensations to hit the paddock this season. Be it experience and reliability or a cracking debut season, the top 10 game-makers have wowed us with their brilliance time and time again.
20 - Keegan Thornhill
Wagga City’s amazing revival has brought to life Thornhill’s form this season. His size, power and unbreakable determination makes Thornhill one of SIRU’s fiercest competitors.
19 - David White
White just missed out on SIRU selection this season, but his influence has been palpable on the field for Reddies. Gives a million percent every game, and has one of the most creative rugby minds going around.
18 - Mitch Fealy
The dynamic utility back forced a debut Brumbies Provincial team selection this season after a breakthrough representative tournament on the bench for SIRU. Has mass potential to surprise when underestimated.
17 - Eddie Lagaali
He’s only young, but Lagaali is one of the most creative and unpredictable players in SIRU. Strong, fast and reliable, Lagaali has been one of Wagga City’s biggest assets in their ladder climb this season.
16 - James Whiteley
Always plays a hard, fast game and does a lot of ground work that goes unnoticed.
15 - Lachlan Woodhouse
One of SIRU’s most potent wingers, Woodhouse is fearless under the highball and can dodge a freight train with his super sidestep. Could score a thousand points a game if he travelled to the middle often enough.
14 - Dan Moloney
The most under-rated player in the competition. Maloney goes about his business unnoticed while still managing to orchestrate Ag College from five-eighth. Has a monster pass, lightning speed to cut the line and can boot a conversion from anywhere.
13 - Jock Munro
Munro has been Waratahs’ most consistent performer in an inconsistent season. Tough as nails and talented as they come, Munro is the ultimate rugby player.
12 - Louie Levett
Levett plays with more heart than most of his SIRU counterparts. Plays for the love of it and leaves everything he has on the field every weekend.
11 - Sam Hobbs
Hobbs has the kind of talent that is impossible to mistake. He does the little things right, and makes everything else look easy.
10 - Manning Doughty
The big man came to Waratahs with a worthy reputation, and backed it up with his efforts on the paddock. Strikes fear into the hearts of his competitors – he’s as good as they dread.
9 - Bart Whiteley
Always been a talent, but 2012 has been an absolute breakthrough year for Whiteley. Whatever changed for the young fullback this season has transformed him into Aggies’ biggest danger player.
8 - Pat Barrett
On experience alone, you can’t get much better than Barrett. Destructive, fast and clever, Barrett has the ability to tear a team to shreds and can do so in the blink of an eye.
7 - Tim Corcoran
You can judge the best players by how his competitors speak about him. Corcoran’s counterparts all agree on one thing – stay out of his way.
6 - Ben Walker
Walker’s raw talent is so natural he shines on his worst days. Walker is everything you hope for in a halfback, quick, agile and bubbling with skill.
5 - Pete Armstrong
It’s hard to compare another halfback to Armstrong considering the amount of respect he carries from his SIRU competitors. If you’ve seen Ag College at their best, no doubt Armstrong was behind it.
4 - Nathan Bright
Fierce and forceful, the secret to Albury’s outstanding season success lies with their skipper. Bright is a spectacular leader and inspires the Steamers by example.
3 - Hamish Wrafter
The mellow English import is often forgotten in discussions of SIRU’s greats, but it’s hard to argue with his skills.
Put Wrafter almost anywhere on the field and he will shock you with his unnerving knack to turn broken play into brilliance.
2 - Dave Armstrong
He’s not the representative captain for nothing. The softly spoken big man will go down as one of the best SIRU players to ever pull on a jersey.
1 - Richard Manion
If Bright is the secret behind Albury’s success, Manion is the front man for the show. His obvious skills and calculating manoeuvres have put his competitors to shame all season long.