OPINION: After naming their own southern v northern Group 16 sides a week ago, your regional sport writers Jacob McMaster and myself (Joel Erickson) have been butting heads to combine those lists into a final 17 of the Group 16 players who consistently impress us.
We want to remind readers that this is not a definitive “best of” list, but rather a representation of players who stand out and impress us on the park each week.
You don’t have to agree with us, but let us know on Facebook who you would pick instead or you can always e-mail either of us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Note – there were definitely Cooma players worthy of a mention on this list, but neither Joel nor myself has much stomping ground and rarely see the mountain men.
(1) Fullback: Kyle Shepherdson (Merimbula-Pambula) – Co-captain
It is difficult to not be impressed with Kyle’s run speed and ability, he arguably has the best fancy footwork in Group 16 and can put the game on its head with length of the field sprints. However, it’s Kyle’s play-reading and communication from the fullback role that have impressed me, and calling the shots is why I’ve named him at co-captain for this roster.
(2) Winger: Zach Cuzner (Bega)
Zach is a recurring name on the scoreboard for the Roosters, he’s a bolter with a mean step, but provides good support for his inside player and can back up at fullback if the call arises. There are few players you would want covering the edge more.
(3) Centre: Wame Belolevu (Bombala)
One of the fantastic Fijian pick ups at the Blue Heelers, Wame made the cut because his size belies his speed and ability. He fronts up like a second rower, but can step like a winger. He was critical in Bombala’s upset win over Bega a few weeks ago with his ability to cut a good line and make deep runs.
(4) Centre: Caine Brierley (Moruya)
Big, strong, and prolific, Brierley scored nine tries this season in just seven matches played. Formed arguably the best edge with Staples this season for the Sharks, and runs some of the best lines in the comp.
(5) Winger: Shaun Staples (Moruya)
Staples was the first name on Joel’s team-sheet. The equal-leading try scorer in the competition with 13, Staples is the best winger in the entire group, let alone the north.
(6) Five-Eighth: John Aldridge (Merimbula-Pambula)
Aldridge has a great read of the ball and is my pick as arguably the best kicker in Group 16. A few times I have been guilty of thinking he had made the wrong play only to watch it work and set his flankers loose to score under the posts. Coach Nathan Heffernan says John is bringing some X-factor to the Dogs and his improvements defensively are showing he’s grown as a player this season too.
(7) Halfback: Luke Farmer (Batemans Bay)
Farmer has been instrumental in the Tigers’ return to finals football. He’s made a few mistakes this season, but he’s the best half in the competition when he’s playing his best football.
(8) Prop: Tim Weyman (Moruya)
Weyman will never give you 80 minutes, but when he’s on the field he’ll give you 100 per cent. A solid, throwback front rower, Weyman is the on-field leader of a club with a proud history and an exciting future.
(9) Hooker: Hayden Parbery (Bega)
There is no question that Hayden Parbery has been one of the best players on the park this season, he is a hard and fast runner that cuts swathes through defensively lines with his trademark scoots out of dummy-half. A try scoring weapon and equally able to support his roster when he’s not running it himself. (honourable mention: Jared Cole – Coley remains my favourite hooker in the competition for his gritty determination, but his recent arm injury kept him off this list).
(10) Prop: Todd Ayers (Narooma) Co-captain
Ayers may be the best forward in the group, and is a deserved captain of the Devils and shares the honours with Appsy in this list. I’ve never seen this man on his back in a tackle, and the Devils often looked dangerous off his quick play the balls. Ayers was instrumental in sparking some good success for the Devils this season.
(11) Second Row: Kane Ayers (Narooma)
Started the season in the Group 16 under 23 All Stars team, and finishes it as one of the most consistent second rowers in the group. Rarely puts a foot wrong with the ball in hand, and solid as a rock defensively. Combination protential with his brothers makes for exciting work through the middle.
(12) Second Row: Daniel Cronk (Merimbula-Pambula)
Cronky is a workhorse, he’s not the biggest or the strongest, but he’ll have a go no matter what like a grizzled wolverine. He’s a stalwart defender, but much like Bega’s Scott Fuller can provide really impactful metres moving forward as well as support to his outside. Cronky fits the number 12 so perfectly I’m almost certain he was born in the jumper.
(13) Lock Forward: Ryan Apps (Bega) Co-captain
Appsy is a natural on-field leader, he’s a classy player and is a brilliant all-round player. He’s strong and gains good metres even after defenders have piled on, but his technical ability and read of the game is second to none, which makes him a fantastic defender. Lock is out of position to Ryan’s current playing status, but we feel its where he’s done some of his best work previously. His leadership and guidance of the Roosters to the minor premiership makes him a natural for the captaincy.
(14) Interchange: Mick Tadich (Batemans Bay)
Tadich has played both fullback and hooker for the Tigers this season, and could feasibly play every position on the park (with the exception of prop). An easy pick for the utility spot on the bench. He has a good step and won a Group 16-wide sprint at the Nines last year so he’s quick to boot.
(15) Interchange: Paul Perkins (Bombala)
The incumbent coach of the Blue Heelers, Perkins has kept his team in good stead as one of the calm veteran heads of the sport within the Group. He’s a good on-field leader and the opportunity to fill a few roles makes him an excellent utility across the park. He also showed a mean fend on the weekend against Bega, while marching metres up the field.
(16) Interchange: Peter Lett (Batemans Bay)
Lett is almost the ideal front rower and could provide fantastic impact off the bench. He has footwork at the line, he has a solid fend, and he can put an offload on the chest of any support runner. Only downside is his discipline; he gives away too many penalties on the defensive side.
(17) Interchange: Blake Robinson (Bombala)
Robbo is currently playing out of dummy-half for the Blue Heelers, but I like his work in the halves, he has got good reach with torps for potential 40-20 options and he puts up a mean spiralling bomb. I like Robbo’s willingness to play blind-side bursts and his ability to weave in behind his forwards and exploit any gaps they open up.