Competition - NSW Intrust Super Premiership Finals Series. 
Round - Finals Week 3,
Date  -   September 18th 2016.
Teams - Wests Tigers v Mounties.
at - Leichhardt Oval.
Pic - Grant Trouville © NRL Photos.

2016 ISP NSW Team Of The Year

Four Mounties, four Cutters and three Jets have been named in the 2016 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Team Of The Year, named ahead of the NSWRL’s Grand Final Day to be played at Pirtek Stadium this Sunday.

The team, selected by an expert panel including broadcast partners at Fox Sports Australia, Steele Sports, Hawkesbury Radio and Triple H FM, in addition to NSWRL.com.au staff writers, features eight players who will line up in the decider between Mounties and Illawarra.

Chosen from players who played the majority of their 2016 matches in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, NSWRL General Manager of Football Barrie-Jon Mather believes it would be a hard team to beat if it ever took the field.

“It’s a strong team with strike power all across the park,” Mather said. “The intimidating forward pack is well-balanced with skillful players on the edges, and they all lay a great platform for two halves that have proven in 2016 they have the ability to control a game.

“The two leading try-scorers make up the wing positions, our Player Of The Year is selected to captain the side. Players should be very proud to be a part of this side, which showcases the quality of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW.”

All of the top seven teams from 2016 are represented, while both Grand Final mentors have been named as coaching staff. With the help of Triple H FM commentator Tony Dosen, we’ve explained each player’s inclusion in the Team Of The Year.

1. Zac Santo (Mounties)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 3

This was the position with the most depth in 2016, with so many Intrust Super Premiership NSW fullbacks having wonderful seasons.

Honeti Tuha and Adam Quinlan would not look out of place as the fullback of 2016, but Santo dominated on the paddock this year, and even earned himself an NRL appearance for the Canberra Raiders in Round 14 against the Brisbane Broncos.

He is a key to Mounties attack, always circling the ball in support and playing his part in set pieces. He is also a prolific try scorer but he is not just all attack, having made many try-saving tackles throughout the year – in particular one against Newtown in the first week of the finals where he stopped Travis Robinson scoring a seemingly certain four-pointer in the corner.

A great all-round player whose wonderful season gives in a deserved spot in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Team Of The Year.

2. Kato Ottio (Mounties)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 10

With 29 tries in 23 games, Ottio’s try-scoring feats this season speak for themselves.

The Papua New Guinea volleyball-turned-Rugby League star was the best outside back in the competition prior to a knee injury in the first Qualifying Final, which unfortunately ended his season.

Powerful, strong and fast, he is the quintessential modern-day winger; upon his return from injury next year, he will have earned his place in the Kumuls’ squad for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

3. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (NZ Warriors)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 3

With no shortage of hype surrounding him, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad returned to the Warriors in 2016 to continue his development into a future NRL star.

At times one of the most exciting players in the league, Nicoll-Klokstad has Rugby League in his blood; the 21-year-old has brings utility value and can play any position in the backline or halves. Having spent five years in the Melbourne Storm junior system, Nicoll-Klokstad made his international debut for the Cook Islands last year, scoring a four-pointer to assert his name on the world stage.

The Warriors - who welcomed him back to New Zealand with a two-year-deal - quickly noticed his try-scoring ability. Having played every game for the side and crossed the line 13 times this year – including a hat-trick against Mounties in Round 20 – it has proved a worthwhile investment.

4. Levi Dodd (Illawarra Cutters)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 4

Given intermittent chances with the St George Illawarra Dragons this season on his return to the code, the former Bulldog has been a standout for the Cutters in their charge to the Grand Final.

Dodd’s explosive speed in the Cutters’ backline has seen him post 15 tries for the season and seen him as the first centre picked by coach Jason Demetriou when available.

5. Josh Addo-Carr (Wests Tigers)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 6

The flying winger set the Intrust Super Premiership NSW alight with his 18 tries for the Tigers on the back of his blistering speed and finishing ability and was fully deserving of the six NRL games he got to play for the Tigers in 2016.

Along with Ottio, Addo-Carr headed up the try scorers’ list this season and forms an NRL-quality partnership alongside the PNG flyer. His speed saw him break more than a few tackles this year and that impact will prove invaluable for the Melbourne Storm when he joins them in 2017.

6. Josh Cleeland (Newtown Jets)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 4

Standing above a host of high-quality candidates, Cleeland was at his dynamic best for the Jets this season and was the catalyst for a number of Newtown wins this year.

The most notable of these performances were in the two Frank Hyde Shield games against the North Sydney Bears; the young Queenslander was outstanding in lifting the Jets to come from behind for two victories.

Having signed with the Bulldogs on a two-year deal, Cleeland’s speed and vision are great for someone still new to the pace of top-level league and will only improve in future seasons.

7. Sam Williams (Captain, Mounties)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 6

As the 2016 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Player Of The Year, Williams is an automatic selection at halfback and as captain.

Williams was the key factor in not only Mounties’ Preliminary Final win over the Wests Tigers, but in nearly every game he played at Intrust Super Premiership NSW level this year.

Mounties have looked a different side when Williams has been pulling the strings, always looking to be a play or two ahead of the game with either his deft kicking game, his dangerous running game or his organisation at first receiver.

The fact that Williams easily slotted in when called up to the Canberra Raiders for their Qualifying Final in shows that he still has plenty of first grade left in him and he is currently the best back-up halfback in Australia.

8. Shannon Wakeman (Illawarra Cutters)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 5

The only Cutter to play over 150 games in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, Wakeman’s consistency has seen the prop become a mainstay in the Illawarra side’s charge to the Grand Final this season.

Tough and uncompromising in the middle, Wakeman has been outstanding in both making tough yards with the ball and in bone-jarring defence. He has helped lay the platform up front for the likes of Dodd, Faifai Loa and Quinlan to do their thing out wide. A highlight of the year was his 55-metre runaway try against Newtown at Henson Park in Round 13. 

At 26 years of age, Wakeman has passed the average debut age for an NRL prop – but with continued improvement the Dragons could do worse than to call him into the top grade next year.

9. Matt McIlwrick (Newtown Jets)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 4

While the no.9 jersey was a particularly contentious one among our expert panel, we have gone with Jets’ hooker McIlwrick in a points decision.

McIlwrick had a superb year individually and despite his team’s dip in form in the final weeks of the season, he remained the stand-out player.

His dummy-half running and clever kicking game from the ruck always had opposition defences wary, forcing them to try to keep the Kiwi quiet with targeted defence.

When handed the Jets’ captaincy following the departure of Mitch Brown, McIlwrick lifted his game yet again in the back half of the season.

10. Eloni Vunakece (Wyong Roos)
Team Of The Week Selections: 3

A versatile forward who can play prop, second row and even lock, Vunakece’s persistence at Intrust Super Premiership NSW level over a number of years was finally rewarded with a promotion to the NRL for a handful of games this season.

It was a just reward for one of the hardest-working forwards in the competition – a forward who can do the hard work to start or can add impact coming off the interchange bench against tiring opposition packs.

11. Tyrone McCarthy (Illawarra Cutters)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 1

After being given the captaincy in the second half of the season by coach Andrew Demetriou, McCarthy took his game to a level that saw him handed his NRL debut in Round 22.

Dangerous when skirting down the left fringe in attack, McCarthy added another dimension to the Cutters’ forward play in the back half of the season.  He also can be punishing in defence and caught our eye enough to make the starting second row in the Team Of The Year.

12. Jarrad Kennedy (Mounties)
Team Of The Week Selections: 8

Kennedy started his year in exceptional form, leading to selections in the Team Of The Week in the opening three rounds. It became apparent very quickly that Mounties would be the team to beat in 2016 and even in a forward pack boasting the likes of Glen Buttriss, Clay Priest, brother Rhys Kennedy and Mitch Barnett (who has since transferred to the Knights), Kennedy was a standout.

Often involved in a deadly right-edge that has seen winger Kato Ottio score a competition-high 26 tries, Kennedy has notched up nine of his own after 23 rounds. He managed a double in two consecutive games in Rounds 7 and 9, typically hitting the edge hard and fast to bring about try scoring opportunities.

With abilities in attack and defence that are obviously up to NRL standard, it is almost a shame that Kennedy hasn’t been required by the Raiders this year. Given that his team has secured the minor premiership and are red-hot favourites for the 2016 title, however, the hard-working forward will be looking forward to playing deep into finals football in September.

13. Zane Tetevano (Wyong Roos)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 11

The rampaging forward was destructive in his return to Rugby League this season, playing in all 24 of Wyong’s games and spending 20 of those at lock. After a year out of the game, the former Knight was unstoppable at times as he managed 11 selections in the Team Of The Week – the most of any player – and helped Wyong into the Semi Finals. Having been offered an NRL contract for 2017, expect Tetevano to line up for the Roosters at some stage next year.

14. Justin Hunt (Wests Tigers)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 1

The versatile former Bear filled in at half, five-eighth and fullback for the Tigers during their run to the top four this season.

Having to bide his time behind the likes of Brooks, Moses and Tedesco in the Tigers’ set-up, Hunt’s only NRL appearance this year came in Round 10. He excelled when given the opportunity to play alongside Robbie Farah later in the year, during the VB Blues hooker’s three Intrust Super Premiership NSW games of 2016.

With Farah taking some of the pressure off Hunt to organise the Tigers around the park, Hunt played his best football of the season in attack to show he is certainly of first-grade quality.

15. Kurt Capewell (Newtown Jets)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 4

After a stellar 2015, Kurt Capewell has taken full flight for the Newtown Jets this season, picking up an NRL debut along the way.

Having played 18 of the Jets’ 21 games this year, Capewell has consistently performed on a potent right edge. He has the speed and strength to make it in the NRL, has made the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Team Of The Week on three occasions, and has four tries to his name this season. In his Round 18 debut for the Sharks, the 23-year-old was solid in a 50-minute, 136-metre, 18-tackle performance off the bench.

While Capewell has played 17 of those games in the second row, he spent much of his time at Ipswich in the centres – and his versatility was on show for all to see with a successful switch out wide in Round 22. It was a man-of-the-match performance in the 22-19 victory, picking up a try, setting up another and making three line-breaks for 197 metres.

16. Jacob Host (Illawarra Cutters)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 3

At just 19 years of age, Host is yet another Illawarra forward who was not afraid to do the hard yards this year – a philosophy that has delivered the Cutters to their first Grand Final.

Playing in either the front or second row, Host has delivered 11 strong performances for the Cutters so far and will be out for one more on Sunday afternoon. His form earned him an NRL debut in Round 9 before seven more games in the back end of the season. At such a young age, Host is a definite highlight to come from the Dragons’ and Cutters’ system this season.

17. Lloyd Perrett (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
    Team Of The Week Selections: 6

He may have been ousted from the Bulldogs’ NRL side in 2016, but Perrett more than proved his worth with a run of form that saw him named the club’s Intrust Super Premiership NSW Player Of The Year.

After consistently being named on an extended NRL bench in the earlier part of the season, Perrett spent most of his 14 games in the front row and would score five tries in the later rounds – including a late double in Round 24 to defeat the Panthers. He hasn’t start in any of his 24 NRL appearances, but with sufficient time on the field the 21-year-old is undoubtedly a workhorse and has improvement left in him.

Coach: Jason Demetriou (Illawarra Cutters)

It was extremely difficult to split the two Grand Final coaches - but Demetriou’s success in turning around the Cutters is impossible to overlook. The Illawarra side came just 10th in 2015 and, in his first year at the club, Demetriou managed to take them to their maiden Grand Final appearance… without the luxury of a high-performing NRL team.

Demetriou has enjoyed an outstanding run of coaching in recent years, having delivered the Northern Pride an Intrust Super Cup title in 2014, before helping the Cowboys to their NRL Premiership as an assistant coach last year. He must surely be in line for an NRL head coaching opportunity at some point in the near future.

Assistant Coach: Steve Antonelli (Mounties)

While Demetriou was chosen as the head coach of the Team Of The Year, there is no denying Antonelli’s talent in extracting the most from his players. Heavily involved in both the Raiders and three grades at Mounties, Antonelli has helped his side to a second consecutive Minor Premiership and has once again developed a number of genuine first-graders for the Canberra side. A big part of Mounties’ unprecedented run to three Grand Final appearances in three grades, Antonelli deserves all the praise he has received and, like Demetriou, could comfortably manage an NRL team.