Hanigan, Munro and Baldwin listed in Rugby News' 'forwards of the season'.....
After one of the closest and most entertaining Shute Shield seasons in history, we've put together our team of the year for 2016.
Props – David Lolohea (Parramatta) & Duncan Chubb (Southern Districts)
After waiting in the wings for several seasons, Parramatta giant David Lolohea had a breakout Shute Shield season in 2016 and was rewarded later in the year with a trip to France to join the Australian Barbarians.
Lolohea continues to mature as a footballer and will only get better in the years to come after being named in the Waratahs extended training squad last month.
He’s joined by Souths prop Duncan Chubb in the front row. Chubb led a relatively young and inexperienced Rebels forward pack to this year’s preliminary final and kept the exciting Souths backline on the front foot, despite battling neck and back problems for most of the season.
Chubb is currently playing a season for Italian club Piacenza.
Hooker – Folau Fainga’a (Sydney Uni)
21-year old Folau Fainga’a was so good this year, Sydney Uni coach Tim Davidson was forced to shift Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu to prop when the pair were both available for the Students.
Labeled a “No.10 in a No.2’s body” by some at Camperdown, Fainga’a is brilliant around the park and more than capable when things get tight and tough. While there are a number of players ahead of him at the Waratahs, Fainga’a will play Super Rugby, it’s just a matter of when and where.
Locks – Nick Palmer (Northern Suburbs) & Ned Hanigan (Randwick)
Nick Palmer epitomises what Northern Suburbs were all about in 2016. A hard working, no fuss style player who performed consistently week in, week out. After making his NRC debut last year, the Newcastle junior continued to improve in 2016 and is one of the players who Simon Cron believes should be playing Super Rugby.
Palmer tore his hamstring off the bone playing for the Rays in the NRC but the Shoreman are hopeful that he’ll be back to play a part in their title defense next season.
Randwick lock Ned Hanigan made his Super Rugby debut off the bench for the Waratahs this year, but it was at Coogee Oval where he proved he was ready to take the next step in his career.
The Coonamble junior was one of a handful of young Randwick forwards who impressed this year and benefited from playing alongside some experienced former Wallabies. Still just 21, Hanigan showed maturity well beyond his years for the Galloping Greens and will continue to get better next season, in both a green and sky blue jersey.
Backrow – Cohen Masson (6 Eastwood), Will Miller (7 Northern Suburbs) & Hugh Sinclair (8 Northern Suburbs)
After making the move from Concord to TG Millner, Cohen Masson was tasked with replacing club legend Hugh Perrett in the Woodies backrow and the 26-year old didn’t disappoint. Mason wore the No.7 jersey for most of the season, but earned his place in our team of the year after finishing fourth in the Ken Catchpole Medal.
The winner, Norths skipper Will Miller, is an automatic selection. Miller was outstanding for the Shoreman again in 2016 and was labeled “king of the North” after leading his side to its first Shute Shield premiership in 41 years and finishing 11 points clear of his closest rival in the Ken Catchpole Medal. Still not contracted for next season, surely one of the Australian franchises will come to their senses soon.
Miller’s teammate Hugh Sinclair was also impressive. Like Nick Palmer, Sinclair did his job week after week and continued to get better as the season went on, culminating with a man of the match performance in the grand final.
Notable mentions: Rory O’Connor (Warringah), Brendan Paenga-Amosa (Southern Districts), Will Munro (Randwick), Tyrone Viiga (Parramatta), Mark Baldwin (Randwick).
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