The National Youth Competition, the NRL’s under-20s competition, is done and dusted.
When Manly centre Tevita Funa converted Keith Titmuss’ 79th minute try and the siren sounded in the Grand Final, the Holden Cup was no more. The somewhat beloved, mostly maligned competition has been the career starting point for pretty much every NRL player to have debuted since 2008.
From the early graduates like Ben Matulino and Andrew McCullough in 2008 to the fresh faces of Nick Cotric and Nathan Cleary in 2017, chances are your favourite player first burst onto the scene in the NYC.
In honour of this crazy competition’s 10th and final season, the NYC Database names it’s Team of the Decade.
Just some quick notes: The players have been selected on their statistics and achievements in the NYC, not what they would go onto achieve. I tried to pick players in the positions they were primarily selected at during their under-20s careers, though sometimes this proved difficult.
Tom Trbojevic (Manly Sea Eagles)
2014-2015 – 32 games, 41 tries (2015 NYC Team of the Year)
In Round 20 of the 2015 season, Trbojevic had arguably the greatest individual performance in NYC history, scoring 4 tries and running for 485 metres against the Warriors. He averaged 239.4 metres per game that season.
Honourable mentions: Matthew Dufty (St George Illawarra), Josh Dugan (Canberra), Kalyn Ponga (North Queensland), Wayne Ulugia (North Queensland)
Gideon Gela-Mosby (North Queensland Cowboys)
2015-2016 – 44 games, 53 tries (2015, 2016 NYC Team of the Year)
Gela-Mosby is the competition’s greatest try scorer with a strike rate of 1.56. In 2015, he scored 39 tries, shattering the record for most tries in a season. He ended his NYC career with more 4-try hauls than hat tricks.
Dane Gagai (Brisbane Broncos)
2009-2011 – 61 games, 39 tries, 74 goals (2010, 2011 NYC Team of the Year)
Playing predominately at fullback, Gagai was electric for the Broncos in the 2010 season. He ran for a then competition record of 4524 metres, averaging 196.7 per game, and broke 275 tackles, still a competition record.
Honourable mentions: Kalifa Faifai Loa (Newcastle/St George Illawarra), Kyle Feldt (North Queensland), Greg Leleisiuao (Gold Coast/Parramatta), Drury Low (Canterbury)
Konrad Hurrell (Warriors)
2011 – 21 games, 22 tries (2011 NYC Team of the Year)
It only took one season for Hurrell to leave his mark on the competition and become one of the first names in any all-time NYC team. He scored 22 tries and averaged a 197.1 metres, and 12.8 tackle breaks a game.
Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters)
2014-2016 – 48 games, 34 tries (2015, 2016 NYC Team of the Year)
A premiership winner with the Roosters in 2016, Manu averaged 132.1 metres and 5.4 tackle breaks that season. A year earlier, he scored 22 tries in 25 games, had 28 line breaks and averaged 123 running metres per game.
Honourable mentions: Addison Demetriou (Manly), Mahe Fonua (Melbourne), Hymel Hunt (Gold Coast), Siuatonga Likiliki (Warriors)
Ben Barba (Canterbury Bulldogs)
2008-2009 – 26 games, 38 tries, 93 goals, 2 field goals (2008 NYC Team of the Year)
Back in 2008, Barba was the first “superstar” of the NYC. A must see talent before each NRL game, he scored 28 tries in 20 games. During his short stay in the competition in 2009, he played six games and still scored 10 tries.
Honourable mentions: Te Maire Martin (Wests Tigers), Matt Mundine (St George Illawarra/South Sydney), Aidan Sezer (Canterbury), Carlos Tuimavave (Warriors)
Shaun Johnson (Warriors)
2009-2010 – 45 games, 24 tries, 148 goals, 6 field goals
In his rookie season, Johnson scored 17 tries in 25 games and recorded a competition record 48 try assists. A year later, he led the Warriors to their first NYC premiership. Incredibly, he never made an NYC Team of the Year.
Honourable mentions: Kane Elgey (Gold Coast), Beau Henry (St George Illawarra), Ben Hunt (Brisbane), Ashley Taylor (Brisbane)
David Klemmer (Canterbury Bulldogs)
2011-2012 – 28 games, 6 tries (2012 Dally M Player of the Year, 2012 NYC Team of the Year)
Man mountain Klemmer terrorised the NYC in 2012, averaging 169.1 metres, 5.3 tackle breaks and 2.2 offloads per game. It was his only full season in the competition and he was named Player of the Year.
Tariq Sims (Brisbane Broncos)
2008-2010 – 49 games, 18 tries (2010 Dally M Player of the Year, 2010 NYC Team of the Year)
Recruited by Brisbane in 2008 as a winger, Sims won the NYC Player of the Year award two years later as a prop. That season he played 21 games, scoring 13 tries and averaging 168.7 metres and 7 tackle breaks per game.
Honourable mentions: Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne), Viliame Kikau (North Queensland), Trent Merrin (St George Illawarra), Jake Trbojevic (Manly)
Michael Lichaa (Cronulla Sharks)
2011-2013 – 52 games, 15 tries (2012, 2013 NYC Team of the Year)
A regular in Cronulla’s NYC side for three seasons, Lichaa was the first hooker to be named in back-to-back NYC Teams of the Year. A dangerous runner from dummy half, he averaged 92.8 metres a game in 2012.
Honourable mentions: Jayden Brailey (Cronulla), Danny Levi (Newcastle), James Segeyaro (North Queensland), Brandon Smith (North Queensland)
Jack de Belin (St George Illawarra Dragons)
2010-2011 – 41 games, 12 tries (2011 Dally M Player of the Year, 2011 NYC Team of the Year)
A surprise winner of the Player of the Year award in 2011, de Belin was a workhorse in the Dragons’ pack that season. He averaged 125 metres and 30.8 tackles a game, rarely making a mistake a for his side.
Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys)
2010-2012 – 55 games, 13 tries (2011 RLPA Player of the Year, 2011 NYC Team of the Year)
An NYC debutant at just 16, Taumalolo would go onto become one of the most dominant forwards in the competition. In 2011, he ran for 4192 metres at an average of 175 metres per game, breaking 6.8 tackles a game.
Honourable mentions: Bryce Cartwright (Penrith), Tyrell Fuimaono (Parramatta), Josh Jackson (Canterbury), Vaipuna Tia Kilifi (Penrith)
Nat Butcher (Sydney Roosters)
2015-2017 – 40 games, 11 tries (2016 RLPA Player of the Year, 2016 NYC Team of the Year)
In 2016, Butcher ran for 4526 metres and made 1049 tackles, breaking the single season record in both categories. Named Man of the Match in that year’s Grand Final, he averaged 188.6 metres and 43.7 tackles for the season.
Honourable mentions: Jai Arrow (Brisbane), Kenny Bromwich (Melbourne), Dale Finucane (Canterbury), Tyrone Peachey (Cronulla)
Te Maire Martin (Wests Tigers)
2014-2015 – 50 games, 17 tries, 1 goal (2015, 2016 NYC Team of the Year)
Martin was an assist machine during stint in the NYC. He 2014, he had 25 try assists and 28 line break assists and in 2015 he 35 try assists and 37 line break assists. He was named in the Team of the Year in both seasons.
Viliame Kikau (North Queensland Cowboys)
2014-2015 – 42 games, 32 tries (2015 RLPA Player of the Year, 2015 NYC Team of the Year)
Perhaps the best try scoring forward the competition has seen, Kikau scored 21 in 21 games in 2015. That season he also averaged 135.8 running metres and 6.1 tackle breaks per game, a menace for opposition defensive lines.
Trent Merrin (St George Illawarra Dragons)
2008-2009 – 45 games, 6 tries (2009 NYC Team of the Year)
Merrin was one of the standout forwards in the early years of the NYC. Named in the 2009 Team of the Year, he averaged 169 metres a game that season and accumulated 47 offloads and 90 tackle breaks in 19 games.
Dale Finucane (Canterbury Bulldogs)
2009-2011 – 70 games, 16 tries (2010, 2011 NYC Team of the Year)
A two-time Team of the Year member, Finucane played 70 out of a possible 78 games during his three years in the competition. In 2011, he ran for 4013 metres, averaging 149 and 32.2 tackles per game.