NRC 2017 Team of the Year

by Sam Phillips

There's just one match left in the 2017 NRC season and that means it's time to present the NRC team of the year.

This list was largely based on who featured most in our team of the week, with tiebreakers based on Wallaby call ups and consistency of good form.

So, without further ado - here's who was judged to be the best player in each position throughout the season just gone.

1. Faalalei Sione - Canberra Vikings

Sione has been a rock for the Vikings at scrum time and his performances at the start of the year in particular were eye catching, crashing through the line when carrying and dominating at set piece time.

2. Hugh Roach - Greater Sydney Rams

Roach has been in and around the Waratahs setup since 2014 but he is yet to crack a consistent starting spot. If he continues to play like he did for the Rams this season, that starting spot won't be too far away. A constant force with ball in hand and had the lineout running smoothly all season long.

3. Taniela Tupou - Queensland Country

Tupou's performance for Queensland Country on Sunday just about summed up his season. Tupou is a force to be reckoned with when he carries the football and in truth, is unlike anything this code in this country has seen before. Now that his scrummaging is up to scratch he has the potential to reach serious heights.

4. Matt Philip - Perth Spirit

Philip isn't exactly a household name so his call up to the Wallabies Spring Tour squad was a surprise for some. But anyone that watched the Force or Spirit this year know how well Philip has played in 2017 and his impact off the bench for the Wallabies on Saturday showed he is more than capable at Test level. He's a proficient lineout operator, a determined ball carrier and a willing defender with the kind of grunt his former Force teammate Adam Coleman has become known for.

5. Blake Enever - Canberra Vikings

Read above, rinse and repeat. Enever is another lock that has flown under the radar but there's no doubt he is also more than capable of going to the next level. Prides himself on his lineout work, has a big motor around the park and along with Sam Carter, has played a big part in the Vikings' success in 2017.

6. Rob Valetini - Canberra Vikings

Like Tupou, Valetini's season was encapsulated in an enormous semi final performance against the Spirit. Valetini was stuck behind Angus Scott-Young, Liam Wright and Reece Hewat in the Australian U20s' World Championship campaign but he showed glimpses of the destruction he could cause when injected off the bench. Given regular time at blindside flanker and No. 8 for the Vikings, Valetini has been the minor premiers' chief destroyer with ball in hand, breaking first up tackles at will and flashing the ability to offload from peculiar positions, releasing his teammates by doing so. Scored seven tries, had the third most carries in the competition (96) and remarkably, won 11 turnovers for his side. The 19-year-old has a big future at the Brumbies ahead of him.

7. Tom Cusack - Canberra Vikings

Has led the Vikings all season and what a leader he has been. Not an out-and-out fetcher but more than capable of producing a couple turnovers per match, has an enormous motor thanks to his Aussie Sevens days and that allows him to put his hand up for carries in the 80th minute, as well as the first. Has produced several captain's knocks this year.

8. Isi Naisarani - Perth Spirit

There is no better compliment than Wallabies coach Michael Cheika admitting he has kept a close eye on Naisarani this season and he said as much after the Barbarians clash, too. Like Cusack, Naisarani has a big motor and his fitness gives him an edge late in the piece, when he is still carrying with the same spark as he did in the opening exchanges, while the players around him are tiring. Had the second most carries in the competition (114) and the equal most tackle busts (43) - another star in the making for the Brumbies.

9. Michael Ruru - Perth Spirit

The Spirit skipper was one of the side's most consistent performers before injury struck him down while playing for the Barbarians against the Classic Wallabies. Has a bit of mongrel in him and he is more than capable of running an attack on his own, calling the shots at the base of the breakdown and keeping the opposition honest by sniping around the fringes when pillar defence gets lazy. Led the competition in try assists, with nine.

10. Hamish Stewart - Queensland Country

Stewart shot to stardom with a stellar Queensland U20s campaign and followed that with some impressive cameos off the bench for the Reds in the back half of the Super Rugby season. Taking the reins of his own NRC team was always going to be the next test but Stewart has passed with flying colours. A booming right boot, impressive running game and smooth pass on either side has Stewart hot on the heels of Quade Cooper as Queensland's best flyhalf.

11. Ed Fidow - Brisbane City

Would have a Super Rugby contract by now if he hadn't played for the Samoan Sevens side in 2016. One of the best finishers the competition has seen in a long time and has a blistering turn of foot to boot. That's a lethal combination for any winger and Fidow has shown he's a try scoring machine, notching nine this year. Also recorded 721 metres (third most in the competition) and 17 line breaks (equal second most).

12. Duncan Paia'aua - Queensland Country

Another skipper makes the cut. Paia'aua has also had a huge year, cementing his spot as the Reds' number one inside centre and catching Cheika's eye, starting at flyhalf against the Barbarians. Has improved his defensive work and keeps adding layers of complexity to his attacking arsenal, recording six try assists, 17 linebreaks and scoring 10 tries this year. Seems more confident in taking the ball to the line now and that frees up the players outside him.

13. Chris Feauai-Sautia - Queensland Country

The other half of Country's star studded centre pairing. Has had a rough year with injury prior to the NRC but showed what he is capable of when fit and firing for Country. The Reds rate CFS highly and he will be a big chance of a starting XV spot if he gets a full preseason under his belt, such was the consistency of his form for Brad Thorn's side. Busted 40 tackles this year, which is his bread and butter.

14. Filipo Daugunu - Queensland Country

Has quite literally played himself into a Reds contract. Led the competition in tries scored (10) along with his QLD Country skipper, racked up 635 metres with ball in hand and recorded 11 turnovers. Has brilliant feet, stepping his way through the opposition before unleashing an elite burst of speed. A star of the future.

15. Jack Maddocks - Melbourne Rising

Maddocks is on the Spring Tour as a development player and after missing the majority of the Super Rugby season thorugh injury, that's a nod to his red hot NRC form. Led the competition in metres gained (869), carries (95) and defenders beaten (37). The shining light in a season Rising fans would rather forget.