1 | Jeremy Gordon (Bathurst Panthers) – fourth appearance on influential list
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The Group 10 player of the year in 2016. Last year’s leading point-scorer. A two-time Group 10 Indigenous All Star representative, the 2017 Terry Brown medal winner.
About the only thing Jeremy Gordon hasn’t done of late is win a premiership. He’s a massive chance of that in 2017, leading Panthers to the top two at the turn of the season.
Should he jag that elusive title, Gordon could well add a Dave Scott medal to his burgeoning list of accomplishments.
The equation is simple: with Gordon, Panthers are a massive chance of a title. Without him? Well, the forecast looks bleak.
2 | Chris Bamford (Orange CYMS) – first appearance
Landed at CYMS with the ‘best prop in bush footy’ tag. Given his barnstorming performances for the undefeated green and golds, #BIGBAM could well finish up 2017 with the ‘best player in bush footy’ tag.
He’s dynamic, brutal, elusive, powerful and finds the try line more often than most wingers. He’s arguably the complete player. He’d be No.1 if Gordon wasn’t in such sublime touch for the last 18 months.
3 | Willie Heta (Orange Hawks) – first appearance
Arguably the best signing a Group 10 club has made since Mick Sullivan landed at CYMS in 2010.
Without Heta, Hawks look wooden spoon bound, but with him in the side … his direction, decision making, speed, touch and class lifts the two blues into finals contention. Potentially, beyond that, too.
Heta makes just about every player in the 2017 Hawks side a better player. It’s the strongest top three this list has had since its inception.
4 | Ethan McKellar (Orange Hawks) – first appearance
From unheard of to underrated to just downright unbelievable - Ethan McKellar is arguably the most impressive player under the age of 23 in Western Division, let alone Group 10.
Has been enormous for the two blues since making the move across from Parkes, and is Willie Heta’s go-to forward when the team is in need of a lift.
Have you seen that post-contact metres stat channel nine throws up each week? Yeah, well, McKellar’s numbers would make David Middleton reach for the record books.
5 | Ryan Griffin (Orange CYMS) – first appearance
He’s always had the potential, now there’s no doubting it - Griffin is the best hooker in Group 10. He should have been Western’s rake, too, had he not been unavailable for the Rams trial.
Speed is easily his biggest weapon, but his fend - off both hands - is something to behold. It’s the perfectly timed don’t argue.
Wtih Bamford and co firing, Griffin could have a field day over the back half of the season.
6 | Sam Wooden (Mudgee Dragons) – first appearance
Corin Smith, Jack Afamasaga, Hamish Bryant … there’s stacks of big names on Mudgee’s roster this season.
But none have had more of an influence on the defending premiers this season than Wooden.
Amidst an injury crisis that threatens to derail the club’s premiership defence, he’s played all of the Dragons’ games and been at the top of his game throughout.
Without Wooden, Mudgee would be nearer to ninth than a place in the top five.
7 | Ben McAlpine (Orange CYMS) – third appearance
Could nearly rename this list ‘the Ben McAlpine top 20 influential players list’ - he’s on it every year. But, in what could be his last year with CYMS, Macca is lifting his game to new heights.
Can often look a bit lackadaisical, a touch nonchalant out on the field. But he’s firing on all cylinders this winter. And that can only bring good things for the green and golds come August and September.
8 | Brent Seager (Bathurst Panthers) – fourth appearance
Props are gold, particularly in bush footy. There’s just something about big, strong, mobile forwards getting over that advantage line that lifts a team’s intensity. Seager is every bit a golden prop for Panthers this season.
It says something about the importance of props in Group 10 when both Bamford and Seager are one-two in the player of the year polling mid-season.
Can’t add Seager to this list without mentioned how much joy his regular bell-ringers give those watching the men in black.
9 | Luke Branighan (Oberon Tigers) – first appearance
Branighan plays, Oberon wins. Branighan doesn’t play, Oberon stinks.
Ok, maybe stinks is a bit dramatic, but the Tigers’ 50-12 loss to CYMS was a disaster. As a comparison, he scored 17 of his side’s 21 points in a great win over Mudgee earlier in the season.
If Branighan is fit, then the Tigers are in the fight. If he’s not, then all bets are off.
10 | Cameron Bruest (Cowra Magpies) – first appearance
Arrived at Sid Kallas Oval with plenty of rapts in 2016 but injury cruelled his first Group 10 campaign.
We’ve seen a different Cameron Bruest so far this season. Injury free, he’s controlling the Magpies’ attack, a sublime kicking game ending the black and whites’ sets in style.
His presence allows five-eighth to Warren Williams to run - and anyone in Group 10 will tell you that’s a frightening prospect for opposition defences.
11 | Luke Petrie (Orange CYMS) – first appearance
Talk to any CYMS player after any one of their eight wins to open the 2017 season and they’re all glowing of one half – and it’s not Mick Sullivan or Dom Maley.
Petrie has been a steady hand for the competition leaders in the No.6 jumper over the opening round. He’s developed into a fine pivot and confidence has taken his game to a new level. Seriously underrated.
12 | Tim Mortimer (Orange CYMS) – third appearance
There’s an air of determination around Tim Mortimer this season, and it’s driving the green and golds.
Injury meant Mort missed out on the club’s 2015 grand final win, but made it back from a knee reconstruction to be part of the club’s run to the 2016 grand final, where they ultimately lost in heart-breaking fashion.
The CYMS lock is eyeing off the success that’s eluded him since returning to the Group 2013, a year he also tasted grand final defeat while coaching Hawks. He’s in great form and leading the charge.
13 | Abel Faifua-Lefaoseu (Oberon Tigers) – first appearance
If you haven’t been in Group 10 since about 2005, you’d swear Oberon has reincarnated Lithgow Workies premiership winner Mahe Hala and thrown him in Tigers colours in 2017.
Devastating with ball in hand, Faifua-Lefaoseu is one of a handful of kiwis that have lit up this year’s Group 10 premiership.
14 | Cameron Picker (Cowra Magpies) – first appearance
Think Cowra Magpies and, in the years since the club made the 2014 grand final, you tend to think frantic. There’s feathers flying everywhere when the black and whites have the ball.
Not in 2017. And that’s mainly thanks to Picker.
An extremely reliable fullback, his communicates skills are top shelf while his short-kicking game is deft – releasing much of the pressure on Bruest in that regard.
15 | Jake Betts (Bathurst Panthers) – first appearance
One of those players who gets through a mountain of work with minimal fuss – in short, a player everyone wants to play with.
Betts was a stand-out for Group 10 in the Western Rams trial in May and continues to fire for Panthers as the club strives to end a decade long premiership drought.
16 | Greg Behan (Bathurst St Pat’s) – first appearance
Looking for an opportunity after Panthers beefed up its pack during the off-season, Behan made the move across town and has been the Saints’ best in 2017.
Alongside Brady Cheshire the pair form one of the best starting prop combinations in the comp. If they can jag some help, St Pat’s will surge into finals contention.
17 | Jack Siejka (Bathurst Panthers) – first appearance
Young, strapping, wide-running backrower added late to Panthers’ squad giving Todd Barrow’s side plenty of punch.
Siejka’s returned home having played Holden Cup and NSW Cup, and he’s bringing all of that experience back to help his junior club win a title.
18 | Chris Rhodes (Lithgow Workies) – first appearance
Never mind his standing as one of the best props in Western, this year Rhodes has helped drag a proud Group 10 club up off the canvas after a horrid 2016 netted Lithgow the wooden spoon.
Workies won’t make the finals this season, but the work Rhodes has done to help ensure there’s no more disastrous campaigns can’t be underestimated.
There’s a Lithgow resurgence just around the corner – and Rhodes is in the thick of it.
19 | Will Ingram (Blayney Bears) – first appearance
I doubt 2017 has gone anywhere near to plan for Ingram.
But few players in Group 10 wield the sort of passion for the game Ingram does, and for that reason alone it’s almost a given he’ll lift Blayney to at least one win this season.
20 | Corin Smith (Mudgee Dragons) – third appearance
Had he played every game to date throughout the opening half of the season, there’s a massive chance Smith is No.1 on this list.
But he’s only played one. And Mudgee has battled, big time.
Made his long awaited return from a knee injury in the Dragons’ final clash of the opening round against Lithgow - and found space with his first touch.
If Smith can find some form, any sort of form, the Dragons will make an impact in the 2017 finals.
2016: 1 Trent Rose (Oberon), 2 Ben McAlpine (CYMS), 3 Antonio Ale (St Pat’s), 4 Rota Setu (Mudgee), 5 George Rose (Oberon), 6 Jackson Brien (Oberon), 7 Brady Cheshire (St Pat’s), 8 Warren Williams (Cowra), 9 Jeremy Gordon (Panthers), 10 Simon Osborne/Mitch Davis/Cam Jones (CYMS), 11 Brendon Van Veen (Workies), 12 Nick Loader (Panthers), 13 Lochy Hobby (Blayney), 14 Rory Brien (Cowra), 15 Bobbie Brown (Blayney), 16 Jack Afamasaga (Mudgee), 17 Mick Sullivan (CYMS), 18 Brent Seagar (Panthers), 19 Brodie Christopherson (Hawks), 20 Brendan West (Workies).
2015: 1 Tim Mortimer (CYMS), 2 Team Van Veen (Workies), 3 Terawhiti Cooper (Blayney), 4 Mick Sullivan (CYMS), 5 Corin Smith (Mudgee), 6 Terry Brown (Blayney), 7 Garry Reilly (St Pat’s), 8 Benji John (St Pat’s), 9 Jack Afamasaga (Mudgee), 10 Jeremy Gordon (Panthers), 11 Simon Osborne (CYMS), 12 Hayden Tidswell (Cowra), 13 Antonio Ale (Workies), 14 Steve Lane/Bubba Kennedy (Blayney), 15 Hamish Bryant (Mudgee), 16 Blake Miller (Oberon), 17 Brent Seager (Panthers), 18 Ben McAlpine (CYMS), 19 Michael Nixon (Blayney), 20 Jedd Kennedy (Hawks).
2014: 1 Jack Afamasaga (Mudgee), 2 Corin Smith (Mudgee), 3 Benji John (St Pat’s), 4 Dan Stuart (CYMS), 5 Jeremy Gordon (Cowra), 6 Jared Robinson (Mudgee), 7 Garry Reilly (St Pat’s), 8 Ben McAlpine (CYMS), 9 Tim Condon (Mudgee), 10 Tim Holman (Cowra), 11 Brent Seager (Panthers), 12 Steve Lane (Oberon), 13 Joe Lasagavibau (Hawks), 14 Pale Ale (St Pat’s), 15 Terawhiti Cooper (Blayney), 16 Dave Howard (St Pat’s), Blake Tidswell (Cowra), 18 Tom Lewsley (Mudgee), 19 Tim Mortimer (Hawks), 20 Charlie Leaeno (Workies).
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