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Catchpole Contenders: Final crop of favourites set to battle out Catchpole Medal count

Tue, 09/08/2022, 6:26 am
Declan Armstrong
by Declan Armstrong
Ratu Tuisese has been a star for Eastwood in 2022. Photo: Serge Gonzalez
Ratu Tuisese has been a star for Eastwood in 2022. Photo: Serge Gonzalez

After eighteen rounds of gruelling club rugby across one of the tightest Shute Shield competitions in recent memory, our top eight is finally settled and the focus shifts to this weekend's much anticipated Qualifying Finals.

However, Wednesday evening's Catchpole Medal Dinner offers up a brief interlude, with the Charter Hall Shute Shield’s Player of the Year to be announced for the first time since 2020.

With the likes of Donny Freeman, Ben Houston and Jack McCalman already touted as potential Catchpole Medal winners, it’s time to preview the final four names likely to be heard tomorrow evening.

Ratu Tuisese – Eastwood

The bullocking one-handed carries of Ratu Tuisese have become a dominant feature of the Woodies game style in 2022, with the Fijian breakaway affirming himself as one of the most damaging ball runners within the competition.

Tuisese has accumulated quite the highlights reel this year, whether it be a twinkle toes sideline effort against Manly in Round Six or an intercept try against the Two Blues last weekend.

Tuisese’s strength and agility consistently rattle opposition defenders, with the Eastwood star racking up over 1,000 running metres and 50 broken tackles this season, numbers attuned to many of the competition outside backs.

Despite Tuisese’s obvious attacking abilities, he also ranks amongst the top five in pilfers (17) in 2022, matching it with even the more traditional breakaways in the Shute Shield.

Conor Hickey – Warringah

Bursting onto the scene in 2022, Hickey has affirmed himself as one of the most electrifying ball-running flyhalves in the Shute Shield.

A mad touch footballer in his junior years, Hickey’s fast feet and acceleration have often seen the Rats flyhalf dance around opposition defenders untouched this season.

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Hickey has been strong with ball in hand this season. Photo: Kaz Watson

Unsurprisingly, Hickey ranks second in the Shute Shield for defenders beaten (78), while his inclination to keep ball in hand has seen him accumulate 1,436 carry meters and 15 linebreaks.

A Rat junior and now cemented First Grade starter, Hickey’s potential has been on full display in season 2022. Don’t be surprised to see his fast feet play a significant role in this Saturday’s Elimination Final against Gordon at Rat Park.

Max Douglas – Manly

After a 2021 season spent predominantly within the Waratahs setup, 22-year-old Douglas has made an emphatic return to the Shute Shield and been instrumental to the Finals-bound Marlins this year.

Starring in all but one of the Marlins matches in 2022, Douglas has brought grit and professionalism to every contest, ranking in the top five for total tackles made (169) at a success rate of close to 90%.

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Douglas sets up for a lineout against Warringah. Photo: Kaz Watson

Douglas’ work at the set piece has also been pivotal, leading the Shute Shield in lineout takes (121) and ranking in the top five for lineout steals (6).

A Catchpole Medal victory for Douglas tomorrow evening would be the Manly's first since 2006 when Peter Hewat took home the honour following a stellar season at fullback.

Dave Henaway – Northern Suburbs

The former Sunnybank lock who notched up 50 Grade games for Northern Suburbs this season is another smoky to keep an eye on in tomorrow’s Catchpole Medal count.

Alongside formidable lock partner Declan Carroll, Henaway ranks within the top tier of second rowers in the Shute Shield for defensive and lineout statistics.

Leading the competition in lineout steals (14), Henaway has been the ultimate disrupter during the opposition set piece, allowing the talented Norths backline an abundance of attacking opportunities.

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Dave Henaway during his 50th Grade appearance for Norths. Photo: Kaz Watson

Look for this set piece to only strengthen as we enter Finals, with Henaway touted to be named alongside Waratah Hugh Sinclair for Saturday’s Qualifying Final against Manly.

Catchpole Contenders

Ratu Tuisese – Eastwood

Conor Hickey – Warringah

Max Douglas – Manly

Dave Henaway – Northern Suburbs

Connor Winchester – Hunter Wildfires

Donny Freeman – Hunter Wildfires

Jack McCalman – Sydney University

Teddy Wilson – Eastern Suburbs

Christian Yassmin – Randwick

Ben Houston – Randwick

Ben Woollett – Warringah

Chris Bell – Eastwood

Kodie Drury-Hawkins – West Harbour

Prez Tufuga – West Harbour

Damien Fleming – West Harbour

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