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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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