Catchpole Contenders: Four new names to watch in this year’s Catchpole Medal count

Fri, Jul 29, 2022, 8:15 AM
Declan Armstrong
by Declan Armstrong
Ben Houston packs a scrum for the Wicks. Photo: RicMac Photography
Ben Houston packs a scrum for the Wicks. Photo: RicMac Photography

With another stellar round of Charter Hall Shute Shield action under our belts, it’s time to continue our preview of the stars who look likely to battle out this year's Catchpole Medal count.

Last week it was a trio of Pirates who took centre stage, with Shute Shield Media reporting Kodie Drury-Hawkins, Prez Tufuga and Damien Fleming all featuring heavily at the top of the 2022 contenders list.

With Round Sixteen votes all accumulated, it’s time to preview the latest crop of Catchpole Contenders.

Christian Yassmin – Randwick

The Randwick flyer who has culminated quite the highlights package in 2022, Yassmin’s sublime season has seen the Wicks winger accumulate 13 tries and quickly emerge as an elite finisher within the Shute Shield ranks.

Yassmin is sure to poll strongly around the halfway point of the season, with a hat-trick against the Wildfires in Round Six quickly followed by a double against South’s, catapulting the winger to then poll position on the try-scoring tally.

Speaking the Shute Shield Media back in May, Randwick head coach Ben McCormack attributed Yassmin’s sparkling form to a winning combination of confidence and hard work.

Yassmin makes a break against Easts. Photo: RicMac Photography

“If there’s one player who you can afford to be over-confident it’s your wingers because you want them to be hungry to score tries,” McCormack said.

“His application at training and in the gym is perfect, so the fact he’s seeing the results on the field doesn’t surprise me at all.”

With tries clearly key to Yassmin’s chances at a Catchpole Medal, the young winger will be hoping for a strong closing fortnight, as Randwick prepare to face Eastwood and Souths to close out the regular season.

Ben Houston – Randwick

The Wicks leader who is seemingly maturing in his role as the season progresses, Houston has been inspirational in his defensive work rate in 2022.

With 211 tackles at a success rate of 81.8% over the first fifteen rounds, Houston ranks second in the Charter Hall Shute Shield behind Easts utility Charles Elton for all key defensive statistics.

Houston’s defensive abilities have played a pivotal role in Randwick’s nail-biting victories over the Wildfires, Easts and West Harbour, while his ability to emerge in critical offensive passages has seen the backrower also notch 5 tries across the season.

Houston is steadily cementing himself as one of the form breakaways in the Shute Shield. His leadership and skill will become of paramount importance to a Wicks outfit still yet to finalise a position in the 2022 Finals series with two rounds to play.

Ben Woollett – Warringah

Enjoying a stellar Shute Shield campaign prior to signing with the Jersey Reds mid-season, Woollett was a key determinative in the Rats' early season success and clearly felt at home in the skipper's role.

Through his twelve appearances in 2022, Woollett accumulated 6 tries and a total of 121 points, seeing him atop the points scorers leaderboard prior to his departure toward the RFU Championship.

The Warringah skipper's ability to impose himself within critical moments and evidently lead through action was bound to catch the attention of scouts from any competition.

Woollett was a Catchpole Medal favourite prior to signing with the Jersey Reds. Photo: Kaz Watson

Woollett follows Ben Marr as recent Warringah skippers who have been scouted for higher honours, with the latter currently in Birmingham preparing for Australia’s Sevens campaign at the Commonwealth Games.

While Woollett’s departure toward the RFU Championship is indeed celebrated, his form and continuation in the 2022 Charter Hall Shute Shield competition would’ve likely seen him contest both a Catchpole Medal and a Shute Shield title.

Chris Bell – Eastwood

One of the competition's most consistent point scorers since landing in the Charter Hall Shute Shield, Bell enjoyed a characteristically strong season despite an interrupted 2022.

With injury limiting the Englishmen to just 11 appearances this season, Bell still consistently caught the attention of Catchpole Medal voters with his reliable right boot and game management at flyhalf.

Chris Bell kicks a conversion for Eastwood. Photo: Kaz Watson

With the return of Eastwood prodigy Tane Edmed likely to stifle Bell’s chances of late-season Catchpole votes, the English recruit is unlikely to factor in the pointy end of the Medal count, however, Bell can take solace in knowing he has led one of the most consistent Shute Shield outfits since landing on Shute Shield soil in 2020.

Catchpole Contenders

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