While the 2017 Blowes Clothing Cup minor title is all but in Orange Emus’ hands, the competition’s most prestigious individual award is still well and truly up for grabs.
The player of the year gong – for best and fairest, determined by referees – is normally a mystery until grand final day when it’s presented, although speculation is always rife as the finals loom.
This year though, in Brownlow and Dally M Medal style, the Central West Rugby Union Referees Association (CWRURA) has released a shortlist of contenders leading into this weekend’s third last round.
Naturally, to maintain some mystery and inevitably fuel that speculation, the CWRURA capped the progressive votes at round 12, with the rest of the season to remain behind closed doors until the award’s presentation.
In those first 12 rounds of the season a whopping 102 polled votes, eight of those players notching more than 10 best and fairest points to catapult themselves into contention.
Considering Emus’ dominant, undefeated season thus far it’s no surprise to see two of the greens among the top eight. The shortlist was released in no particular order though, so specific rankings are unknown.
Emus guns Andrew Selwood and Nick Hughes-Clapp are both among the front-runners.
From the the other top four sides Forbes prop Kyle Sharpe, Bathurst Bulldogs bookend Sean Fogarty and Dubbo Kangaroos try-scoring machine Billy Sing have polled plenty of votes too.
Cowra Eagles duo Tim Berry and Tom Dewhurst are among the top eight as well, with Parkes captain-coach Israel Symington rounding out the group.
“Of this group, there are players from six different clubs who are in contention, representing a wide range of positions,” CWRURA vice-president Richard Madden said, before explaining how referees award votes.
“The evenness of the best and fairest leaderboard reflects the broad pool of talented players spread across the zone.
“In line with the principle of the award, players are not necessarily awarded best and fairest votes because they scored the most points or the most tries.
“Referees duly consider aspects such as the players’ performance throughout the duration of the match, contribution to the team success, leadership skills, discipline and respect for opponents.”
In the second tier GrainCorp Cups’ best and fairest stakes, Grenfell’s Mark Amey, Narromine’s Craig Campbell, Temora’s Nathan Phillip and Blayney’s Cam Hobby are among the contenders, as are a trio of Molong Magpies in Matt Hobbs, Blake Hutchinson and Zac Taylor.
The awards will be presented on the competitions’ respective grand final days.