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Strong NZ flavour in NYC Team of the Decade

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A glut of Kiwi talent form part of the National Youth Competition Team of the Decade, while experienced mentor John Ackland has been appointed as the coach of the U20 ‘dream team’.

Take a look at some of the names who made the cut, with a focus on our New Zealand men.

Original story by Martin Gabor for NRL.com.

1. Tom Trbojevic (Sea Eagles) 

2. Gideon Gela-Mosby (Cowboys) 

3. Konrad Hurrell (Warriors) 

You can often find yourself stuck on certain positions for hours on end when trying to pick a team like this, but Konrad Hurrell is the exception. The tank was the first player picked in this squad and it’s easy to see why. Having never played the game before, Hurrell took to rugby league like a duck to water in 2011, setting records that have never been broken. That he scored 22 tries from 21 appearances was impressive, but it was the nature in which he played that garnered the most attention. What he lacked in height Hurrell more than made up for in size as he bullied his way past would-be defenders for fun. The bulldozer notched 268 tackle breaks that season (second most in NYC history) which included two games in which he busted 21 tackles. He also ran for 4140 metres (sixth-most in a single season) and was named in the Team of the Year after helping the Warriors to their second premiership in a row.

4. Siuatonga Likiliki (Warriors) 

Before there was Hurrell, there was Siuatonga Likiliki. The powerhouse centre was a colossus in the NYC, scoring 29 tries from 50 appearances and earning back-to-back Team of the Year honours, albeit the first was on the wing. Likiliki grabbed a try in his side’s 2010 grand final win but surprisingly never really kicked on in the NRL, with the Tongan representative managing just three games for the Warriors and Knights.

5. Wayne Ulugia (Cowboys) 

The wing is arguably the hardest position to fill in this team with guys like Dane Gagai and Drury Low desperately unlucky to miss out. However, Ulugia fully deserves his spot given he finished as the most-capped player in NYC history (88 games) and was the fourth-most prolific scorer with 50 tries. While not the biggest guy running around, Ulugia had a knack of finding himself in the right place at the right time and had the uncanny ability to get over the line when others might have struggled.

6. Ben Barba (Bulldogs) 

7. Shaun Johnson (Warriors) 

The fact Shaun Johnson didn’t make the 2009 NYC Team of the Year remains one of the biggest robberies since they started charging 20 cents for sauce at school sausage sizzles. Nothing against Robert Lui and Beau Henry, who were the starting halves – or Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans, who made the bench – but surely ‘SJ’ had to be in the team. His raw stats were out of this world – 48 try assists (most in a single season), 17 tries and 84 goals – and he even upped his game the following year to help the Warriors to their first title. His speed, footwork and daring in attack were perfectly suited to the NYC and it’s a credit to his work on and off the field that his form has continued in first grade where defensive structures are supposed to nullify players like him.

8. Viliame Kikau (Cowboys) 

9. Michael Lichaa (Sharks)

10. Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles) 

11. Jason Taumalolo (Cowboys) 

He’s made a name for himself as a one-man wrecking ball through the middle, but there was a time when Jason Taumalolo was allowed to roam free on the edges where he terrorised halves, centres and anyone who dared get in his way. Taumalolo played 55 matches for the Cowboys and helped lead them to within one point of upsetting the Warriors in the 2011 grand final, while he also represented the Junior Kiwis twice, captaining them in 2011. It’s fair to say 2011 was his year given he made the Team of the Year, was named the RLPA’s player of the year and ran for 4192 metres (the fourth-most in competition history).

12. Sam Lousi (Warriors) 

There have been more consistent players than Sam Lousi over the years but none have been as damaging as the towering Warrior. Head and shoulders taller than everyone else on the field, Lousi was able to offload at will to his strike weapons on the outside while his extreme reach meant he was able to get to the line when mere mortals would have been stopped well short.

13. Nat Butcher (Roosters) 

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14. Jayden Brailey (Sharks) 

15. Addison Demetriou (Sea Eagles)

16. Vaipuna Tia Kilifi (Panthers) 

With the silky skills of a five-eighth and the size of a man possessed, Vaipuna Tia Kilifi was a nightmare for edge defenders tasked with trying to stop the Panthers back-rower. His numbers from 2010-12 were stellar, but it was his final season in the NYC that truly stands out. With 17 tries and 68 offloads, Tia Kilifi was a no-brainer for Team of the Year honours.

17. Carlos Tuimavave (Warriors) 

Rangy, gifted and highly-skilled, Carlos Tuimavave was the guy who made the difficult look easy and did so on a regular basis. A veteran of 52 matches, the former Warriors five-eighth claimed back-to-back premierships in 2010 and 2011, playing a starring role on both occasions. He was deservedly named in the 2011 and 2012 teams of the year and skippered the Junior Kiwis to a memorable win in 2011.

Coach: John Ackland (Warriors)

As we’ve seen throughout the years, it takes someone special to bring the best out of the Warriors on a consistent basis. Plenty have tried, but none have enjoyed more success than John Ackland who took them to consecutive premierships in 2010 and 2011. The 2011 Team of the Year coach claimed 74 wins from 108 matches and is the most successful clipboard carrier in NYC history.