We asked a whole lot of Auckland first division players and coaches to tell us who they rate as the very best players in the region. Following plenty of debate we came up with this, the list of top 10 players in the Fox Memorial Premiership in 2017.
10: Matiu Stone-Dunn (Richmond)
A versatile player who can comfortably play anywhere in the back five, Stone-Dunn has an excellent turn of pace and footwork which makes him tough to bring down one-on-one. He has become a regular in the Warriors’ reserve-grade side and is a premier outside back in the Fox Memorial Premiership.
9: Peter Mills (Te Atatu)
He took the second division by storm last season, scoring 18 tries in 20 games to establish himself as one of the most-prolific centres in Auckland. In addition to his consistency on both sides of the ball, Mills is an accurate goalkicker who played a huge role for the Roosters as they went all the way to earn promotion last year.
8: Malo Solomona (Pt Chevalier)
Pure class out wide for Pt Chevalier, Solomona played eight NRL with the Warriors and it shows in his approach to the game. A strong reader in defence, he also creates and executes a large portion of the Pirates’ attacking chances. Has an excellent relationship with his halves and outside men.
7: Misi Ma’u (Marist)
A tenacious competitor out of dummy-half, his aggression in defence and hunger for work makes him an excellent player at this level. The brother of Parramatta Eels and Kiwis back-rower Manu, Misi has gone toe-to-toe with Tevita Latu and Zac Tippins for the mantle of Auckland’s premier No.9 in recent years.
6: Zac Tippins (Glenora)
The 2016 ARL Player of the Year, Tippins headed to Glenora last year after several seasons with Mt Albert, helping lift the Bears back to the play-offs. Crafty from dummy-half, Tippins is described by many teammates and opponents as an “ultimate competitor”.
5: Siua Otunuku (Pt Chevalier)
He has been the best fullback in Auckland for a number of years now, acting as the spearhead of a potent Pt Chevalier attack. Otunuku reads the game well from the back of the field and is a threat on the ball wherever his side are on the park. Supports his forwards well and can make plays off his speed and movement on the ball.
4: Reece Joyce (Papakura)
A member of the inaugural NRL Rookie TV series, Joyce was one of the main reasons Papakura dominated the Fox Memorial Premiership last year. A halfback with a strong kicking game, which became a collective nightmare for Auckland fullbacks and wingers last year, Joyce also sums up attacking opportunities well and more often than not executes with precision. Behind the competition’s best forward pack last year he was deadly.
3: Chris Satae (Pt Chevalier)
You don’t get signed to the New Zealand Warriors’ wider NRL squad for no reason, and this hulking front-rower has the skill set to play well beyond regional level in this country. Last year’s Pt Chevalier Player of the Year, Satae was their best player on the field in the grand final loss to Papakura. Hits the line hard and always looks to promote second-phase play. A force in the middle of the park.
2: Epalahame Lauaki (Glenora)
The latest former NRL and international player to come home to Auckland and take the field in the Fox, Lauaki has played and excelled at the highest levels and is a huge pick up for Glenora. An elite ball-running forward, he can do damage on the edge or through the middle thanks to a unique set of athletic talents. Opposition teams will have nightmares trying to control ‘Hame’ this year.
1: Daniel Palavi (Mt Albert)
The reigning New Zealand Domestic Player of the Year, Palavi starred for Mt Albert, Akarana and the Warriors’ reserves last year and his career continues to go from strength-to-strength. A front-rower built low to the ground, his leg drive and ability to make yardage after contact are major strengths. He may not end up playing a lot of Fox Memorial Premiership footy this year due to commitments with the Warriors, but that only reinforces his place on this list.