#KiwiNRL 2017 Reserve Grade Grinners

 Not much grinning, stay winning.

Not much grinning, stay winning.

With New South Wales and Queensland's respective reserve grade competitions (Intrust Super Premiership/Intrust Super Cup) moving into Finals footy, they have both wrapped up the regular season with a few awards. The ISC had their awards nights last week where they dished out awards and although we haven't quite had the ISP awards night yet, New South Wales Rugby League did drop their ISP Team of the Year. In Queensland and NSW, there were a few kiwi lads who were shown love for their exploits in reserve grade, so here's the down-low on the best performers from this year.

New South Wales - Intrust Super Premiership Team of the Year. 

The kiwi funk in the ISP TOTY was restricted to a few Warriors who have impressed in a strong Warriors reserves team. NSWRL select this team through various media who cover the ISP competition, based around Team of the Week selections; those who earn the most TOTW selections then earn TOTY honours. This is also an actual team of 17, not 'best in position' awards as you'll see below from the ISC awards night.

Bureta Faraimo was selected for a wing spot, selected in the TOTW six times. Faraimo was with Parramatta's reserves to start the season (Wentworthville Magpies) before sealing a move to the Warriors. Faraimo will move to Hull FC after this season and he's a USA rep via American Samoa heritage, having been born in Wellington and moving from Wellington to link up with Mackay Cutters in Queensland's ISC. 

Joining Faraimo are Mason Lino and Toafofoa Sipley who were both selected on the bench, both of whom earned three TOTW selections. Lino's selection came in a year that he enjoyed an extended stint in the NRL when Shaun Johnson got injured and the blurb about Lino in the TOTY write up tells you all you need to know about Lino's season:

"Lino is such a complete player with an incredibly large skill set, and has arguably the best kicking game in the competition. He steered the Warriors to the top four this year, and was rewarded for his amazing form with five NRL games this year."

While Lino's got a rather secure future with the Warriors as a depth-half who will push for more NRL game time, Sipley is off to Manly Sea Eagles next season where he'll look to combine with the likes of Martin Taupau, Addin Fonua-Blake and Lloyd Perrett. Sipley was described as 'the leader of the pack' and this obviously raises questions about why the Warriors are letting Sipley head to Manly, I'd suggest that Sipley's form in reserve grade was such that Manly made an offer that Sipley couldn't refuse and that the Warriors couldn't match.

Queensland - Intrust Super Cup Awards

Up in Queensland, 2017's two best #KiwiNRL youngsters were given awards with Brandon Smith named Rooke of the Year and Jamayne Isaako named Fullback of the Year. Both made their NRL debuts this year with Isaako enjoying a stint at fullback for Brisbane Broncos in Darius Boyd's absence and Smith coming off the bench for Melbourne Storm when Cameron Smith was out of action. In limited NRL minutes, Isaako and Smith looked at ease, in fact they oozed class and the excitement around their individual talents is enhanced by the fact that they are both with great clubs, under great coaches, learning from great players.

Smith earned his Rookie nod in in the first half of the season with Sunshine Coast Falcons, meaning that he was the best rookie based on half a season's work. When Smith was earning NRL minutes, he was obviously absent from Falcons duty and was then ruled out for the back-end of the season via a wrist injury. Smith has a clear pathway to more NRL footy and next season could see him hold down a bench spot, playing alongside Cameron Smith - such is Brandon's ability.

Having demanded an NRL promotion via his form for Souths Logan Magpies, Isaako snapped up the opportunity when it arrived. Isaako will have to wait for another opening in the NRL as Boyd is locked in at fullback, but don't sleep on Isaako possibly sneaking in at centre and he can definitely do a job on the wing. Tautau Moga is leaving Brisbane, so Isaako and Tom Opacic will be competing for that centre spot and Isaako's size, dynamic running and skill will hopefully see him play consistent NRL footy next season.

Back in May there was also the Queensland Residents vs New South Wales Residents game, so this is a good chance to look back and salute those who were selected in either team.
NSW's team featured Faraimo on the wing, Auckland-born Penrith forward Moses Leota at prop, Auckland-born North Sydney Bears utility Tautalatasi Tasi on and Sipley on the bench. 

Queensland's team had Jahrome Hughes (Sunshine Coast) at fullback, before Hughes was given a few NRL opportunities with Melbourne. Hughes has looked the goods at fullback and in the halves for Melbourne this season and he's one to watch as Melbourne rebuild - along with Brandon Smith. Delouise Hoeter was selected on the wing for Queensland from Norths Devils and the former Wests Tigers Under 20s centre was selected in Junior Kiwis training squads during his time with the Tigers. 

Peace and love 27.

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