ABOVE: Wollongbar- Alstonville five-eighth Ben Damen.
ABOVE: Wollongbar- Alstonville five-eighth Ben Damen. Vicki Kerry

The cream of the rugby crop

Northern Star sports editor Mitchell Craig names his top 25 players from the 2016 Far North Coast rugby union season.

There was quite a cast of characters this year with all shapes and sizes taking part in the eight-team competition.

1 Ben Damen, Wollongbar-Alstonville

If there was poster boy for FNC rugby union he would be it.

A constant threat to opposition teams and a seasoned campaigner who has steered his team to three straight premierships.

2 Grant Knight, Ballina

Fierce competitor who also understands the importance of the social side of rugby later at night.

Injuries could not stop him from another brilliant season at centre and five-eighth.

3 Sean Nicholl, Byron Bay

A one-man army with the bright yellow headgear and was always dangerous with ball-in-hand.

He caught a lot of teams off guard with his running game and scored plenty of tries.

4 Craig Wallace, Byron Bay

One of the best nigglers in the competition but backed it up with his work around the paddock.

Wallace is an Irish import that has made a home at Byron Bay in recent years.

5 Billy Goldsmith, Lennox Head

His first full season in the top grade and has freakish ability to pull off the big plays.

Moved to five-eighth where he excelled before his season ended early with a broken arm.

6 Steve Mison, Wollongbar-Alstonville

Team-mates compare him to a friendly Labrador-Retriever off the field but an absolute wrecking ball in the middle when he is at his best.

Strong finish to the year despite carrying injuries at the back end of the season.

7 Jack Cooke, Byron Bay

Smart player on and off the field who arrived at Byron Bay with a law degree under his belt.

Made an immediate impact on the field and finished the season with an astounding 23 tries.

8 Sam Kerry, Wollongbar-Alstonville

Confident young man and capped his best season in first grade with a try-scoring double in the grand final.

Kerry was selected for the NSW Country Under-20s at the start of the season.

9 Jake Smith, Ballina

Loves the contest and not afraid to get up in the face of some of the bigger men on the field.

A pest to opposition players and one of the best defenders in the competition.

10 Jerry Faifaise, Wollongbar-Alstonville

Popular player and it was big news on the plateau when he decided to stick around for another season.

Committed and consistent with everything he does and earned a call-up to the NSW Country training camp.

11 Isaac Hill, Bangalow

Tackles hard like most fiery redheads and has become an integral part of the Rebels forward pack over the years.

12 Darrell Montgomery, Byron Bay

Runs a great line out in the centres and would add value to any team in the competition.

13 Bill Johnston, Wollongbar-Alstonville

Loves his fitness drills and took on the extra responsibility of captain-coach this season without it taking away from his own performance.

14 Hamish Holbrook, Lennox Head

Laid back customer but has never played a bad game during his stint in the lime green at Lennox Head.

15 Isaac Pratten, Ballina

Embraces the lifestyle of a front-rower and wouldn't want to play any other position on the field.

16 Jascha Saeck, Byron Bay

Quiet achiever and probably the most versatile player in the competition with the amount of positions he can cover.

17 Will Aisake, Byron Bay

The rock that holds everything together at Byron Bay and good value off the field by all reports too.

18 Lloyd Morgan, Wollongbar-Alstonville

Rare player in the fact that he can switch between flanker and front row while excelling at both.

19 Will Cotterill, Lismore City

Wouldn't meet a better bloke off the field but certainly don't want to cross paths and be on the receiving end of a Cotterill special around the ribs during a game.

20 Harry Bungate, Ballina

Funny bloke who can flick the switch and become one of the most competitive players in the zone once the whistle blows for kick-off.

21 Neil Moran, Bangalow

Evergreen tight-head prop who keeps producing the goods despite numerous attempts at retirement.

22 Blake Birmingham, Casino Bulls

Similar to the beef and gravy rolls out at Casino.

You know what to expect and it's always quality.

23 Andrew Burke, Ballina

Captain courageous at Ballina who would have been higher in the list if injuries didn't keep him out for the bulk of the season.

24 Dean Wilson, Southern Cross University

Most significant signing at SCU in recent years and added some much needed flair to its backline.

25 Chris Bleakley, Bangalow

Speed to burn out wide on the wing and partied like it was 1999 with his Bangalow team-mates when they pulled off an upset win against undefeated arch-rivals Byron Bay late in the season.



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