NOMINATIONS have come in from across National 2 North and it’s no surprise that the top three, who all surpassed 100 league points, form the backbone of the Dream Team, with a trio of players included from each.
The Hull Ionians cohort are spearheaded by ruthless full-back Lewis Minikin, many of our reporters’ player of the season, while he’s joined by two teammates in the pack.
Chester, who were just edged out in the play-offs, chip in with some back row brilliance and a midfield maestro, while Tynedale, Sheffield Tigers, Preston Grasshoppers and Huddersfield all provide ample firepower in a fearsome XV.
Hull Ionians’ immediate return to National One as champions was typified by Minikin’s impressive attacking contribution from full-back, while he also proved his versatility by playing at centre on occasions. Minikin registered 20 tries in 30 appearances and added another 215 points from the tee – all in all, more than a third of Ionians’ total points scored. Minikin is also currently going well for Yorkshire in the Bill Beaumont Cup to underline his influence. Tom Carleton (Fylde) was next best.
The Newcastle Falcons development player and England U18 star has had an absolutely barnstorming season for Tynedale, dotting down 31 times in just 19 appearances, including five hat-tricks. The teenager finished as the league’s top try-scorer despite featuring in only two thirds of the games, to help his side into fifth. Dan Rundle (Stourbridge) was also a standout.
Broadley’s contribution is made all the more impressive by the fact he is also the team’s head coach. His strong running with the ball and ability to lead from the front reaped 22 tries and left opposition defences scrambling at the sight of him, helping keep Tigers away from the relegation battle. Connor Wilkinson (Fylde) is our runner-up.
This season has seen veteran Riley surpass the 350-appearance mark for Sedgley Park and he used all of his experience to pull together another fine season. A third-place finish, 21 tries and victory over Hull Ionians were just some of the highlights Riley enjoyed in another landmark season. Preston Grasshoppers’ Alex Hurst also impressed our reporters.
Another Tiger to make the grade alongside Broadley, Packard’s pace has seen him run in tries for fun this season – 19 in the league is a healthy haul. Tigers already had an impressive backline but Packard’s elusiveness added an extra dimension. He edges out Otley’s Ben Magee.
The Manchester University student showed his full repertoire as he guided Chester to a second-place finish while his versatility saw him move into the centres when required. A notable mention also for Fylde’s Greg Smith, who tallied more than 250 points as Fylde finished sixth, with Smith having transferred over from Rugby League in 2016.
The scrum-half enjoyed a fantastic first season with Preston after joining from neighbours Kendal and brought with him a wealth of experience around the breakdown. Sadly, an injury in the warm-up against Stourbridge prevented Gough from completing the season and helping Preston finish higher up than their eventual seventh-place finish. Callum McShane (Sedgley Park) also had a fine season.
It is not often that a front row finishes the season with 12 tries but such is Bell’s mobility and power, he scored tries with ease and remained solid in the scrum. Bell was part of a dominant scrum all season while there were plenty of nominations for Harry Whitfield, who was rock-solid at loose-head and has no shortage of ball skills, having switched from centre.
A second season at Sedgley Park saw Maher in the thick of things and emerge as one of their standout players. Maher helped himself to ten tries as proof of his loose game while also providing a stable platform in the set-piece. Paul Millea (Preston) was next best in the votes.
There was a case to made for all of Preston’s front row and Pete Altham and Paul Millea can count themselves unlucky to have missed out on the Dream Team – but Zimbabwean Mabaya has made it after a superb season. The 28-year-old states his hero as Brian Mujati and Mabaya has echoed the former Northampton Saint with his power this season.
Lock Joe Makin has been a huge presence in the Ionians front-five and has been one of the cornerstones of a brutal pack that laid the foundations for 23 wins this season. James Newman (Ionians) was our runner-up.
Honourable mention for Hoppers stalwart Ally Murray but Rob Birtwell edges it with his input in going past 100 points for Sedgley Park. Birtwell is a towering presence at the lineout and offers consistent leadership on the field, so much so he’s also skippering Lancashire in the Bill Beaumont Cup.
Flanker Lewis Bradley has shone all season in helping Huddersfield to their excellent fourth-placed finish, also firing himself into the Yorkshire Bill Beaumont side. Quick to the breakdown, strong in the tackle and with an ability to run with the ball, Bradley has won numerous man-of-the-match awards and was voted the club’s supporters’ player of the season. James Sanderson (Ionians) pushed him close.
At the heart of everything good about the club this season. He used all of his experience to power Chester to second, outworking his opposite man in the majority of games. Mark Wigham (Ionians) also had a great year for the champions.
It was a three-way battle after Richard Piper threw his hat in with 15 tries for Huddersfield, while Rob Baldwin was often the best player on the park for Wharfedale. But Croatian international Shay Owen had an excellent run-in to the season to power Chester to the play-offs and gets our nod, a hat-trick against Huddersfield a headline-grabbing moment.
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