Four Rocky players in Payne Cup Team of the Season
AN INCREDIBLE season of north Queensland schoolboys rugby league has come to a close, but there is one last job to do.
Thanks to News Corp's commitment to streaming every game of the competition live, this season's Aaron Payne Cup drew the largest viewing audience ever.
You watched as future NRL stars plied their footy trade and after seven weeks of top-tier schoolboys rugby league, we have gone to the tape and picked 13 standout players to make up the 2020 Aaron Payne Cup Team of the Season.
Kirwan inevitably proved too good against hometown rivals Ignatius Park in the decider, and the Bears were rewarded for their stellar campaign with five players in the Team of the Season.
Payne Cup surprise packet The Cathedral College went close to upsetting the all-Townsville party, though exited at the penultimate hurdle against Iggy Park. But the voters saw enough in TCC's run to the finals to give four players a place in the season's best 13.
Perhaps testament to Iggy Park's incredible consistency, the Townsville nursery scored just two players on the list below despite making it through to the grand final.
In Mackay, both St Patrick's College and Mackay High contributed one player each to the Team of the Season.
They ranked high in the Michael Morgan Medal voting and were locks to be included among north Queensland's best schoolboys rugby league stars.
Your Aaron Payne Cup Team of the Season is as follows:
1. Tyreece Woods, Kirwan
The Cowboys-contracted fullback has stepped up after being part of the Bears' national title run last year.
While he has a lethal step - that delivered the Bears three tries this season - it is his work off the ball that has proven key.
Woods is one of the best defensive fullbacks in north Queensland with his communication from the back field key to the Bears' staunch defensive efforts.
In a tough break for the teenager, Woods was robbed of a chance to play in the Aaron Payne Cup final after he ruptured his ACL in the semi-final against St Pat's, Mackay.
2. Dudley Dotoi, Kirwan
The Bowen flyer has been one of the revelations of the Aaron Payne Cup after arriving at Kirwan High at the start of the year.
Dotoi's blazing speed has been an asset for the Bears, often tearing broken defensive lines to shreds.
He was clocked at 4.91 seconds over 40m before the season and it was on full display during Kirwan's run to the Aaron Payne Cup with the winger scoring eight tries across the competition.
Dotoi was also named player of the final against Ignatius Park College last week after scoring a double at centre.
The Cathedral College's Kurtis Farr with the ball.
3. Kurtis Farr, TCC
The TCC co-captain was undoubtedly the form centre of the 2020 competition.
A strong runner with the ball, he caused problems for anyone who had the unenviable task of marking up on him.
A tough competitor who is equally adept in defence, he was one of the competition's leading point scorers this year.
His stellar performances attracted the attention of a number of NRL talent scouts.
4. Clay George, Kirwan
The Bears skipper has been a key part of their attacking force on the right-hand edge and polled three votes in the race for the Michael Morgan Medal.
While flying winger Dudley Dotoi has streaked away to claim the most tries in the Payne Cup this season, it will come as no surprise that George threw the final pass for most of them.
He is a bigger body on the right edge, and breaks through tackles at will.
He has also shown his versatility this season and will do again in the Queensland state final when he moves to the middle of the park in the halves in a shuffle to cover the injured Tyreece Woods.
5. Noah Chadwick, TCC
Chadwick is an electrifying winger who finished the Aaron Payne Cup season with six tries from six games, including a hat-trick in one half in the round game against grand finalists Ignatius Park College.
Regarded as one of the best finishers in the Payne Cup competition, Noah also did a mountain of work with his carries from inside his own half proving invaluable for TCC.
6. Henri Stocks, Mackay SHS
Mackay High might have ended its Aaron Payne Cup campaign without a win, but it was not for Stocks' lack of effort. In a competition flush with standout ballplayers, the Queensland schoolboys representative proved time and again he deserved a place at the table.
He finished third in the Michael Morgan Medal voting - testament to his incredible consistency even in an underperforming side.
Whenever Mackay High went to the line, a quick review of the tape would often show Stocks either started it all, or put the icing on the cake. Stocks' deft passes at the line created holes for his forwards to find space through and his pinpoint kicking game helped relieve pressure.
The softly-spoken skipper and school captain led through action first - epitomised by his incredible individual performance with a try and assist in Mackay High's draw with St Brendan's College, in which he struggled through a calf complaint for much of the second half to will his side to the final whistle.
7. Thomas Duffy, Ignatius Park
He had the ball on a string for most of the Aaron Payne Cup and almost proved the competition's most influential player.
Duffy was the key to Ignatius Park's unlikely run to the Payne Cup decider and unsurprisingly finished second in the polling for the inaugural Michael Morgan Medal.
While his ability to set up his outside men was second to none, it was actually his game management which shone brightest. Duffy is a 17 year old with the brain of a 10-year NRL veteran.
When Iggy sprung an upset on Kirwan earlier this season it was the calculated moves of Duffy that proved key with his long kicking game forcing Kirwan to start every set on their tryline and playing the game at his methodical pace.
8. Riley Boaza, TCC
The TCC co-captain led by example in the 2020 Aaron Payne Cup campaign.
A mobile front rower with a great offload, he dominated opposing forward packs with his strong carries and solid defence.
His versatility also meant he could slot into the halves or at hooker.
Riley has been a member of the Capras under-18 Mal Meninga squad for the past two years and also represented the Capras under-20s in the Cyril Connell Cup competition.
9. Jai Hansen, TCC
A rising star of league, Jai is only in Year 11 and this season was his second in TCC's First XIII. His performance this year reinforced why he was signed by the Melbourne Storm as a 14 year old.
A crafty and smart hooker, he was been likened to fellow CQ product and NRL star Harry Grant. Hansen showed his resilience and toughness, and consistently got his forwards on the front foot with his service at dummy half.
10. Isaiah Vailalo, Ignatius Park
In his second year of Aaron Payne Cup action, the Parramatta-bound front rower stepped up and took on more workload this season.
The Charters Towers product was tasked with leading the way for a young forward pack and the extra responsibility was not lost on Vailalo, who got Ignatius Park on the front foot through most of the tournament.
His powerful carries through the middle, and quick ruck speed off the back of it, gave his halves plenty of time to control the game.
Vailalo was strong in defence and played every game with his heart on his sleeve.
11. Jeremiah Nanai, Kirwan
The inaugural Michael Morgan Medal winner has been an unstoppable force in the Aaron Payne Cup this season.
While he has scored tries at will on the right edge, his best asset is his ability to find his front and get away a quick play the ball.
His ruck speed helps Kirwan get on the front foot, and when opposition defences are back-pedalling is when the Bears like to strike.
Nanai is also a defensive workhorse and will not shirk the load when the two sides get in the grind.
The backrower will become the second Kirwan High player in as many years to join the Cowboys' senior squad straight out of high school later this year.
12. Ethan Sweet, St Patrick's College
St Pat's bevy of big forwards proved the foundational piece of their run to the Aaron Payne Cup semi-finals, and Sweet was ultimately the pick of the bunch. Quite simply, he can do it all.
When Paul Bryan went down with a season-ending injury after the Cup qualifier against Rocky Grammar, St Pat's needed another do-it-all big man to put his hand up and that was Sweet.
When coach Chad Buckby needed someone to be immovable on the edge, he went to Sweet; when St Pat's lacked some grunt going forward, it was his hit-ups that moved the needle.
Sweet rarely flashed on the livestream but his consistent play was recognised in the St Pat's sheds and by the Michael Morgan Medal voters. He finished equal-fifth in the vote count.
13. Ty-Ty Baira-Gela, Kirwan
He was rewarded with a Cowboys junior contract halfway through the Aaron Payne Cup competition and there is no doubting why.
Baira-Gela is a scary proposition on the rugby league field.
The lock forward, who switched to dummy-half in last week's successful Payne Cup decider, has a tackling style that makes opposition forwards run the other way.
He enjoys heavy contact, no matter which end of it he is on, and his unbridled tenacity has him coming back for more each time.
AARON PAYNE CUP 2020 TEAM OF THE YEAR
1. Tyreece Woods 2. Dudley Dotoi 3. Kurtis Farr 4. Clay George 5. Noah Chadwick 6. Henri Stocks 7. Thomas Duffy 8. Riley Boaza 9. Jai Hansen 10. Isaiah Vailalo 11. Jeremiah Nanai 12. Ethan Sweet 13. Ty-Ty Baira-Gela