PICKING an All-Clarence side purely on form is not an easy task.
The Ghosts have continued from where they left off last year, the Rhinos have endured an up-and-down season but have a huge chance of making the five, and the Magpies, after promising so much early on, have wilted in the back half of the season.
Like picking any side, there will be cries of, “How did that guy make the team?!” and “Has this bloke lost his marbles?”
Anyway, for what it's worth here's my side, based on form, cohesiveness and, more importantly, having every position covered.
For me, Ghosts' fullback Mitch Lollback has proved he can handle the top grade. Brilliant at kick returns and, like his predecessor, Anthony Don, Lollback can turn a game in the blink of an eye.
Sam Hartmann and Daniel Lollback pick themselves on the wings after consistent performances this season. Hartmann has come of age and Lollback is still one of the best finishers in the game.
I can't leave Rhinos' centre and Fijian flyer Joe Ravueta out of the side. He knows how to find the chalk and continues to score tries which defy logic. Magpies' Dan Randall is as strong as they come and a guy no one likes to come up against. The Magpies' punishing defender is just as adept in the back-row.
The all-important five-eighth spot goes to the most under-rated player in the NRRRL, Ghosts' Dan Roberts. Roberts is a perfect link between forwards and backs who can play like an extra forward. He can also deliver a perfect long ball.
No brainer. Ghosts' captain Ryan Farrell is the best half in the NRRRL with daylight second. He's a great leader who hates losing, and keeps opposition defences in two minds.
As I've quoted in the past Ryan Binge is the best front-rower in the competition. He boasts a high work-rate, can off-load and stings in defence. His partner-in-crime, Magpies' captain Xavier Sullivan, gets the nod for his leadership qualities and ability to get across the advantage line.
To make the front-row complete I can't go past Magpies' Tom Martin who has been in career-best form this season.
Personally, I think Aaron Hartmann is a waste in the second-row. He's a centre who can bust tackles to set up his outside men and his defence is water-tight. But he has proved this season he can handle being close to the action. Switching Hartmann and Dan Randall would be a nice option to have.
On his day, Rhinos' Jeff Skeen can cause major headaches for opposition sides. The barrel-chested second-rower takes some pulling down and has one of the best off-loads in the competition.
Mr Consistent Ben McLennan is the obvious choice at lock. He tackles himself to a stand still week after week and has the game to destroy opposition defences. Easily at home in the centres, McLennan has the skill level to play out wide.
On the bench I've gone with utility players Magpies' Todd Cameron and Ghosts' Aaron Taylor. Cameron's explosive running and match-winning ability gives the side an X-factor as does Taylor. The Ghosts' centre oozes class and can land conversions from anywhere on the park.
Cameron is a Jack-of-all-trades who can play hooker, half, fullback and five-eighth
Ghosts' Tom Freebody's is a no-frills front-rower who refuses to take a backward step and teammate Ryan Danvers can off-load almost at will.
And the coach?
I can't go past Grafton Ghosts mentor Col Speed for his overall professionalism and ability to get the best out of his players.
All-Clarence 2011 side
1. Mitch Lollback(G)
2. Sam Hartmann(G)
3. Joe Ravueta(R)
4. Dan Randall(M)
5. Daniel Lollback(G)
6. Dan Roberts(G)
7. Ryan Farrell (c)(G)
8. Xavier Sullivan(M)
9. Tom Martin(M)
10. Ryan Binge(M)
11. Jeff Skeen(R)
12. Aaron Hartmann(G)
13. Ben McLennan(G)