Mustang Panting named NRRRL's best player as Ghosts make team
MURWILLUMBAH Mustangs hooker Sam Panting is the best player in the 2013 Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League season.
Panting received the award at the NRRRL presentation night at Casino RSM.
Panting finished 10 points clear of closest rival Andrew Battese, a truly phenomenal feat given Battese's form over the year.
Battese finished as the top points scorer (220) and most goals (78).
Panting's contribution to the team may not always be noticed by fans who do not watch him play, after he finished the season with seven tries and two goals to his name.
Instead it's the Cameron Smith-like directing of play from dummy half that led him to the trophy, his ability to identify tiring opponents and create space for his outside men setting up most of Mustangs' attack.
Grafton Ghosts had the equal most representation from any one club in the NRRRL team of the year with three players making the final 13. Captain-coach Ryan Farrell was awarded the coveted halfback position with Ben McLennan slotting into lock.
Boom winger Joel Moss was named on the wing in the team of the year, and finished the year as top tryscorer with 29 tries.
Mustangs and Seagulls provided three players each as well, with the rest of the team made of players from Marist Brothers, Casino, Byron Bay and Kyogle.
The best story of the year is that of 2013 coach of the year Greg Barnes.
Barnes stepped up as coach of the Ballina Seagulls after a horrid run in 2011. He turned them into a force almost immediately, leading the Seagulls to the preliminary final in 2012.
This season has seen them go one step further, with Ballina hosting the grand final for the first time since 2007.
Most league pundits have Ballina pencilled in as the team most likely to win. That could prove to be a highlight of Greg Barnes' coaching career.NRRRL TEAM OF THE YEAR Fullback: Mitchell Krause (Marist Brothers) Wing: Joel Moss (Grafton Ghosts) Centre: Sio Alefosio (Murwillumbah Mustangs) Centre: Todd Johnson (Casino Cougars) Wing: Michael Forrester (Murwillumbah Mustangs) Five-eighth: Andrew Battese (Ballina Seagulls) Halfback: Ryan Farrell (Grafton Ghosts) Prop: Greg Ryan (Ballina Seagulls) Hooker: Sam Panting (Murwillumbah Mustangs) Prop: Simon Kelly (Byron Bay Red Devils) Second-row: Travis Falls (Kyogle Turkeys) Second-Row: Simon Perkins (Ballina Seagulls) Lock: Ben McLennan (Grafton Ghosts)