Shute Shield: Six of the most underrated players in the competition
One of the most enjoyable aspects of watching club rugby on a Saturday afternoon anywhere in Australia is watching a player you don’t know a whole lot about play like they should be in a Wallabies jersey.
The depth in the Shute Shield, particularly in the past two or three years, is incredible and while we marvel at the ability of the Holmes’, Meafua’s and Ale’s of the competition, there are a number of genuine superstars that we don’t talk a whole lot about.
Based on stats from our mates at Opta Sport from 2018, here’s our pick of the competition’s most underrated players.
Sam Shires – Manly
In his second year in Australia, UK forward Sam Shires has played out of his skin and is consistently one of Manly’s best each week. The hardworking forward can play lock or flanker and makes more tackles than any other player in the competition, by quite some way.
Marcus Carbone – Southern Districts
Southern Districts captain Marcus Carbone really can do it all. The No.8 features in the top 10 in tackles, carries, lineouts won and stolen and until recently, was the competition’s leading try scorer. Dangerous on both sides of the ball, the lanky Italian is another hidden gem who probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.
Michael Adams – Manly
After moving south from Warringah to Manly, Marlins winger Michael Adams has been outstanding in 2018 and has made more metres and clean breaks than any other player in the competition. While classy fullback turn centre Josh Turner receives most of the accolades, by the numbers, Adams has been just as good this year, if not better.
Sam Thomson – Warringah
Another UK import, Scottish lock Sam Thomson has become a staple in the Warringah forward pack this year and runs the Rats well oiled line out. Still just 24, the former Glasgow Warrior will only continue to get better as he finishes filling out his big frame.
Richie Woolf – Northern Suburbs
Richie Woolf’s arms and legs seem to go forever and he moves unlike any footballer most people have ever seen before, but thankfully for Norths’ fans, it works. Few players in the competition can create something from nothing quite like Woolf and his ability to turn a match on its head has probably been one of the most underrated aspects of the Shoreman’s meteoritic rise in recent years.
Jack Grant – Eastern Suburbs
Eastern Suburbs have attracted some big names to the club in recent years and while that star power has helped the Beasties come within a game or two of breaking their finals drought, they couldn’t have done it without halfback Jack Grant. Grant leads the competition in try assists and provides a crucial link between an quickly improving Easts’ forward pack and their electric backs.