CENTRAL Western Daily Blowes Clothing Cup guru Matt Findlay nominates his '20 most influential players' so far in this year's competition.
Topping the list is Orange Emus skipper Nigel Staniforth, who has been instrumental in the greens' surge up the ladder.
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1. Nigel Staniforth (Orange Emus): A player many considered injury prone before the 2014 season, Staniforth is currently the competition's leading try-scorer, with ten. He acts as a third ball-player for Emus, regularly slotting into first receiver with aplomb, Staniforth is undoubtedly the form player of the competition.
2. Hugh Medway (CSU Bathurst): There is no coincidence CSU Bathurst's resurgence started when Medway returned from injury. His form in 2014 has been irresistible, leading CSU to wins over Mudgee and Parkes. With the continued absence of fullback Jack Garrad, any hopes the students have of making the top five rest almost solely on Medway's shoulders.
3. Duncan Young (Orange City): Jeff Fenech once said about boxers, "the great ones aren't great because they do one thing 100 per cent better than the average person. It's because they do 100 things one per cent better." In rugby terms, Duncan Young personifies this concept. He does everything, and does it all well. He has been a link between the Lions' forwards and backs, regularly playing as either, and has no qualms with taking the ball playing responsibility if needed, even as a forward.
4. Filsone Pauta (Dubbo Kangaroos): One of five NSW Country Cockatoos representatives in this list, Pauta forms one of the Blowes Clothing Cup's deadliest centre pairings with Max Ma'Anelson. Pauta's speed, strength and ability to create opportunities has been one of Dubbo's most potent attacking traits this season.
5. Ted Bates (Dubbo Kangaroos): Bates is the glue which sticks Dubbo together, and unlike many others is effective in everything he does. Not a flashy pivot, rather a reliable one, Bates' underrated running game and subtlety with ball in hand is one reason star centres Filisone Pauta and Max Ma'Anelson have enjoyed so much space in 2014. The competition's form fly-half.
6. Jeremy Montgomery (Cowra Eagles): Montgomery has been Cowra's best for several seasons now, and based on 2014 form would not look out of place in a Central West jersey next season. A back-rower by trade, Montgomery fills in anywhere in the Eagles line up effectively. He has played back-row, centre and fly-half at different times this season and crosses the stripe as often as any other forward the competition.
7. James King (Forbes Platypi): Forbes' skipper, and their inspiration. There is no surprise the Platypi rocketed to fourth on the Blowes Clothing Cup table as soon as King hit his straps. One of the competition's strongest ball-runners, King mixes aggression with intelligence in defence and is one of the quickest in the central west on the ball.
8. Mesui Lemoto (Orange City): A natural inside centre, Lemoto's shift to fly-half has left a little to be desired. Despite his slight struggles to adapt, Lemoto's reliability lends itself to the pivot role. He rarely makes a bad decision, or takes a bad option, and his kicking game is second to none. Each week he becomes more accustomed to his role, and each week the Lions get better.
9. Adam Perri (Orange Emus): Despite his diminutive size, Perri's biggest influence on Emus is his defence. Providing steel through the 10 and 12 channels, Perri rarely misses a tackle. Combine that with his elusive nature, unpredictability and clinical passing and kicking games - Perri being a left footer provides a point of difference - and you have one huge reason for Emus' recent consistency.
10. Peter Nau (Dubbo Kangaroos): What makes Peter Nau so good? Is it his ability as a ball-runner, or maybe his incredible strength on his feet? Could it be his bone-crunching defence, particularly around the ruck, or his flawless line-out throwing? Maybe his ability to play anywhere in any forward pack? Put it all together. A Country Cockatoo, Nau is the competition's best player and has carried 'Roos, and Central West, on his back for years. Nau is turning to quality rather than quaintly with a lowered work-rate in 2014, mainly thanks to those around him lifting, but is still the player every team fears the most.
11. Chris Plunkett (Bathurst Bulldogs): Bulldogs' lone representative, Plunkett has been the Bathurst team's standout performer for years. A Country Cockatoo, his form in 2014 has gone a long way to turning around Bulldogs' season after a slow start. He mixes bone-crunching defence with outstanding ball-running, and is immovable at scrum time.
12. Mahe Fangupo (Parkes Boars): Despite the Boars' horror start to 2014, NSW Country representative Fangupo has been a shining light. His unpredictability, and awareness are his best traits and should Parkes hit their straps in the near future, with Fangupo at the helm they will be a danger side leading into the finals.
13. Tim Alison (Orange Emus): Alison is an old-fashioned inside centre. There is nothing flashy about his game, but Alison is as reliable as any other player in the competition. In 2014 so far, his innate ability to find and get over the advantage line has provided those outside him the luxury of space. Alison has also been outstanding in defence, and at the breakdown when he has been needed there.
14. Max Ma'Anelson (Dubbo Kangaroos): The final cog in Dubbo's quartet of representatives, Ma'Anelson is a wrecking ball. Fly-half Ted Bates frequently unleashes him as a crash-baller, allowing those outside him more space than they know what to do with. Ma'Anelson has been more than a handful to defensive lines in 2014, and almost single handedly dismantled Orange City in round two.
15. Lachie McCutcheon (Narromine Gorillas): McCutcheon's experience is second to none, and his ability to lift his team to another level gets him 15th spot. A bustling back-rower, McCutcheon is a workhorse. He does the one per centers few notice, and regularly punches through opposition with ball in hand.
16. Luke Brown (Narromine Gorillas): Narromine's skipper performs week in, week out. One of the hardest hitters in the competition, Brown mixes his steely defence with a speed on the ball matched by few. His punch with ball in hand has largely been the reason the Gorillas have kept in touch with the top five, as he gets over the advantage line every time he touches the ball. A leader, without whom Narromine would struggle.
17. Josh Tremain (Orange City): The heart and soul of the Lions. Tremain's experience, aggression and never-say-die attitude is nothing short of inspirational to his players. Without Tremain, the Lions look a shadow of the team they normally are, and combined with his ball-running and ruck defence he has been one of Orange City's best so far in 2014. Tremain is unavailable for the next month or so, and the Lions will miss his impact.
18. Nas Havealeta (Orange Emus): Emus' resurgence in 2014 is thanks largely to a dominant scrum, and forward pack providing copious amounts of space for the greens' classy backs, and Havealeta is the one to thank. With Brent Braithwite at tighthead, Emus has searched for a loosehead prop capable of breaking opponents' scrums apart for some time. In 2014, Havealeta has played that role, dominating opposition tightheads all year, and is also the team's primary ball-runner acting as a wrecking-ball around the rucks.
19. Johnny Rathbone (Parkes Boars): A scintillating halfback, Rathbone has not enjoyed the same start to 2014 as previous seasons. While his ability in undeniable, the entire Parkes team has been less than impressive. Despite this, Rathbone continues to have a positive influence on the Boars, and without him they may not have won a game. His sharp passing game, and snipey runs from the back of the ruck has provided Parkes with a much-needed unpredictability in 2014. If the Boars are to improve on their current ninth spot, a huge chunk of the responsibility will fall on Rathbone.
20. Sam Robertson (CSU Bathurst): Another who punches well above his weight, Robertson is the complete lock and is the students' lineout linchpin. He provides a point of difference with the ball in hand, and has acted a fourth back-rower for much of 2014. Robertson has provided CSU with a reliability in the second-row this season, and needs to continue his current form is the students are to compete in the second half of the season.