The dust has settled on another sensational Blowes Clothing Cup season and with the 2019 title race's crescendo, another decade of Central West Rugby Union's top tier came to a close as well.
All of Central West's competitions have transformed dramatically since the turn of the decade and while it hasn't been exempt from that change, as the region's pinnacle the Blowes Clothing Cup has remained a constant.
The status quo has, of course, shifted time and again since 2010 but for the most part the last decade was dominated by two or three clubs, Orange City and Emus in particular, the two sides combining to win five of the last 10 premierships.
They've made a handful of other grand final appearances too and it's undeniable the two clubs have been the pick of the bunch in the last decade, with Bathurst Bulldogs, Forbes and the Dubbo Kangaroos also tasting premiership success.
Using his knowledge of teammates and rivals along with input from some of the region's best judges, he's broken the last 10 years down to select the absolute best of the best, the cream of the crop, the team of the decade.
Such is the last decade's plethora of individual talent, there would simply be too many names to list as honourable mentions and too many players to fit into eight spots on a bench, but without further adieu, we present the Central Western Daily's Blowes Clothing Cup Team Of The Decade.
1 | CHARLIE FRENCH (Forbes Platypi)
French beats out a host of indomitable props like Amoni Vea, Nas Havealeta, Nathan Short and even Heamani Lavaka - more on the latter later - but for me he's been more than good enough to take the loosehead spot here.
Played colts with the Platypi before moving to Armidale for university, where he won his first NSW Country jersey in 2016 before landing back at Forbes the year after, he's been a mainstay in the Cockatoos side since.
His return bolstered Forbes' pack considerably in 2017 and after they were beaten grand finalists the year before and it was their scrum that faltered in the clutch, it's hardly a coincidence they won the title in French's first year back at the club as he bolstered their set-piece dramatically.
He's remained the premier loosehead prop in the competition and was a crucial part of Central West's Caldwell Cup triumph in 2019, the only fault you could find is that he can't really shift over to tighthead.
Outside that, you'd struggle to find a more complete prop.
2 | PETER NAU (Dubbo Kangaroos)
There's been plenty - and I mean plenty - of outstanding hookers across the last decade but Nau stands head and shoulders above his chasing rivals, and he fittingly finished his time at Roos by skippering the side to a premiership in 2014.
He didn't lose a game in Roos' colours that year, the only defeats the side suffered on their way to the title came when Nau was on representative duty, and that's a fair indication of his influence.
He won a Caldwell Cup with Central West that season and he was a mainstay in that side and the NSW Country Cockatoos during his time with Roos, he also featured in the Combined Country side that faced the British and Irish Lions in 2013.
He moved on to link with Intrust Super Shute Shield club Randwick in 2015 and spent time in the NSW Country Eagles' National Rugby Championship outfit after that too.
While that can't really come into consideration for this side, it came after he dominated the Blowes Clothing Cup for four seasons, he's a no-brainer.
3 | CHRIS PLUNKETT (Bathurst Bulldogs)
He was a massive influence on Bulldogs' premiership win that opened the decade in 2010, and continued to dominate opposition bookends for a number of years after that, although he has seemingly finished his time in the top grade now.
Predominantly a loosehead and admittedly never shifted across all that often, but he's the top of charts in terms of props across the last 10 years and he can't be left in the cold, I personally have just about had my back broken by him a couple of times in scrums too.
His strength was always at the set-piece during his time in the Blowes Clothing Cup but also had one of the higher work-rates among the competition's front-rowers, which earned him the status as the premier prop for a number of years.
A regular for Central West and NSW Country across his time, he although it fell outside the last decade he first earned a Cockatoos jersey in 2009, Plunkett was a crucial cog in the Blue Bulls' 2014 Caldwell Cup triumph as well.
4 | NICK HUGHES-CLAPP (Orange Emus, CSU Bathurst)
Was always among the best locks in the Blowes Clothing Cup during his time with the Mitchell Men and, after linking with junior club Emus in 2014 following a stint in Sydney with Warringah, developed into the competition's premier second-rower.
Emus' set-piece has been a huge reason they've been so successful over the past six years and that's Hughes-Clapp's domain, he's the greens' lineout general - championing simplicity and speed as the crucial aspects - and his presence at scrum-time can't be underestimated.
Gangly and huntsman-like on the carry, he's a handful with ball in hand and has also earned a reputation as somewhat of a hitman defensively in recent years, with his three premierships deserved reward after spending plenty of years at Endeavour Oval while the side was struggling prior to 2010.
Has always been a mainstay for Central West and has earned NSW Country honours in recent years too.
5 | DAN RYAN (Parkes Boars)
Possibly the toughest position to fill with a handful of superb locks leftover to take the No.5 jersey, particularly former NSW Country and Bulldogs skipper Matt Waterford.
But with consistency and longevity in his favour through the last decade Ryan forces his way in, and when you look at his resume it's hard to argue.
Was gigantic in Parkes' premiership win in 2011 and their grand final appearance the following year too and he's been a steadfast fixture for Central West and NSW Country too, one of few who played in both of the Blue Bulls' Caldwell Cup wins in 2014 and 2019.
Due to work and family commitments he's not played all that consistently for the Boars in recent years but in a show of his loyalty to the club, he still turns out whenever he possibly can.
Was earmarked for NSW Country Eagles honours in the inaugural National Rugby Championship in 2014, before turning out for their development side along with a handful of other Central West stars.
6 | HUGH MEDWAY (CSU Bathurst)
This one might surprise some more recent Blowes Clothing Cup fans, considering the students are now in the second tier, New Holland Agriculture Cup, but anyone who played with or against Medway knows exactly how good he was.
Played well above his weight on the side of the students' scrum and Central West's, he won a Caldwell Cup title with the latter in 2014 and despite being undersized was arguably the Blue Bulls' best forward in that campaign.
He was one of the few players opposition sides were forced to be constantly aware of, such was the threat he posed with and without the ball, particularly at the breakdown, as you'd expect from a highly-touted flanker, of course.
Medway's influence was a huge reason the Mitchell Men returned to the finals in 2012, and he went on to win the player-of-the-year in 2014, a year his side finished eighth.
7 | WAYNE MILLER (Orange City Lions)
Miller joined Orange City in 2010 from the Illawarra region and, in fact, he helped that side end Central West's country championship dream the year prior.
Miller - wonderfully nicknamed 'The Wayne Train' by this publication - was at the centre of the Lions' remarkable climb from eighth in 2009 to third in 2010, and after consistently being their best week-in, week-out that year he was crowned player-of-the-year.
You'd expect him to have been instrumental in the Lions' 2012 and 2013 premierships, wouldn't you?
He didn't play in either and, incredibly considering his reputation in the region, 2010 was the only year of this decade he consistently played in the top grade for the Lions.
He's made brief appearances since, mostly in 2018 and 2019, but such was his influence in his only full year with the Lions he wins the No.7 jersey in this side, and easily. The competition's not seen a better flanker since Miller.
8 | HAYDEN TIDSWELL (Bathurst Bulldogs)
Locked Bulldogs' scrum in their 2010 premiership win before spending two years playing in the Netherlands and another in the 13-man code, landing back at Anne Ashwood Park in 2014 and having an immediate impact to boot.
Not just for his club either, he was a huge part of Central West's Caldwell Cup triumph that year and deservedly earned a Cockatoos jersey that year too, and was named in the NSW Country Eagles' initial, wider squad for that year's inaugural National Rugby Championship too.
Representative honours aside, Tidswell was unbelievably damaging for Bulldogs. He could tear any side apart with ball in hand, and did it on plenty of occasions too, so much so there's not been many more damaging ball carriers in the competition over the last 10 years.
Tidswell actually returned to rugby league with the Cowra Magpies the year after, in 2015, but he made more than enough of an impact in his two seasons at Bulldogs to earn the No.8 spot in this side.
9 | MAHE FANGUPO (Forbes Platypi, Parkes Boars)
Despite being among a stellar cast of halves it's impossible to look past Mahe Fangupo because, simply, success follows him wherever he goes.
He was the catalyst for Parkes' premiership win in 2011 and led them to the grand final the year after as well, when the Boars were beaten by Orange City,
He inspired Forbes' title triumph in 2017 and was the main reason the Platypi made an appearance in the decider the year prior as well.
Couple those title wins with his pair of Caldwell Cup wins with the Central West Blue Bulls and all his NSW Country selections too, and you've got your halfback.
Granted, he has played a lot of five-eighth too, but as I've said a million times before, he's a better halfback.
10 | MICHAEL SPARKS (Orange City Lions)
One of the few genuine five-eighths since the turn of the decade, with a lot of sides turning to makeshift play-makers who are more-suited to other positions during that period.
Didn't play in 2011 as the Lions rolled to the preliminary final but it was bleedingly obvious that season the one thing they were missing was a five-eighth to direct traffic, and control the tempo.
It can't be underestimated how daunting a task directing traffic in those sides would've been too, with so many out-and-out guns and big, big personalities - too many chefs, as they say.
Fortunately for Orange City, the rest of the backline played sous to Sparks' head chef role and while they took pressure off him, those sides were undoubtedly his.
Oh, he captained those sides too, taking over from the injury Josh Maley in 2012 and taking the reins the season after.
11 | SIONE 'JUNIOR' LAFO'OU (Orange City Lions)
Was anyone in the last 10 years more damaging than Sione 'Junior' Lafo'ou?
No, the answer is no, he was a freak.
He only spent three seasons at Pride Park in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and if you can believe it, thanks to injury, he largely spent the first of those in second grade.
But there's simply no other way to put it, if he wasn't there in 2012 and 2013 there's a very, very real chance Orange City doesn't win either of those premierships.
The Lions were far from a one-man band but Lafao'ou was easily the side's most dangerous prospect, boasting incredible strength, speed and a ridiculous ability to score from anywhere on the field... which he often did, seemingly for fun.
If you needed any more indication of just how good he was, in 2012 he made 17 appearances in the top grade and scored 29 tries, and went without in two of those games as well.
12 | FILISIONE PAUTA (Dubbo Kangaroos)
Even though he's largely played outside centre he's impossible to leave out, such was his impact for Roos between 2013 and 2016 - he shifted to the Geurie Goats in the lower tiers after that - Pauta demands selection in this side's centres.
While he did, at times, fall into the trap of fading in and out of games that never came during a big occasion and even when he did go quiet, there was always the fear he'd flick that switch at any given moment, an intimidating thought for opposition sides.
Simply, when he did flick that switch or decide to go from the start, he was impossible to stop. Still is, actually, as was proven in his performance for Central West during the Blue Bulls' Caldwell Cup win in 2019.
He was on hand for Central West's win in 2014 too, the same year he helped inspire Roos to the Blowes Clothing Cup premiership - looking back, that was a pretty incredible Dubbo side too.
Insanely strong, equally as crafty and with the defensive prowess and nous of a flanker, even when it didn't look like he was trying Pauta still appeared a class above in the Blowes Clothing Cup.
13 | NIGEL STANIFORTH (Orange Emus - captain)
An automatic selection both at outside centre and as skipper here, his time in charge at Emus has coincided with the last decade's most dominant period for any club, with the greens playing in the last six grand finals and winning three of them.
His shift to fullback in recent years caused a slight conundrum in where to play him, but he's spent most of his time at outside centre since linking with the club in 2012 after bringing his professional career to an end.
Although 2019 was arguably the three-time Shute Shield champion's best year in green and that came while controlling the play from the back, his older brother Graydon demands the fullback spot, you'll read why shortly.
He did battle injury in first couple of seasons at Endeavour Oval but with the bigger picture in mind he persevered, coming out the other side to help instill the culture and attitude that led Emus out of the doldrums and to one of the most successful periods in the club's history.
14 | CARTER HIRINI (Orange Emus)
He's played plenty of centre and fullback for Emus over the years and actually won a premiership from five-eighth in 2016, but he's been the competition's best winger behind only Lafo'ou in the last 10 years.
With raw speed - there's no denying he's been on the quickest to take the field in the last decade - one his biggest assets the flying Kiwi has scored a mountain of tries for the greens, so much so we'd wager he wouldn't even remember how many times he's touched down.
Despite that I actually think the best part of his game was, and still is his defence, seeing anyone leave Hirini for dead on the wing was as rare a phenomena as would ever occur on a rugby field in the region.
Put him on the end of this backline and he'd have an absolute field day.
15 | GRAYDON STANIFORTH (Orange Emus)
I can comfortably say the elder Staniforth brother is the best I've played with, and against.
He's 45 now and if I was selecting the Central West and NSW Country sides, I'd still pick him in both, and tip him to dominate at those levels, that's how highly I rate him at fullback... or anywhere else in the backline for that matter.
He arrived at Emus in 2012 alongside his younger brother, after also winding down his professional career that included stints in New Zealand, Scotland, England and France, he also played Australian Sevens as well.
Technically he's coached more at Emus than played in the last decade, taking an assistant role in 2013 before returning to the field full-time in 2015 and promptly helping inspire the side's first title win in more than a decade.
He was 41 at the time, and was the best player in the competition. Always looked like he was in slow motion with ball in hand, the competition's not seen a better kicking game than his in recent years and he, quite frankly, made defenders look stupid for fun.
He could've set foot on a field for just 20 seconds and he'd have still been the first-picked in this side.
COACH | HEAMANI LAVAKA (Forbes Platypi, Parkes Boars)
The coaching teams of Paul Ringland and Jeremy Wallace at Emus or Steve Hamson and Mick Gray at Orange City could easily earn a shout here, such was the two clubs' dominance over the past decade but take this into consideration.
Small-town teams don't win the Blowes Clothing Cup, that's legitimately almost a fact, since 1970 just four have won Central West Rugby Union's top flight title.
He was also a player in Parkes' victory and was a shout to start in this side too, but he must be considered one of the region's smartest coaches, certainly in this decade, and the monumental nature of leading not one but two small-town teams to titles just can't be ignored.
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