For many years we’ve named a team comprised of the best of the Billy Wallace Best & Fairest standings, and our seventh edition for 2019 is no different.
There’re a few curiosities in this year’s competition, where the 3-2-1 scoring was again allocated by the match officials. Traditionally the domain of big ball-carrying loose forwards and prominent mobile hookers both are largely absent from the top of the standings this year. But there’s a young and exciting back division and a solid front-row that we reckon would set an ideal platform for them to operate from. And once again we’ve named a reserves bench to complement our starters.
The team is headed by this year’s winner in Tawa’s Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, whose 21 points saw him have the title wrapped up before the playoffs ahead of fellow halfback Logan Henry (Petone) with 18 who takes a place on our bench. Old Boys-University pivot Dale Sabbagh scored seven points in the last three weeks to finish third on 16.
Our selection criterion is based on who was awarded the most points in each position throughout the season, and for the most part, players in this team have been selected in the position that they played most of their games in.
Thirteen of the seasons top 15 points-scorers make the cut. The unlucky duo are Ories’ Malo Manuao who was beaten out at first-five by Sabbagh, as was MSP’s James Proctor.
Perhaps as a testament to their remarkable depth Jubilee Cup champions Norths have just one player in this selection in Bruce Kauika-Petersen. He might have started the Jubilee Cup on the blindside flank, but most of his appearances came at hooker and that is where he is named here. Club captain Parekura Lalaga also tallied 8 points but was beaten out for a place by a point by his opposite on Saturday, Wainuiomata’s Greg Lealofi. Lealofi is joined by clubmates Matt Jacobs and Josh Robertson-Weepu.
OBU leads the way with five selections, two more than Petone and Wainuiomata with three each. Avalon and the Upper Hutt Rams are the only teams not represented in this side. No previous Billy Wallace winner makes the cut for this year either.
Remarkably, neither Swindale winners Hutt Old Boys Marist nor Andy Leslie Trophy winners Oriental-Rongotai garner more than a single selection, and neither are starters.
With Hardham Cup matches also accruing points for the second successive year, seven of the fifteen starters played the second half of their season in that competition; OBU quartet Sabbagh and veteran tight forwards Jonathan Fuimaono, Finnbarr Kerr-Newell, and Agustin Escalona, MSP winger Willie Schutz, Wellington Axeman James Poloniati, and perhaps the most eye-catching of all Paremata-Plimmerton’s Peni Taupau who edged Teariki Ben-Nicholas at No8. One other Hardham player – Johnsonville’s versatile Jacob Walmsley – makes the bench.
Just one player returns from last years starting XV, with Wainuiomata’s Peter Umaga-Jensen named this time at centre after being on the wing in the 2018 and 2016 editions. Kerr-Newell is also named as a starter for a third time (2015/16), while others who have been previously named are Sabbagh (2016) and Roberston-Weepu (2014). HOBM’s James O’Reilly is named in the 22 for a fourth time, though we only added reserves in 2016.
190 different players received Best & Fairest points this season. Seven of those received their only points on the seasons Opening Day headlined by Ories’ Steven Va’a who scored three points for his four tries against Pare-Plim. At the other end of the scale four players got their only points of the season in the playoff games including MSP prop Tui Tuiatua who received the three points for the Hardham Cup final.
2019 was the 54th year of the award, which was first won in 1966 by the Athletic club’s All Black flanker Tom Lister.
The 2019 Billy Wallace Best & Fairest Wellington club rugby Team of the Year, with their points accumulated in brackets with their club:
- Finnbarr Kerr-Newell (6 – Old Boys-University)
- Bruce Kauika-Petersen (8 – Northern United)
- Jonathan Fuimaono (6 – Old Boys-University)
- James Poloniati (13 – Wellington)
- Agustin Escalona (11 – Old Boys-University)
- Greg Lealofi (9 – Wainuiomata)
- Matt Jacobs (5 – Wainuiomata)
- Peni Taupau (11 – Paremata-Plimmerton)
- Kemara Hauiti-Parapara (21 – Tawa)
- Dale Sabbagh (16 – Old Boys-University)
- Nick Robertson (8 – Poneke)
- Jarrod Adams (8 – Petone)
- Peter Umaga-Jensen (12 – Wainuiomata)
- Willie Schutz (13 – Marist St Pats)
- Josh Robertson-Weepu (11 – Wainuiomata)
- James O’Reilly (5 – Hutt Old Boys Marist)
- Sitiveni Paongo (5 – Tawa)
- Tuakana Metuarau (4 – Oriental-Rongotai)
- Teariki Ben-Nicholas (10 – Old Boys-University)
- Logan Henry (18 – Petone)
- Jacob Walmsley (13 – Johnsonville)
- Viliami Fine (9 – Petone)