Stars on the rise: The Western Youth League's top 20 players

When it comes to bush footy, few regions produce as much talent as Western.

And, despite the impact of COVID-19, this year has shown that in a big way. The Western Youth League was created to give under 18s players a game and it has proved a huge hit.

This weekend the finals begin and Australian Community Media journalists from around the region have put their heads together to produce this list of the 20 best players in the competition.

1 Cody Kelso

Back-row - Orange CYMS

A powerful ball runner who has led CYMS' charge to the competition's finals. Scored one of the tries of the season under lights at Wade Park, too, putting in a kick then chasing it down to score Jarryd Hayne-style against Hawks. Played in Western's Presidents Cup clash last week. A mountain of a teenager. Huge future.

2 Jack Hartwig

Back-row - Forbes

The best forward in the western area. Simple. He started the season slightly slowly but the fan favourite in Forbes has starred in the dominant Magpies pack and regularly drags defenders along with him. One of the most exciting players we have in our region.

3 Noah Ryan

Fullback - Dubbo CYMS

Ryan has taken another his game to a new level from what was an already pretty high base set last season. He's put an inconsistent CYMS on his back at times and broken tackles seemingly at will on his way to score numerous long-range tries. He's been around CYMS' Presidents Cup side as well.

4 Ash Cosgrove

Fullback - Bathurst St Pat's

Easily one of the best backs in the competition. Has that freakish ability to break tackles but maintain his balance, and that makes him a threat from anywhere on the field. Huge part of Pat's finishing top of the eastern pool.

5 Thomas Phillips

Front-row - Forbes

That's right, big Tommy is still playing under 18s. You know exactly what you're going to get from Phillips. A huge amount of work in attack and defence. Arguably more consistent than Hartwig so far this season, Phillips is the kind of player rivals will dread facing in finals.

6 Tyler Colley

Halfback - Bathurst St Pat's

Class, class, class. A left-foot kick and brilliant vision. With a calm head and plenty of rep and finals footy experience, Colley is the key for St Pat's in this post-season.

There's a strong Group 11 presence in this year's top 20.

There's a strong Group 11 presence in this year's top 20.

7 Cooper Taylor

Back-row - Wellington

This one might be a surprise for some but won't be a shock at all to those who have seen the Cowboys this season. There's bigger names in the team but Taylor has exploded onto the scene this year. Huge motor, with a handy off-load and real ability to find the try-line. Someone who can make a difference at finals time.

8 Sonny Knight

Centre - Macquarie

Macquarie finished top of the northern pool thanks to strong performances right across the park but Knight has continually been one of the best. The Nyngan junior continually provides a spark for his side while often taking more hit-ups and making more metres than some of his forwards.

9 Rylee Blackhall

Halfback - Wellington

On his day Blackhall can be the best player in the competition. After being part of Wellington's premiership winning first grade side last year he began 2020 with Penrith. Has got the experience and certainly has the quality to take the Cowboys deep into the competition.

10 Jack O'Neill

Hooker - Bathurst St Pat's

Probably the most underrated member of a St Pat's spine that's the best in Western. O'Neill's service to the likes of Colley and Cosgrove is slick, but his ability to get his forwards on to the ball and over the advantage line has been immense for the blue and whites.

11 Jack Cole

Five-eighth - Orange CYMS

A running five-eighth, and a fast one too. Cole has experience in the Penrith junior rep system - as does backrower Jesse Buchan - and can turn a game on its ear if given the space to do so.

12 Toby Miller

Centre - Parkes

You might not know his name so pay attention. Miler has what it takes. He's been as good as anyone else in the Parkes side but what sets him apart is he's only 15 years old. The nephew of former NRL player Josh Miller, Toby hasn't been overawed at all this year and don't expect that to change at finals time.

13 Zac Williams

Centre - Dubbo CYMS

The kind of player who will be taking what seems an innocuous hit-up before you realise he's broken the line and has run away to score. A dangerous ball-runner out wide, Williams has a happy knack of being in the right place at the right time. There's plenty of quality in the CYMS pack but Williams just keeps improving.

14 Sam Lane

Fullback - Lithgow Workies

This Workies side is just about all under-age, having graduated from the Storm side that won the 2019 Group 10 under 16s premiership. Lane was integral for that side, and has continued to shine despite being a year younger than most in western's tough, eastern pool.

15 Pollack twins

Back-row/lock - Orange Hawks

Probably the two players in this competition who thrive on physicality more than most. Their impact on Hawks this season, when fit to play, has been immense and if both Marlin and Mason can shrug off whatever little niggle they're probably carrying heading into the finals, the two blues are a chance to beat anyone.

16 Dalin Smith

Hooker - Macquarie

Macquarie's forward pack has been key to the side's success this season and a lot of that has to do with the service provided by Smith. A real spark for his side who has playmaking ability as well, Smith will ensure the Raiders don't drop off at finals time.

17 Darcy Leadbitter

Fullback - Forbes

With an outstanding forward pack and quality halves at Forbes, Leadbitter is guaranteed attacking . And he makes them count. A bottom-age player, Leadbitter has piled on the tries this season and can catch any defence napping.

18 Kade Cotter

Prop - Orange Hawks

Has been tremendous up front for the two blues pack in 2020, and will again be a key figure for Hawks as they look to go deep in the post-season.

19 Cody Crisp

Back-row - Parkes

As consistent as they come, Crisp is exactly what you want from a captain. Sets the tone, never stops working and has the ability to break the game open. Parkes might have been a step behind Forbes in the southern pool but a pack featuring Crisp and Finnley Neilsen can't be written off.

20 Braye Porter

Five-eighth - Dubbo CYMS

Has the talent to right towards the top of this list. He's bounced around a few positions so far this season but having settled back into the halves recently he seems settled and able to get his hands on the ball and terrorise defences more. Could easily be the one to take CYMS deep into the finals.


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