Second of January 2018 already and my top top favourites of '17 have not yet been finalised. Well, we'll sort that out right away. Happy new year everyone. I sincerely hope your 2018 is peaceful, happy and prosperous.
It has been so difficult to work out which of the 100 or so contained in last week's long list would end up in a much shorter shortlist. Using criteria which is a mix of photographic technique and sentimentality, over the last couple of days I've managed to whittle it down to twenty. Here they are:
And which are the very best? The top three? It really is so very difficult. I could make a case for either choosing or eliminating almost very one. So far I've made the selections by removing the ones I don't want rather than selecting the ones I do. Now it's time to be positive. Here goes.
Photographing the Red Roses at Bishop Burton was such a highlight for me. It was a really special day. However, I'm also choosing this as one of the top three as it kind of reflects the effort and determination needed to get to the very top in the game.
This one of Doncaster Knights' Charlie Foy is selected because I think I got it right technically. Everything's sharp, even the moving ball. The composition's fine, there's drama, and his face has turned enough for it to be lit by the sun.
The third could be my overall favourite. Again, it works technically but it also sums up what the game is all about, for me anyway. The ball is in view, passed by the Tynedale player a split second before she's tackled by the West Park Leeds players whose fierce expression reflects the passion of this hotly contested Under 15 Final.
But I could be completely wrong. Let me know what you think. Judging by Instagram the portrait of Tom Halliday is the winner, with 225 likes at the time of writing. Anyway, thanks so much to all the players I've photographed in 2017 - women and men, girls and boys of all abilities. You're all rugby players and you have my utmost respect and admiration. Onward and upward through 2018!
Just in case you've not seen enough, here are the ones which didn't quite make it to the shortlist