MURWILLUMBAH hooker Sam Panting could be on his way to a premiership and player of the year award in 2013.
The Mustangs are first on the Northern Rivers Rugby League competition ladder after 12 rounds.
Panting is also four points clear in the NRRRL player of the year award standings.
The next closest is Kyogle front-rower Scott Lavelle and Ballina captain Greg Ryan on 10 points.
Panting won a premiership with Murwillumbah in 2012 and took over the captaincy this season.
The only lowlight for the 25-year-old was missing out on selection in the Northern Rivers representative team this year.
He was overlooked with Ballina rake Andrew Battese the starting hooker.
Battese was the NRRRL player of the year in 2012 but started on the bench for Northern Rivers with Panting ahead of him in the representative side last season.
"I really think they could have found a way to put them both in the team again," Murwillumbah coach Damien Quinn said.
"Sam was filthy that he missed out and was keen as to be a part of it."
Battese has played more at halfback for Ballina this season and hasn't featured as strongly in the player of the year standings.
Five out of the top six players ahead are front-rowers.
Byron Bay pair Simon Kelly and Brett Harvey are tied on nine points along with Kyogle captain-coach Cameron Mulcahy.
Lavelle and Mulcahy have laid a solid platform for the Turkeys to be premiership contenders this season. It is also likely Byron Bay will be there abouts at the end of the season.
If Murwillumbah make the grand final it will be three straight for Panting.
"Sam has been a really good player for a couple of seasons now and deserves his success," Quinn said.
"He gets our player points most weeks and I think he can keep improving.
"He was the obvious choice to captain this year because of his commitment and leadership qualities."
- Murwillumbah 17
- Grafton Ghosts 15*
- Ballina 13
- Kyogle 12*
- Marist Brothers 12
- Evans Head 11
- Byron Bay 11
- Northern United 9
- Mullumbimby 8
- Casino 4
- Lower Clarence 2
- South Grafton 2
* denotes game in hand