It is time to look back over the past decade of Super League and pick the best 17 players from this era.
Since 2010, Super League has gone through a number of changes, from licensing, to the Super 8s and Million Pound Game, and finally back to a promotion and relegation format.
Players have come and gone too, legendary figures have hung up their boots, foreign imports have left their mark on the competition, and hot new talent has burst on to the scene, changing the face of the game and the way it is played.
But of those hundreds of players to dazzle us since 2010, 17 have stood head and shoulders above the rest and have earned their spot in our Super League Team of the Decade. Here, we look at the runners and riders for each position, and which athletes have earned the title of the best player in their position over the past ten seasons.
1 Sam Tomkins
Over the past ten years, three full-backs have stood out among the rest. Zak Hardaker’s form at Leeds and Castleford was outstanding, playing a key role in Leeds’ treble-winning season in 2015 and Castleford’s League Leaders’ Shield-winning campaign in 2017. However, off-field misdemeanours have plagued his career but he is starting to get back on track with Wigan right now. Ben Barba was only at St Helens for 18 months but scored a try per game and won the prestigious Steve Prescott Man of Steel award, but failed to guide Saints to any major silverware.
There can only be one winner; Tomkins. He burst on the scene in the late 00s as a skinny half-back at Wigan, but at the turn of the decade switched to full-back and became the league’s most devastating ball-runner. He tore teams to shreds, chalking up 120 tries in four seasons and he won three Grand Finals and two Challenge Cups with the Cherry and Whites, as well as the Man of Steel award in 2012. He returned from a spell in the NRL more experienced and defensively sound, and played a leading role for Wigan as they won the 2018 Grand Final before moving to Catalans.
2 Tommy Makinson
We could reel off the names of 20 wingers who have caused our jaws to drop with super-human feats of speed, agility and finishing over the past ten years. The likes of Josh Charnley, Pat Richards, Denny Solomona, Tom Johnstone and Jermaine McGillvary have all shone in the last decade, but two stand out above the rest.
Makinson won the Golden Boot award in 2018 for being the best international player in the world and he is a fan’s favourite at St Helens. He has scored 132 tries and kicked 108 goals in 231 appearances for Saints
3 Kallum Watkins
The list of centres could go on and on. Ryan Atkins, Joel Moon, Mark Percival, Jake Connor and Oliver Gildart were all in with a shout. But again, there are two who have been a cut above the rest.
Former Leeds centre Watkins. He established himself as the best centre in England from 2012 and a key figure in the Rhinos side. He left for the NRL in 2019 firmly established one of Super League’s top players of the past ten years.
4 Michael Shenton
The Castleford favourite has been a standout centre in Super League for some time. Shenton has scored 169 tries in 368 appearances for Castleford and St Helens, helping the Tigers win the League Leaders’ Shield in 2017.
5 Ryan Hall
Hall rewrote the role of a winger in his time at Leeds, scoring tries for fun and racking up metre after metre in carries. Four Grand Finals and two Challenge Cups later, he was the best winger in Super League this decade.
6 Kevin Sinfield
Since his debut in 2013, George Williams has been a revelation at Wigan, Danny Brough never ceased to impress with his laser-guided kicking game, and Albert Kelly and Rangi Chase both brought the X-factor to Super League, but there could only every really be one winner.
Sinfield, Super League’s record appearance maker and points scorer (by more than 1,000), he captained Leeds Rhinos to three Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups, a World Club Challenge and a historic treble in 2015, as well as being made an MBE and finishing runner-up in the 2015 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. His record speaks for itself. The king of game management, keeping his cool (apart from when he head-butted Luke Dorn!) and leading his team to glory, Sinfield is perhaps the best player ever in the Super League era.
7 Danny McGuire
In the other half-back role, standouts include Luke Gale, Matty Smith and Scott Dureau but again, there was only one candidate.
McGuire is head and shoulders above the rest. He won four Grand Finals with Leeds, playing key roles in each win and in the Rhinos’ two Challenge Cup wins. The ultimate big-game player, he always came up with the goods when it mattered, both at the Rhinos and when he moved to Hull KR. He retired at the end of 2019 as one of the all-time Super League greats.
8 Chris Hill
When Warrington signed Hill from Leigh in 2012, it raised few eyebrows outside of the Lancashire town. But in his first season he won the Challenge Cup, swept the awards at Warrington and was called up by England. He has shone in Primrose and Blue, getting through huge amounts of work and solidifying his position as one of Super League’s premier front-rowers.
9 James Roby
While Danny Houghton has been outstanding for Hull, Micky McIlorum fantastic for Wigan and Paul McShane mercurial for Castleford, there was only one option for hooker.
Put simply, Roby has been the best hooker of the past ten years, and probably in Super League history. Consistently world class week-in, week-out, he is relentless in attack and tireless in defence. Anyone who tries to say he isn’t the best hooker of the last decade is, quite simply, an idiot.
10 Jamie Peacock
Hill’s front-row partner can only be Peacock. Another member of Leeds’ golden generation, Peacock hung up his boots in 2015 as a rugby league legend, before coming out of retirement trying to save Hull KR from the drop the following season. Peacock is the front-rower all young props should look up to and he left the game at the peak of his powers.
11 Gareth Ellis
There have been a lot of good second-rowers in Super League over the past decade – workhorses like Carl Ablett, Liam Farrell and Ben Westwood, and strike runners such as Ben Currie, Zeb Taia and Ben Garcia. The two top back-rowers from the past ten years, however, are a combination of both.
The first is an elder statesman of Super League, who in 2020 will become the first man to have played in four decades. When Ellis signed for Hull FC, he became a talisman for the Airlie Birds and led the club to back-to-back Challenge Cup wins in 2016 and 2017.
12 John Bateman
On the other side of the back-row is Bateman. He burst on to the scene as a 17-year-old at Bradford in 2011, carving out a reputation as a rough and ready, but extremely capable player. He then moved to Wigan, where he matured in to one of the best players in the league. Now plying his trade in the NRL, he picked up where he left off as one of the standout players in the NRL in 2019.
13 Sean O’Loughlin
Over the past decade the role of a loose forward has become further muddled. Some are utilised as an extra prop, some as an extra pivot, and others simply a workhorse. O’Loughlin stands out above the rest as a combination of all three.
A one-club man, he has gotten better with age throughout the decade, able to cover in the halves, make big yards with the ball in hand and dish out some pain in defence. He is Wigan’s inspirational captain, his absence is huge when he isn’t playing, and becoming his nation’s captain shows the kind of player he has grown into. He will play his final season of his career with the Warriors in 2020.