7 standout players in the Championship so far this season

Ben Olawumi
Mitch Souter, Tom Gilmore, Lachlan Walmsley

From left to right: Bradford Bulls' Mitch Souter, Widnes Vikings' Tom Gilmore & Wakefield Trinity's Lachlan Walmsley

Five rounds of the 2024 Championship season have come and gone, with the action from Round 6 already underway.

Below, we take a look at seven players who have stood out to us from what we’ve seen in the second tier so far. Six different clubs are represented, with five of those ex-Super League outfits!

Cory Aston (Sheffield Eagles)

Cory Aston
Sheffield Eagles’ Cory Aston in action against Wigan Warriors in the Challenge Cup

The Eagles have enjoyed a stunning start to the campaign, winning five out of five. Pretty much no one externally expected them to reach such heights, and a big reason as to why they have is half-back Aston.

You only had to watch their Challenge Cup clash with Wigan Warriors to see how much he makes them tick. The son of head coach Mark, Corey is an absolutely pivotal cog in Sheffield’s team, and that shows with his own points contributions. 60 so far this year in the league alone, we can’t wait to see how long the Eagles are going to be able to carry on soaring.

Tom Gilmore (Widnes Vikings)

It’s a similar story at Widnes, where Allan Coleman took charge in the off-season just gone. They’ve kickstarted this season with just one defeat in their first five, exceeding the expectations of most having underachieved for a number of years. Gilmore is a big part of their success, pulling the strings and already tying opposition defences in knots a good few times this season.

Returning to his hometown club ahead of the 2023 season, the 30-year-old managed just 17 appearances. If Coleman and his team can ensure they have him available more often than that this year, the Chemics will likely enjoy more success this year than they have of late. A player we rate really highly.

Connor Jones (Featherstone Rovers)

Connor Jones
Connor Jones (playing the ball) in action for Featherstone Rovers in 2024

With all the star talent that’s passed through the doors at Post Office Road across the last few seasons, Jones – in our opinion – has been a really underrated star in Featherstone‘s ranks. His try tally has been above 20 for the last two seasons, causing havoc with his runs from dummy half.

That’s not changed this year, all that has – really – is a bit less star quality around him allowing him to stand out a bit more. The 28-year-old – who has experience in the Queensland Cup – has already reached double figures for tries this season with four in the first five league games. He’s also one of just five Rovers players not to have missed a Championship clash so far this year.

Max Jowitt (Wakefield Trinity)

When Trinity were relegated, Jowitt stood out amongst the few that remained as someone that could light up the Championship, and boy has he! The full-back is the second tier’s highest points scorer, which you might expect given he takes conversions for a side who inevitably score a lot of tries, but he’s chipped in with plenty of four-pointers himself too.

Only five Wakefield players have featured in all six of their league games so far, beating Toulouse Olympique 28-12 at Belle Vue on Saturday to kick off the Round 6 action. With Daryl Powell’s side now six from six, Jowitt grabbed another try and kicked four goals in that victory, undisputedly one of the best players in the second tier this season.

Mitch Souter (Bradford Bulls)

Mitch Souter
Bradford Bulls’ Mitch Souter

Bradford haven’t had a blistering start, winning two and losing two of the first five, but Souter has been a peg above the rest at Odsal, in our opinion! It’s common knowledge that the young Australian, who made the move from Down Under ahead of this season, is already attracting Super League interest.

That comes as no surprise given the performances the hooker has put in, announcing his arrival with a try in the Bulls’ first home game of the season against Halifax Panthers back in March. He’s continued to shine since, even in defeat, and we’d be very surprised if Bradford don’t have a job on their hands to retain him.

Maxime Stefani (Toulouse Olympique)

If Bradford’s start hasn’t been blistering, Toulouse’s has been dreadful. Many – including us here at Love Rugby League – tipped last season’s beaten Grand Finalists to be competing with Wakefield at the top, and they simply haven’t met expectation in any sense of the word with four defeats from their first six.

Second-rower Stefani has been a bit of a shining light amongst some poor performances so far though, grabbing four tries including one in Saturday’s defeat at Belle Vue. Now 26, the forward will surely harbour hopes of earning a first-ever senior France cap when England visit the Stade Ernest-Wallon in June. That’s if he’s not playing for Toulouse that day, of course!

Lachlan Walmsley (Wakefield Trinity)

Lachlan Walmsley
Lachlan Walmsley has continued to score tries for fun since his move to Wakefield Trinity

It felt inevitable that Walmsley would be head and shoulders above the rest of the wingers in the Championship this year having signed for the heavy pre-season favourites. Just as he did for Halifax, he’s continued to possess a ridiculous try-scoring ability in Wakefield colours, now on 10 in the league alone this year.

The Australia-born Scotland international has already scored three or more tries twice in the Championship in 2024, scoring 16 in 12 appearances across all competitions. That’s despite not scoring in five of those 12 games, so it’s 16 in seven games. Ridiculous figures, ridiculous talent to be in the second tier.