And the winner is…

Each October rugby league recognises those players who have excelled at the Man of Steel awards – who will be celebrating this time around? 

As rugby league fans rejoice in the arrival of a new Super League season, Love Rugby League is already casting one eye to the future.

Every year players and coaches gather to acknowledge the competition’s outstanding performers at the Man of Steel awards.

Castleford stand-off Rangi Chase was crowned as the 2011 Man of Steel, holding off strong challengers from both sides of Billinge Lump in the shape of Sam Tomkins and James Roby.

Chase, the North Islander who now regards Airedale as home, was a worthy winner after a season in which his exhilarating combination of footwork and skill bamboozled almost every Super League defence.   

Jonny Lomax capped a remarkable season by picking up the Young Player of the Year award while Sam Tomkins, Roby and Danny Houghton were also honoured.

In just eight months the sport will come together once again to recognise those players who have excelled in Super League XVII.

Love Rugby League forecasts who will be celebrating this time around…

Man of Steel: Sam Tomkins 

Wigan and England fullback Tomkins just missed out on the award last year but it is hard to see him being denied in 2012. Arguably Tomkins still has not reached his full potential which, while frightening for Super League defences, is excellent news for English rugby league. His stealth-like attacks on the opposition try lines have yielded umpteen tries and many defenders simply cannot cope with Tomkins’ speed and elusivity.

Stern challenges are likely to come from James Roby (St Helens), Warrington’s Ben Westwood, Kevin Sinfield (Leeds) while Andy Lynch could be a lively outsider if Hull FC can put last year’s disappointments behind them. 

Young Player of the Year: Tom Burgess

Still aged just 19, the Bradford prop is a toddler in forwards terms but he is already firmly established in the Bulls first team. He is continuing to develop physically and could cause plenty of problems if he can build on an encouraging 2011.

Bulls teammate John Bateman is an exciting talent who will be given a chance to impress while fellow Yorkshire prospects Liam Hood (Leeds) and Daryl Clark (Castleford) also demand attention. Across the Pennines, young Wigan halfback Sam Powell has maturity beyond his years and could cement a first team spot in 2012.

Top Try Scorer: Pat Richards

The Wigan winger missed a fair chunk of 2011 but still finished the campaign with 20 tries from 19 appearances. Richards has consistently been among Super League’s most prolific scorers and, with George Carmont on his inside for one final year, he is almost certain to be among the points again.

Warriors teammates Sam Tomkins and Josh Charnley should rack up plenty of tries as will Leeds and England flyer Ryan Hall. David Hodgson has an impressive try scoring record and could thrive with Hull KR while London’s NRL Grand Final winner Michael Robertson could also be in the mix.

Metre Maker: James Roby

St Helens have had a monopoly on this award since 2007 and last year’s winner Roby is sure to go close once again. He ran for an astounding 5,000 metres last season – over 1,000 more than his nearest challenger.

Castleford prop Danny Nutley was the last non-St Helens player to pick up this prize and the strongest contenders this year are likely to be Wigan duo Sam Tomkins and Pat Richards and Hull FC prop Andy Lynch. Roby’s teammate Anthony Laffranchi could be the most likely to figure out of Super League’s newcomers.

Hit Man: Ian Henderson

Backrowers and hookers tend to dominate this award and Catalans schemer Henderson proved he was one of Super League’s hardest workers last season. He made 1,019 tackles in 2011 and could top that impressive figure this time around.

Hull FC workaholic Danny Houghton topped the tackle charts last season but his role could be set to change under a new coach. Wakefield’s Andy Ellis, Salford back rower Luke Adamson and St Helens hooker James Roby are all likely to be in the mix. Widnes newcomer Scott Moore could be an outside bet, particularly if given the number nine shirt.

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