Thirteen men have been named as Super League’s best this season. It is an accolade that not only demonstrates the quality now spanning Super League from position 1 to position 14 but also the diversity in age, club and position.
There is no doubt about it: Super League has improved and so have the players. This season has been so competitive there are enough players worth mentioning to create two Dream Teams.
But individually several players have stood out. Journalists and broadcasters have been given the job of selecting their thirteen top players and today’s announcement was relatively unsurprising.
Brett Hodgson has been a fantastic signing for Huddersfield Giants, and a good captain to boot. He is instrumental in everything the team – both defensive and offensive – do. Mentions for Shaun Briscoe and Brent Webb deserve to be included but Hodgson sweeps the floor for the full-back role.
The backline picks itself. Peter Fox has improved considerably since his move from Wakefield to Hull KR and given space and room is a deadly and potent finisher. Perhaps overlooked though is Dave Halley of Bradford. It is easy to stand out in a good team, but it’s much harder to stand out in a side underperforming. Halley began this season on loan at Wakefield and his performances earnt him a recall back to Bradford where he has shown just how much potential and ability he has.
Leroy Cudjoe’s form over the second half of the season could have given him a slight chance of making the wing spot too, whilst there is always a mention for Scott Donald and Ade Gardner but Fox has been much better than these two.
In the centre, Matt Gidley has been consistent and you can’t overlook that old stalwart Keith Senior, whose decision to quit the international scene to focus on club rugby looks to have given him a new lease of life. Love him or loathe him, he has performed like a spring chicken this season and his combination with Ryan Hall, also named in the side, has proved to be the deadliest wing-centre combination in the league. Hall’s place was cemented long ago with the 21-year-old scoring 28 tries this season.
Now the controversy: it is the forwards and half-back combination that look to have been causing the most debate. Stand-off Sam Tomkins? Scrum-half Michael Dobson? Well, each to their own.
Tomkins has been an undoubted star in the Wigan side and look to be certain of an England shirt. He can humiliate defences and really hurt them when he gets going. Perhaps St Helens’ form has cost Leon Pryce of a place in the thirteen though? He always seems to impress me for Saints, but his form over the second half of the season, coupled with Saints’ form looks to have given Tomkins the edge in the journalist choices. A brief mention for Rangi Chase of Castleford is deserved too. Again, consistency has cost him of a place, but when he is on form it is hard to stop him.
Dobson at scrum-half is a questionable choice for me. He has won the Albert Goldthorpe Medal in the League Express, but it would be interesting to see just how many points were won over the first 14 games, and how many in the last 13 games. On his day, linking with Paul Cooke, he is the best scrum-half in the league. But has he really been more consistent than Danny Brough or Rob Burrow? Brough has a superb kicking game and I have a feeling if he was playing in a Saints or Leeds shirt, he would have been included.
The front row of Jamie Peacock, Scott Moore and Adrian Morley is again a simple choice. But the omission of James Graham leads a lot to be desired. He is the best prop in this league without a doubt, so why his exclusion? Has Morley really been better than Graham over the whole season? Sorry, but not for me!
The Hull KR pairing of Ben Galea and Clint Newton in the second-row is again one of those decisions where it could so easily have been different. Steve Menzies is worthy of a place and it is a shame you cannot include four interchanges. Menzies edges Galea out for me.
And onto the final position: loose-forward. The choice of Kevin Sinfield looks to have just been a choice of consistency rather than someone who has stood out. There is no doubting his quality, but has he really, again, been better than Sean O’Loughlin?
The Wigan captain has led from the front this season and looks to have really upped his game to put him in contention for an England spot in the Four Nations.
Jason Demetriou deserves a mention for his contributions to Wakefield this season. He has played in adversity, losing his close friend and teammate Adam Watene, not forgetting the loss of youngster Leon Walker too. I am a big fan of Demetriou’s: his whole worth ethic, determination and energy means he is deserving of a place in the side. Shame the team is not picked on sentimental value only!