Ranking Super League’s 7 best wingers of all-time and where departing St Helens stalwart Tommy Makinson ranks amongst them

Ben Olawumi
Tommy Makinson, Ryan Hall, Lesley Vainikolo

From left to right: Tommy Makinson, Ryan Hall & Lesley Vainikolo

As club chairman Eamonn McManus correctly pointed out, Tommy Makinson will forever be known as ‘one of St Helens’ greatest-ever wingers’, but that got us thinking, is he the best-ever in Super League?

After a few months of speculation, Saints confirmed Makinson would be departing the club at the end of the season over the weekend just gone.

The 32-year-old – a product of the Red V’s academy – is yet to have his next destination made official, but it is widely believed to be French outfit Catalans Dragons.

Below, we take a look at the seven greatest Super League wingers of all-time (in our opinion!) and rank them, with Makinson included.

If you think we’ve missed anyone, or even got the order wrong, let us know! We’ll put our tin hats on..

7. Jermaine McGillvary

Jermaine McGillvary Alamy
Jermaine McGillvary in action for Huddersfield Giants in 2023

McGillvary being let go by Huddersfield Giants at the end of last season came as a bit of a shock, we just never pictured him in another club’s shirt!

Debuting for his hometown club in 2010, it took until the following year to establish himself, but from then onwards for more than a decade, he was the go-to man.

209 tries for Huddersfield in 312 appearances, picking up 21 caps between England and Great Britain along the way, almost untouchable in the 2017 World Cup. He doesn’t have a lot of silverware to show for it on his CV, no doubt because of his loyalty to the Giants, but the 36-year-old is a certified Super League great.

6. Ade Gardner

It’s the same with Makinson. You don’t retain your spot as one of Saints‘ wingers for a long period of time unless you’ve got some absolute gold at your fingertips.

Gardner was bought by the Red V from hometown club Barrow Raiders ahead of 2002 and went on to score 173 tries in 286 appearances for the club before retiring in 2014, never permanently let go over the course of those 12 years.

Winning the Grand Final in 2006, and subsequently the 2007 World Club Challenge, he – and Saints – were denied more Super League titles by only a sublime Leeds Rhinos side who dominated that era. Another England international in this ranking, too.

5. Josh Charnley

Josh Charnley Leigh Leopards Alamy
Leigh Leopards winger Josh Charnley celebrating a try in 2024

The first of three current Super League players in this ranking, and we have to admit, if Charnley hadn’t spent those few years in rugby union, we think he’d be higher up the list.

Wherever he’s gone, the 32-year-old has scored tries, reaching the milestone of 300 in his career as he completed a brace for Leigh Leopards against Salford Red Devils a few weeks ago.

It’s easy to forget the winners’ medals he has at home – a three-time Super League champion and four-time Challenge Cup winner, ending as Super League’s top try-scorer twice and undoubtedly, by the time he retires, he’ll have the record for all-time Super League tries. One of the best to ever come out of this country.

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4. Tommy Makinson

Here he is, the man that inspired this article. When you see the names in front of Makinson, we think (and hope!) you’ll understand why we’ve put him fourth, but don’t let that overshadow just how highly we rate him.

He will undoubtedly go down as one of Super League’s best ever, and we’d argue probably Saints’ best ever. To make over 300 appearances for one club takes some doing, and by the time the end of this season comes around, that tally will be closer to 350.

Needing just one more try to reach 200 while donning the Red V, the 32-year-old deserves his shot at a few ‘golden years’ in the south of France, and will depart Saints having been part of one of their most successful eras ever. The only surprise is that he doesn’t have more than 12 England caps.

3. Pat Richards

Pat Richards
Pat Richards scores a try for Wigan Warriors during the Good Friday derby against St Helens in 2013

The first non-Englishman on this list, Australian Richards joined Wigan Warriors in 2006 and ended up being a driving force in what turned out to be a revival, winning six major honours in the seven seasons he spent at the club including two Super League titles.

Named Man of Steel in 2010, Richards scored 168 tries in 224 appearances as well as kicking 896 goals. Only now chief executiveKris Radlinski has more tries for the Warriors in the Super League era, and only Andy Farrell has more goals in the same period, with the latter also the only man with more overall points scored for the Cherry and Whites in the summer era.

Now 42, the seven-time Ireland international had already established himself as one of Super League’s greats out on the flank before returning for a spell at Catalans at the end of his career, adding another 21 appearances, nine tries and a whopping 75 goals to his tally in just one season. They don’t make many like him any more.

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2. Lesley Vainikolo

Bradford Bulls knew what they were doing when they brought this man over, what a player. Vainikolo arrived at Odsal and linked up with the then-Super League champions ahead of the 2002 season from Canberra Raiders. Making an instant impact, the Kiwi international scored in the World Club Challenge victory against then-NRL kings Newcastle Knights in January.

That was a sign of things to come, and after an injury-hit first season in the British game, the Tonga-born ace never looked back, absolutely rampant in the years which followed. 39 tries in 2004 and 34 the year after, just ridiculous numbers.

Scoring six in one Super League game against Hull FC in ’05, which was a record until Bevan French scored seven for Wigan against the same opponents in 2022, Vainikolo ended his time at Odsal with 149 tries in just 152 Bulls appearances, frightening! Let’s not forget, he went on to impress hugely in rugby union afterwards, and not many league players can say that.

1. Ryan Hall

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Ryan Hall in action for Hull KR in 2024

To be honest, we were torn between Vainikolo and Hall, but the latter takes our number one spot on the basis of longevity. He had a crack at the NRL, but the vast majority of his career has been spent in Super League, and that reflects in the tallies he’s able to boast on his CV.

Hall will no doubt become Super League’s all-time top try-scorer in the next few weeks, already the highest scoring winger in the competition’s history. We’re now 17 years on from his debut for Leeds Rhinos, and he’ll return to Headingley to round off his career in 2025, a full circle moment confirmed ahead of his 37th birthday which is coming up in November.

A ridiculously long list of honours against his name, both individual and team, including four Super League Dream Team inclusions and six Super League titles. 39 tries in 45 England appearances, the latter tally equalled by only James Graham and bettered by nobody, as well as two run outs in the colours of Great Britain.

In the British club game, it’s 287 tries in 417 appearances and counting for the Oulton Raiders junior. The greatest to ever do it in Super League, in our opinion. A great shame it didn’t work out for him Down Under, but selfishly, it’s been incredible to watch him kill it over here for as long as he has done.

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