It’s the first ever readers’ awards and the first category is Player of the Year.
3. Jonny Lomax
Such was St Helens’ dominance in Super League this season, it was hard for any of their players to gain individual recognition as they were far superior as a collective, rather than having a handful of stand out stars.
The half-back made 31 appearances for Saints as they earned the Super League title, albeit with the blip of Wembley heartbreak in the Challenge Cup final. Lomax scored 19 tries and was man of the match on five occasions, earning him a call-up to the Great Britain tour, where he made four appearances.
According to our readers, it was Lomax that stood out the most of any of the Saints side in Justin Holbrook’s final hurrah, and it marks quite a return to glory for Lomax, who suffered with a couple of horrific injuries that sidelined him for almost two years, including missing St Helens’ last Grand Final success.
Very much a key part of Wayne Bennett’s international plans too, Lomax will once again look to stand out in 2020.
2. Jackson Hastings
Not even the most ardent fan’s wildest dreams could have predicted that a Salford player would win the Man of Steel in guiding the Red Devils to a maiden Grand Final at Old Trafford.
Jackson Hastings, handed a lifeline by Salford after his NRL career was left in tatters, was the headline to a remarkable story of achievement from an unfancied and unfashionable side that became the jewel in the crown of this Super League season and the required second story to a season where one team was far better than the rest.
A likeable character with personality and talent to match, Hastings did his talking on and off the pitch, maintaining his high standards even under the spotlight of much transfer speculation, which wouldn’t even subside after he had penned a deal to join Wigan for 2020.
Attention will be even greater on the now Great Britain international with the expectation he will lead Wigan back to the top under Adrian Lam.
1. Natalie Harrowell
It is with mixed emotions that our first ever Player of the Year award is won by a woman. The progression of women’s rugby league continues to be significant, and Natalie Harrowell had very much played her part in that on and off the pitch – as an England international player in her own right and through her enthusiastic work as a girls development officer at Wakefield Trinity.
Her tragic death earlier this month, as a result of a virus, when two months pregnant rocked the rugby league community and we have been inundated with nominations for her to be crowned the Readers’ Player of the Year.
In 2019, she helped Featherstone to fifth place in the eight-team women’s Super League.
Harrowell played in the very first women’s Super League Grand Final in 2017 and earned three caps for England
Her club, Featherstone, said: “Natalie was one of the longest serving players within the women’s side and a leader both on and off the field. She represented England on the international stage and was the 2019 Featherstone Rovers Ladies Women of Steel.
“Natalie was Featherstone through and through, turning down many opportunities to play at other clubs. She was very passionate about Women’s Rugby League and growing the sport and getting more young girls involved in the sport through her role at Wakefield Trinity.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with Natalie’s young daughter Olivia and the rest of her family at this sad time.”
Love Rugby League Readers’ Awards 2019 Player of the Year – Natalie Harrowell