Super League mid-season awards including Salford Red Devils, Wigan Warriors and Leigh Leopards

Ben Olawumi
Junior Nsemba, Sam Burgess, Ash Handley

From left to right: Wigan Warriors young gun Junior Nsemba, Warrington Wolves head coach Sam Burgess & Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley are all among our mid-season award winners

When Hull FC and Leeds Rhinos’ clash comes to an end on Saturday, we’ll have seen 81 Super League games played out this year – officially reaching the midway mark in the regular campaign.

That’s 12 full rounds of six games, plus five Round 2 games that were played out as initially scheduled, and the three games which will have been played out on Friday night in Round 14 added to Saturday’s meeting of FC and the Rhinos at the MKM Stadium.

We know a lot may change in the second half of the campaign, but across the past five months or so, we’d like to think we’ve developed a fair understanding of where each team’s goals lie.

Accordingly, we’ve thrown together a set of hypothetical awards – and decided the winners based upon who we believe would win them if they were being given out tonight, or immediately after that Hull v Leeds game on Saturday for the sake of absolute fairness.

There’s eight categories, and seeing as we’re not providing you with a three-course dinner or musical interlude, we’ll whizz through them alphabetically..

Best Signing – Nene Macdonald (Salford Red Devils)

Nene Macdonald Salford Red Devils Alamy
Nene Macdonald

There was a bit of apprehension around Salford’s signing of Macdonald, and how committed he’d be to the cause, after the debacle which led to his exit from Leeds Rhinos towards the back end of last season.

But the Papua New Guinean has silenced any doubters, evidenced by the fact he’s the second-highest metre maker in the top flight and the second-most offloads. He’s proven incredibly difficult for opposition defences to stop, and if it’s not him scoring the try, he’ll almost certainly have a hand in it.

Captain of the Year – Ben Garcia (Catalans Dragons)

Ben Garcia Catalans Dragons Alamy

If there’s a Ben Garcia hype train, we’re on it. The Frenchman oozes class, going about his business quietly, but consistently delivers performances of a high order. Whatever Steve McNamara needs him to do, the forward just does without any fuss, as proven with how he’s seamlessly slotted into nine at some points in games this season.

The 15-time France international has been Catalans‘ skipper for 2021, and there aren’t many better around at all. We don’t think the Dragons will get as many plaudits as they have done in recent years because others seem to have stepped up a notch around them, but Garcia encapsulates everything you’d want in a captain.

Coach of the Year – Sam Burgess (Warrington Wolves)

Sam Burgess, Wembley
Dejected Warrington Wolves boss Sam Burgess applauds their supporters at Wembley following the 2024 Challenge Cup final defeat to Wigan Warriors

We know Matt Peet and Paul Wellens are in charge of the teams currently sat joint-top of the league, but Burgess surely deserves this given how far he’s brought Warrington on since arriving in the off-season. He took charge of a side that had underperformed for at least the last two seasons, and appears to have transformed everything about them.

They now look like genuine challengers, and given there weren’t exactly a million new signings made, we think that’s a remarkable achievement. We’d be surprised not to see them in the mix come the end of the season.

We’d just like to confirm as well that the only thing that matters in these Super League awards is Super League, no other competition, before anyone mentions one of them!

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Most Improved Player – Matt Dufty (Warrington Wolves)

Matt Dufty celebrates a try for Warrington Wolves in 2024

When we talk about Warrington’s transformation, you see all the evidence you need of it – in our opinion – in Dufty. The Australian full-back arrived at the Halliwell Jones Stadium midway through the 2022 season, and hasn’t had much to shout about – or enjoy – since then until this year.

He’ll tell you himself that he’s a confidence player, so Burgess and the staff behind the scenes throwing their full trust behind him and encouraging him to play off-the-cuff as he loves to do was only ever going to bring the best out of him. Again, from where he was this time last year to now, it’s a remarkable transformation.

Player of the Year (Man of Steel) – Marc Sneyd/Matt Moylan (Salford Red Devils/Leigh Leopards)

Matt Moylan

This is the only one award we aren’t officially picking the winner(s) of off our own back. For Man of Steel, we simply had to go with the men joint-top of the leaderboard with 15 points apiece as things stand ahead of Round 14 in Sneyd & Moylan

We must say, Moylan took a while to get going, but he’s been sensational for Leigh over the last couple of months, and Sneyd is Salford’s saviour at times. We wouldn’t like to have to split the pair, but we imagine at the back end of the season, we might see some other stars overtake them – especially those involved in the matches that matter towards the end of the campaign.

READ NEXT: Aaron Pene scouting report: what can Leigh Leopards expect from new recruit?

Team of the Year – Wigan Warriors

Liam Farrell
Wigan captain Liam Farrell (centre) holds aloft the Challenge Cup following the Warriors’ 2024 triumph in the competition’s final against Warrington Wolves

In Super League alone this year, no team have really excelled just yet, but Wigan would be our pick. When the Warriors are at their best, or even anywhere near, they’re just unstoppable. They’ve only really not turned up in one league game to date – a defeat away against Hull KR in April.

Even the World Club Challenge & Challenge Cup triumphs aside, Matt Peet’s team look a cut above the rest more often than not, and it’s going to take a very good performance from someone to stop them winning the whole thing again in 2024. They’re the benchmark, currently.

READ NEXT: My Ultimate Team: Matty Smith names his best 13 including Wigan Warriors legends

Try of the Season – Ash Handley (Leeds Rhinos) v Salford Red Devils (H – February)

Ash Handley

Handley was the frontrunner for the try of the season competition all by himself in the early weeks of 2024, but one of his standout efforts, and the one we’ve picked as our winner so far, came against Salford Red Devils in Round 1 as the winger scored a sensational solo effort.

Collecting the ball inside his own 20-metre area as Leeds looked to play out from deep, the Rhinos star broke downfield with blistering pace, beating three Salford men on his way to the line. Coasting past the likes of Kallum Watkins and Chris Hankinson with ease thanks to some nifty footwork en-route to crossing the whitewash, it was a joy to watch.

Young Player of the Year – Junior Nsemba (Wigan Warriors)

Junior Nsemba Wigan Warriors Alamy

This was one of the most clear-cut decisions – Nsemba is a freak, in the very best way possible, and evidence of the continuous conveyor belt of talent being produced by Wigan at their Robin Park Arena base. The powerhouse forward is still a teenager at 19, not turning 20 until later this month.

Willie Isa’s shoes are big ones to fill, but Nsemba – proudly pulling on his hometown club’s shirt – has filled them seamlessly. One of the most humble characters in the game will have a hell of a lot of praise coming his way in the next few years if he carries on how he’s going, and every bit of it will be deserved. He’s won everything there is to win already, too!


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