Now if you saw my last post you will know I am more of a fan of Rugby Union then Rugby League and always have been. There’s just something about Union that makes it extra special, just something I can’t quite put my finger on. The idea of being stood in Twickenham with 90,000 people singing ”Swing low, Sweet Chariot” just gives me goosebumps at the thought. Although this isn’t to say in the slightest that I think Rugby League is boring, not an absolute chance. Whether it is in the Super League or in the land down under the League format of Rugby always finds new ways to surprise me. Constantly providing us with thrilling and enthralling moments that have kept me and many of us on the edge of our seats.
The final round of fixtures of the Super League before the league split will soon be amongst us and it has once again been another exciting season it has to be said. It provided us with some terrific moments of magic and spectacular performances from Denny Solomona’s acrobatics to Chris Sandow’s stunning late dropgoal in the win against Salford.
Sandow’s Warrington have been one of the standout teams this season along, with the likes of Sandow, Kurt Gidley, Ben Currie and Ryan Atkins all having stellar campaigns. The Wolves’ Lancashire counterparts, Wigan also find themselves once again among the top 4 and have had another good steady season and will be a team to look out for as we come into the Super 8s. The likes of Dom Manfredi and youngster Oliver Gildart have been exceptional this season for the Warriors and despite the recent controversy surrounding Josh Charnely and Sean O’Loughlin, both have once again had outstanding campaigns for the club. Charnley has once again found himself amongst the tries and O’Loughlin just seems to be everywhere on the pitch, wreaking havoc. Dan Sarginson’s last season with the Warriors before he moves to the NRL, has been a great one as well.
There has been one team for me that has stood out from the rest and it has to be Hull FC. They have been so dominant, effective and you’ve got to say they have looked a powerful bunch the black and whites haven’t they? With the likes of Frank Pritchard, Mark Minichello, Gareth Ellis, Sika Manu and Scott Taylor at the helm. Also with Mark Sneyd and Jamie Shaul they have certainly looked a dangerous group and have the potential to go all the way to the Grand Final.
If there was gonna be a team which could be considered dark horses, either Catalans or Wakefield could be ones that fill that void. The Giants have looked great in recent times and Wakefield have certainly been the surprise package of the season. I wouldn’t put it past both teams to maybe spring a surprise in the Super 8s.
One of the stories of the regular season has to be last year’s treble winners, Leeds Rhinos. It has been such a difficult campaign for the Super League champions, with a mixture key players being injured and the loss of influencial players in Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield. It has all added up and now the Rhinos lie 11th. However towards the business end of this regular season results seem to suggest the Yorkshire outfit have regained some of that mojo and now look in good shape for the Super 8s.
What I want to take a look at now is, who I think have been some of the stand out players of the season. These are my picks:
Now this would seem like such an obvious pick to those who have been following the Super League this season, which it is to be honest. But you just cannot ignore what this guy has done this season. Try after Try after Try. The 22- year old has four hat tricks to his name this season and sits pretty right a top of the try scoring charts with 28, nine ahead of Corey Thompson in second spot. Solomona has even gone to break a Castleford record for tries in a season and is now only six behind the League record set by Lesley ‘the Volcano’ Vainikolo, who scored a staggering 36 tries for Bradford Bulls back in 2004. Now with the way Solomona has been performing this season I wouldn’t put it past him to break the 12-year old record. The flying New Zealander has put in some absolute inhuman performances this season and if you want to a taste of just what this guy is capable of, have a look at the try he scored against Wakefield at the bottom of this snippet. I don’t believe there’s anyone in the league who scored tries like this guy and I still to this day don’t know how he was able to put the ball down.
One of three Hull FC player on my list. Houghton in my eyes is one of the most underrated players in Super League at the moment. It is amazing to me how he hasn’t been called for England yet. He’s been such a key performer in the Hull FC side and is defensive contributions are clear to see as he is top tackler in the league with 980.
The man with the unorthodox kicking technique is the top points scorer in the league this season and has been one of the main spearheads for Hull FC this season along with Houghton. The 25- year old has shown constantly shown us his great kicking ability and seems so much more effective than past seasons. The regret I have after taking Sneyd out of Fantasy team for just a few games really cannot be described. My pick for Man Of Steel this year.
The Aussie has been the complete package this season and is widely tipped for the Man of Steel award and for good reason. He scores the tries, he’s created them and he even converts a few for good measure. His in play kicking has been absolutely second to none and I don’t think there’s been a better player in the league this season. Even though he spent a few weeks out with a hamstring tear, Sandow hasn’t looked to have missed a beat and has picked up right where he left off. Check out his winning drop goal in a game against Salford. Incredible stuff!
The 24-year-old is probably the best full-back in the Super League at the moment and for me has certainly staked his claim for a potential place in England’s Four Nations squad towards the end of this year.
The Catalans seem to be getting better and better as each season goes on don’t they? And now towards the latter end of this regular season the Dragons find themselves sitting in 4th place ahead of St. Helens. Jodie Broughton, Richie Myler, Tony Gigot and Pat Richards have all had exceptional seasons, with Broughton sitting third in try scoring charts with 18. However I think the Giants main Catalyst has been Todd Carney. He has been a constant creator of opportunities and has notched 17 try assists for the Perpingnan outfit, much more than anybody else for the club.
After starting the season so brilliantly, Widnes went off the boil slightly but have still managed to secure a place in the Super 8s as they lie in the final spot in 8th. You could make a case for Joe Mellor but I think Hanbury has been the Vikings shining light, despite their mid season troubles. He has been one of Widnes’ most consistent players and his exceptional and reliable kicking has kept the Lancashire outfit up in the top 8. It has to be said if Salford weren’t to be deducted six points then Widnes would of found themselves in a much tighter battle for that final Super 8s spot. However it doesn’t take away from Rhys Hanbury’s performances this season and he has been the club’s standout performer this season by far in my eyes.
You’ve got to give it up for Wakefield this season. They have exceeded all expectations and have been the surprise team this year. The likes of Liam Finn and Tom Johnstone have been fantastic but for me the stand out performer for the Wildcats has to be Jacob Miller. He has had a massive effect on the Wildcats this season as they lie 6th in the league and have cemented their place in the Super 8s.
The question now is who will be standing tall after the Grand Final on October 8th?