Opinion: Michael Shenton for Man of Steel?
There can be little doubting that the story of Castleford Tigers in 2014 is without doubt the biggest revelation English Rugby League has seen all year. The Tigers have entertained fans all season with some thrilling play, and that was perfectly evident again on Thursday night, as they battled to a well-earned 24-24 draw with Leeds Rhinos.
Still in the Challenge Cup and sat third in Super League (at the time of writing), Daryl Powell’s men have been sensational all season. And with the end of the regular season fast approaching, there are plenty of contenders at the Tigers who could be in the reckoning for individual honours at the season’s end. But yet again on Thursday night, one man stood out in a scintillating performance for the Tigers.
Since returning from St Helens to his first club, Michael Shenton has been inspirational for Castleford. He has formed arguably the best wing-centre partnership in Super League alongside Justin Carney, with those two players bagging 14 tries each in an incredible season. But as well as the 14 tries, Shenton also has a phenomenal 14 try assists to boot, too. No centre in Super League has more – which underlines just how impressive he has been in 2014.
It’s not unusual for a centre to win Man of Steel – Jamie Lyon achieved the feat back in 2005 after his first season in Super League with St Helens. He was unlucky to not win it again in 2006, but was pipped by another back – Paul Wellens. The days of forwards dominating the Man of Steel roll of honour are long gone – so could this be Shenton’s year?
As an award that is voted for by fellow Rugby League professionals, there is every possibility that Shenton’s exploits for the Tigers in 2014 could produce the ultimate individual accolade. An England call looks certain at the end of the campaign, meaning he will go on tour for the Four Nations tournament. But to everyone’s surprise, Castleford still have a lot more rugby left to play before that rolls around – including a potential Super League Grand Final and a Challenge Cup Final.
And if Shenton leads the Tigers out at either of those occasions, it will simply further justify just how marvellous he has been this year. He has been a true leader for Castleford in the most incredible of seasons – and his form should not go unrewarded.