First published in League Express, Monday 19th Aug 2013
The Kingstone Press Championship Players of the Year will be decided using a new format this season, and a host of players are in contention in both competitions.
In past seasons, the coaches from each league voted for the main awards, with each selecting a top three of opposition players.
That will again be the case for the Young Player and Coach of the Year prizes this time. But the Players of the Year in both leagues are decided in a new way.
All season, each coach is contacted every week for their feedback on which players have performed well at the weekend, forming the Premier Sports awards that are released each Monday.
As part of that, a cumulative table has been running all season, with players earning points towards the main awards in their respective divisions.
Every week five players are awarded points towards the award – with the Premier Sports Player of the Week handed five, the next player four and so on.
Those tables will not be publicised after this week, with the remaining votes staying private until the awards night is staged in Leeds in September.
So who is currently leading the way?
Sheffield Eagles prop Mitchell Stringer tops the Championship table, a position he has held for much of the season.
Stringer has frequently played 80 minutes for Mark Aston’s side, and has taken on the captaincy following the retirement of long-standing front row partner Jack Howieson.
Teammate Quentin Laulu-Togagae is two points behind him, after having made a late surge. The prolific Samoan started the campaign slowly by his own high standards, but has since been a key man in the Eagles’ long undefeated run in the league.
In pursuit of those two are a host of halfbacks.
Dewsbury’s Aaron Brown was the form player in the league early in the season and recently picked up points again on his return from injury.
Paul Cooke has been little short of outstanding for Doncaster all season, not least during their fine run of late, while serial award winner Liam Finn isn’t too far off the pace either.
Scott Leatherbarrow, Scott Murrell and Paul Handforth have all had their moments to remain in the top ten, while the find of the season has been Workington’s young playmaker Callum Phillips, who is just five points behind Stringer.
His team-mate Jarrad Stack, Featherstone prop Steve Crossley and Batley fullback Miles Greenwood make up the front runners, with three rounds of points still to be awarded.
The Championship One Player of the Year table currently has joint leaders in Mike Bishay, who has played for both Hemel Stags and London Skolars on dual registration and on loan respectively from the Broncos, and North Wales Crusaders pair Stuart Reardon and Andy Moulsdale.
That table is even closer, however, with form duo Gary Middlehurst and Richard Lepori just a point behind.
Also in the top ten going into the closing weeks are Skolars duo Mike Worrincy and Dylan Skee, Oldham pair Lewis Palfrey and Jon Ford, Oxford centre Sean Morris, Crusaders cult hero Jono Smith and Rochdale winger Gareth Langley.
Though the remaining weekly points will not be publicised, ensuring that the awards are a surprise on the night, a shortlist will be formed for both divisions at the end of the league campaign.
Current Championship Player of the Year Table
1. Mitchell Stringer (15 points)
2. Quentin Laulu-Togagae (13 points)
3 Paul Cooke (12 points)
Aaron Brown (12 points)
5. Scott Leatherbarrow (10 points)
Callum Phillips (10 points)
Scott Murrell (10 points)
8. Steve Crossley (9 points)
9. Liam Finn (8 points)
Paul Handforth (8 points)
Miles Greenwood (8 points)
Jarrad Stack (8 points)
Current Championship One Player of the Year table
1. Mike Bishay (10 points)
Stuart Reardon (10 points)
Andy Moulsdale (10 points)
4. Gary Middlehurst (9 points)
Richard Lepori (9 points)
6. Mike Worrincy (8 points)
Jono Smith (8 points)
8. Sean Morris (7 points)
Jon Ford (7 points)
10. Lewis Palfrey (6 points)
Dylan Skee (6 points)
Gareth Langley (6 points)