1 ZAK HARDAKER
Zak is back to his best and is playing with a smile on his face again after a difficult couple of years. He brings the ball back quickly and under the high balls there are no problems. He’s got his mojo back and he’s great to watch. I’d have him on my Man of Steel shortlist of three, but he wouldn’t quite win it.
2 MAHE FONUA
Hull will really miss this fella when he returns to the NRL at the end of the season. He’s been fantastic for them since he joined from Melbourne Storm. Hull’s biggest tactic is for Marc Sneyd to kick high to his wingers and Fonau is the perfect recipient of these kicks. He’s got plenty more to his game as well.
3 MICHAEL SHENTON
I’ve always been a big fan of Shenton and he’s been huge for Castleford this year. He’s a solid player and a great leader and that’s complemented the Tigers’ open style of play this year. I firmly believe he should be in World Cup contention as well.
4 OLIVER GILDART
Every time I see him I’m very impressed with him. He always gets on the outside of defenders, rather than coming back inside which is the negative choice. He’s not the finished article but in a threadbare era for centres, he stands out and has got a big future in the game.
5 GREG EDEN
What a season Greg has had! Daryl Powell said at the start of the season that whoever plays on the left wing for Castleford will score loads of tries and so it has proved. But Eden provides more than the simple finishes. Some of his tries have defied belief this year. He could not have had a better season.
6 BEN ROBERTS
Ben has complemented Luke Gale very well. It’s all very well intending to throw the ball around, but players have to gel, particularly in the halves. He’s had to play second fiddle to Gale quite often but when he gets involved he shows his class. He’s been big for Castleford in recent weeks.
7 LUKE GALE
What more can you say about Gale? He’s had an unbelievable year and is most people’s choice for Man of Steel, including mine. Right from the start of the season, he’s been in scintillating form, and it’s hard to think of him having many below-par games. Castleford fans will be desperate for him to be back on the field as soon as possible.
8 ALEX WALMSLEY
When Saints were really struggling earlier in the season, Walmsley was massive for them and he continues to shine every week. He is everything you want in a prop and should be a certainty for the England World Cup squad.
9 PAUL McSHANE
McShane is another Castleford player who has been unbelievable this year. His dummy-half service is top notch, and he can also help out in the halves. James Roby’s return to form in recent weeks might cost him a World Cup spot, but he’s still been the best hooker over the course of the season.
10 SCOTT TAYLOR
He likes to get involved in the contact and he’s got a nice pass on him. He’s solid defensively. I think he’s moved ahead of Chris Hill and the Burgess twins, so I expect him to get plenty of game time in the World Cup.
11 MATTY ASHURST
Wayne Bennett has questioned whether we have players who can play well enough on the fringes. He’ll cause plenty of damage there outside Luke Gale. He’s up there with Minichiello as a wide-running backrower and I really rate him.
12 MIKE McMEEKEN
I’ve been a big fan of McMeeken for a while now. He’s a typical old-fashioned second-rower like Phil Lowe and Lee Crooks. I expect him to have a big World Cup, unless the coach digs up another Australian to play in the back row.
13 GRANT MILLINGTON
When Ian Millward coached Castleford, Millington was a shadow of the player he is now, but Daryl Powell has got the best out of him. I certainly didn’t realise he could be this good! There are some fantastic loose forwards in Super League, but I have no qualms in having him at the head of the queue.