Garry Schofield was causing plenty of debate once again in this week’s League Express, as he selected his star player from every Super League club this season.
The Rugby League hall of famer is a weekly contributor to the paper in his popular column ‘Pulling No Punches’.
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Luke has been an excellent performer right throughout this year and if he isn’t England’s scrum-half this year, I’m going to go for some sort of eye surgery because I’m obviously missing something. He’s had every other good English scrum-half on toast this year. If he isn’t in the Wayne Bennett’s team, it’ll be a travesty. Admittedly Gale doesn’t have too much competition right now, but that doesn’t detract from his quality.
Mr Consistency in all departments. When I talk about individual performances, you want to be a consistent 8 or 9 out of ten every week. And he does that. If everyone at Catalans had maintained their early- and mid-season form, they’d be in the hunt for a trophy now. But whereas others have fallen away in the last couple of months, Stewart hasn’t. He’s the same sort of player who played for Australia and he’s proven to be a great signing, unlike some of the other Antipodeans at the Dragons.
You get what you see with Jermaine, and he’s just class. He takes so much pressure off the forwards by regularly making 15 or 20 metres in the early tackles, returning the ball or out of dummy-half. As an attacking threat, he is top quality. The Test series against New Zealand last year was a big breakthrough for him, and despite the Giants collapsing this year, he’s kept his standards up. He is a world-class winger.
Ellis has had a sensational year and is one of the main reasons that Hull have enjoyed such a good season. No longer with the pace to be used as an effective wide runner, Ellis has now found his home as a middle-unit forward and has played the role exceptionally well. He’s a warrior. A real leader. An inspiration. When he goes off for a 15-minute rest on the bench, you can often see a drop-off in intensity in Hull’s performance, but it rises again when he comes back on. If he stays fit, Hull will remain real contenders for silverware. He’d be my Man of Steel.
I’ve always been impressed with Lunty. Unfortunately for him, there are a lot of top English hookers around, because he deserves to have won at least a dozen caps by now. He’s always been quality and if Rovers had another five players with his talent rather than just relying on effort and commitment, they would be a top-eight side. He’s still a big threat from dummy-half, not just close to the line, but from 40 or 50 yards as well. He’s a schemer with great vision and awareness, and he’s still got plenty of speed.
We all know what sort of season Leeds have had, but Jamie has stood up to be counted in every game he’s played and has been so consistent. He’s dealt with the adversity superbly and if others had showed his enthusiasm and desire they wouldn’t have had such a disastrous year. When they needed a leader, he was the man and he should be proud of the 2016 he’s had. Like Gareth Ellis at Hull, he’s now best as a middle unit and the move there from the second row has suited him well. He even enjoys getting the ball in his hands. He’s one of the success stories of the Leeds season.
He’s been excellent all year in the centres. When they were struggling, he was so consistent, often standing out in a poor side. He’s always looking to make something happen out in the centres and he seems to enjoy the responsibility of goal kicking. I wouldn‘t hesitate to pick him for England. In attack and defence his positioning is excellent. Going forward he always tries to get on the outside of his opponent and defensively there are no issues at all.
He’s found his position at fullback. His positional play isn’t always great. Instead of being a little indecisive, he could react quicker, but he’s got to grips with the fullback role very well. He’s similar to Luke Dorn at Castleford, playing from the back like an extra halfback and getting over the try line regularly. He sometimes gets found out, but he’ll work on that. He’s very good at returning the ball. He also gets himself into position nice and early and is capable of breaking through.
He wouldn’t have had this sort of season had Brian Smith stayed at Trinity, because Chris Chester has really sorted him out. Liam Finn has helped him a lot too and Jacob has thrived this year. I was on his back a lot at Hull because he wasn’t bringing home the bacon, but there can be few complaints about his performances now. Sometimes he goes into his shell and sometimes he tries to be the individual player, but it’s hard to be too critical after the year he’s had. He’s been one of the main reasons for Wakey’s success.
A revelation! I had question marks over him coming over at his age, but he’s been fantastic. He’s a great organiser with a top kicking game. He gets the Wolves around the park superbly. He has to stay fit for the rest of the year if they are going to win anything. It took Warrington too long to replace Lee Briers, but they finally did it with Gidley. He’s bedded in really well and he obviously enjoys the added pressure of being the main playmaker. If Warrington had anyone else partnering Sandow, they wouldn’t be where they are now. He won’t be far off the Man of Steel.
Kevin’s had a very good season. The consistency isn’t always there, but when he’s on his game the Vikings can beat everyone. He set them up for a great season with his form in the first couple of months and when he came back from injury he stepped up again to rescue them after their slump. His kicking game could be worked on, but he’s patient enough to work out defences and I like that in a halfback. He clicks with Joe Mellor too and they’ve formed a very good combination.
I know he made a big glitch in the Cup semi-final, but he’s still had a sensational season and he’d be in my England team. I like everything about him – he’s got pace, positional awareness, an eye for the try line from any distance and there’s no problem with his defence. He’s a quality winger through and through. He did it the hard way by coming through a season in the Championship with Workington, but unlike some players who make that move, he didn’t let his head go down and he stayed focused. But it says a lot about some of Wigan’s star players that they’ve been upstaged by a winger this season. WITH the regular season now behind us, I thought I’d use this week’s column to look at the best player from each club in Super League.