First published in League Express, Monday 9th Sept 2013
The Man of Steel and coach of the year will be decided soon, so I’d like to take a look at those who would be my candidates for these awards.
MAN OF STEEL
Danny Brough (Huddersfield)
He’s been sheer quality all season and has led his team around the field like a quality halfback should do.
He’s matured as an organiser and now seems to love the extra responsibility and pressure of being the main man.
The quality of his kicking has never been in doubt, but the most noticeable change in his game is that he’s taking the line on much more now and you can see the difference.
He’s really thrived on the captaincy as well. He’s been very consistent all season, unlike a few players who started the season well but then faded. He’s kept to the same standards all season, which is reflected in the Albert Goldthorpe Medal that he’s won and, in my opinion, he should add the Man of Steel to his collection of awards.
Shaun Lunt (Huddersfield)
I’ve been very impressed with the way he’s settled back into Huddersfield and has carried on the form that he showed at the Rhinos last season.
Nathan Brown messing him around last year has been shown up to be a quite incredible piece of mis-management, but maybe it has also spurred on Shaun to move to another level.
His service and scooting from dummy-half are class. He’s also more consistent now, and that’s so important if you want to be a great player. Shaun delivers an eight- or a nine-out-of-ten performance most weeks. He plays with a smile on his face and I like that. It’s hard to find a weakness in his game.
His rise through the ranks from Workington Town to England has been great to watch, and his success embarrasses some of the Super League clubs who don’t seem to rate the talent that’s out there in the Championships.
Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan)
Sean is Wigan’s main player and that’s been proven without any doubt at all this season.
It’s such a shame for him that he’s now out for the remainder of the club season with this injury, but that shouldn’t count against him in the Man of Steel stakes.
He organises everything defensively and he’s got excellent ball skills. He’s another very consistent player, and is a great leader.
We should all be crossing our fingers that he’ll be available for the World Cup.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Paul Anderson (Huddersfield)
Paul has thrived on his big coaching opportunity and I’m delighted for him.
He’s done his apprenticeship and he seems to have learned from some of the mistakes made by those he was serving under.
He’s brought much-needed consistency to the club and, when everybody expected them to fall away, he ensured they didn’t. For that alone, I feel he deserves to win this award.
Plenty of the lesser-fancied sides have made good starts to the season, but none keep it going for 27 rounds. Quite simply, under Paul, the Giants are no longer a lesser-fancied team.
Paul deserves every one of the accolades he’s receiving at the moment. If you finish top of the pile, you should be the champions in my opinion, and for Paul to do that in his first season is a fantastic achievement.
Shaun Wane (Wigan)
He’s had another outstanding season, which has been topped off by landing major silverware.
He’ll be looking to add Grand Final success, but Wigan are struggling a bit at the moment although I don’t believe it’s fair to blame Shaun for that, as injuries have derailed the side at the important part of the year.
He’s maintained his philosophy of looking to entertain, which was a step in the right direction after the Michael Maguire years, but Wigan also play as hard as ever.
Brian McDermott (Leeds)
Leeds are once again entering the play-offs as a major threat to the top sides, but they’ve been more consistent this season, which is shown by a higher league position.
They will be happy with third, I think, their highest position of the season. And after that performance against Wigan on Thursday, you’d have to say that they look to be in the mood to repeat their success of the last two years.
If you win the Super League trophy, which I think they will do, then you need to be a candidate for the coach of the year, but once again this highlights the daftness in giving out the awards too early.