Joe Whitley (JW): Last night, Castleford hooker Daryl Clark capped off an unforgettable season by adding the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award to his trophy cabinet. As much as I appreciate and admire the 21-year-old’s talent, I can’t help but think he wasn’t the most deserving recipient. What do you think?
Aaron Bower (AB): In my eyes, no-one deserved the Man of Steel award more than Daryl Clark. The honour was designed in 1977 to represent the most outstanding player in the British game across a whole season and, for me, nobody fits that criteria better than Clark. He has been consistent all season, and has led Castleford’s charge towards the top four superbly.
JW: That’s my problem, though – Castleford haven’t done anything exceptional this season. Twice they’ve been one win away from silverware but both times they crumbled under the pressure. How can the Super League player of the year award be handed to someone involved in that? They finished fourth and lost both play-off games. He couldn’t deliver his match-winning performances when it mattered most and that is surely what it means to be Man of Steel.
AB: I think that’s a point that often gets brought up when it comes to Man of Steel, but influence on a side and overall consistency need to be factored in. And when Castleford have been good (which has been more often than not in 2014), Clark has been at the heart of it. Although his form dipped a touch in the play-offs, he was still incredible for a large part of 2014.
JW: If you are rewarding influence and consistency, James Roby should have won. For me, no-one deserved it more. He dragged injury-ravaged Saints to top spot and guided them to the Grand Final. His statistics are truly unbelievable – he did the work of two players this season – and his efforts were rewarded with silverware, with more potentially on the way. A lot of people were surprised he made the shortlist, but he quietly and efficiently ticks over, racking up the tackles, metres and key passes. He’s incredibly under-rated and, I think, should have won last night.
AB: The problem with Roby is that everyone is aware of the stats he posts and the work he does – Clark has had that valuable commodity of being a surprise package in 2014. That’s what makes the players stand up and take notice; a player who wasn’t considered to be amongst the elite at the start of the year, but now is going on tour as England’s first choice hooker. For what it’s worth, Clark’s stats are mightily impressive, too!
JW: For me, the Man of Steel awards lost a lot of credibility last night. Not only do I disagree with Clark scooping the main award, but Widnes winning team of the year is also hard to swallow. They finished eighth and went straight out of the play-offs. Are we rewarding mediocrity here? I like Widnes but believe they underachieved after the start they had. There is only one team of the year and that has to be St Helens – they topped the league despite losing several key players to injury. Against the odds they came out on top. Similarly, Roby should have won the Man of Steel as he was the architect of this success. Giving two of the biggest awards to a player and a team that failed to do anything other than perform surprisingly well is a travesty if you ask me.
AB: I don’t think we’re rewarding mediocrity; I think we’re rewarding progression and development within the game. You can’t just give awards out to the team who succeeds – every other sport has awards ceremonies which reward sides, clubs and players who have gone above and beyond both what was expected of them, and what they set out to achieve.