As we approach the latter end of the season, attention begins to turn to the Man of Steel award and the leading contenders for this year’s accolade.
Unlike previous years, it is difficult to pick one individual who is definitely in the running. Last year, for example, saw Zak Hardaker, Adam Cuthbertson and Alex Walmsley clearly among the front-runners. But this year, suspensions and injuries have made it difficult to pick out one individual as a definite leader in the race to pick up the crown.
And this week’s League Express has picked five of the front-runners from five different clubs, and we want you to decide who wins. Here are the five individuals we picked out, make sure you cast your vote below!
Gareth Ellis (Hull FC)
After a number of injury-hit years, Ellis has rolled back the years with some outstanding displays in black and white this year.
The 35-year-old epitomises Hull’s character, something that was on show when they held on in the final few minutes of last week’s Challenge Cup victory.
While not the biggest man in Hull’s pack, he makes as many yards as anyone else on the team, and is always near the top of the team. There’s no doubting how important his influence and leadership is for Lee Radford’s side, and while their new signings have been a big factor in their rise this year, the fact that Ellis has played so many games is just as big a reason for their success too.
Chris Sandow (Warrington Wolves)
The little magician has set the competition alight more than any over player this season.
A number of mesmeric displays have seen Warrington reach the top of Super League, along with the Challenge Cup final.
While a hamstring injury meant he was missing for around two months, he wasted little time finding his form again, with Warrington looking the real deal with him in the side.
Kyle Amor (St Helens)
Many were surprised to see the big Cumbrian involved in Wayne Bennett’s player meeting earlier this year, but the truth is that the Saints forward has been fantastic all season.
So often an unsung hero, the 29-year-old has had one of his best seasons in a Saints pack that has been a key part in their recent revival.
Amor should definitely be considered for the three-man shortlist if his form continues.
Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers)
The reigning Albert Goldthorpe Medal winner currently tops the charts in the League Express award again this year.
And there’s no doubting that he has another impressive year, really steering Cas through a number of tough injury troubles over the year.
The former Bradford man has been key for Daryl Powell against this year, and they would be a lot worse off without him.
Danny Kirmond (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats)
When you think about the traits required to be a Man of Steel, Kirmond surely fits the bill.
For example, the Wakefield captain put his hand up to play for his club at the weekend, despite the fact he was still recovering from an injury.
He might not be an obvious contender, but his heart and passion make him a prime example of what a Man of Steel should be.
Betway make Gareth Ellis the 2/1 favourite to win the trophy, saying he’s on track to become the oldest ever player to be recognised with the coveted prize.
Hull, who started the season as 28/1 outsiders, are now just 7/2 to win the Grand Final in October, behind Wigan (13/8) and Warrington (7/4).
Warrington’s 34-year-old stand-off Kurt Gidley is next in the betting at 4/1, who would equal 1979 winner Widnes legend Doug Laughton’s record as the oldest ever Man of Steel if he scoops the gong.
Gidley’s Wire team-mate Chris Sandow and Hull’s Jamie Shaul are both available at 5/1 in the online bookmaker’s market.
Hull FC kicker Marc Sneyd, Man of the Match in his side’s crucial Challenge Cup semi-final win over Wigan at the weekend, can be backed at 8/1.
Betway’s Alan Alger, said: “Nobody doubted Gareth Ellis’ ability and attitude as a top class rugby league player, but at 35 the question was whether he had the legs and lungs any more. He’s had an outstanding season, leading an underrated Hull side to the top of the table and we think he fully deserves to be favourite for the Man of Steel award at 2/1.
“If you’re after an outside bet then Castleford Tigers’ Luke Gayle could be value at a whopping 20/1. His steadying influence and great footie brain could count for a lot as the Tigers charge into the play offs.”
Betway – Super League – Man of Steel