Rugby League is a real team game, but every side needs at least one of those players who can provide a spark or a steady hand, bring the best out of the rest and drive them on.
As the season approaches, I’m picking my key player for each of the twelve Super League clubs, whose final positions I’ve already predicted.
I’ve looked at my bottom four and gone for David Fifita at Wakefield, Jamie Ellis at Leigh, Jordan Abdull at Hull KR and Jake Trueman at Castleford.
Now for the quartet of clubs I think will finish from eighth upwards…
SALFORD RED DEVILS
What a smart bit of business to sign Harvey Livett!
He’s a player I’ve always liked, but what I’ve never liked is the tag ‘utility’, and I think he has suffered because of that label.
Harvey seemed to be developing nicely at Warrington, but it didn’t happen for him and his career stalled, then he spent last season at Hull KR, having previously been there on loan.
At 24, he’s a good age, because he has experience, including with England Knights, but can still kick on, and I reckon he’ll do that at Salford under the tutelage of newly installed coach Richard Marshall, who will allow him to play with a bit of freedom.
I think he can emerge as a quality traditional loose-forward in the Sean O’Loughlin mould, and wouldn’t the Salford supporters love it if Harvey could be anything like the pack leader Sean was at Wigan.
He has a good pair of hands and plenty of energy, as well as the ability to read a game, and he could really help take the pressure of the halfbacks.
Like his team-mate Joel Tomkins, Michael McIlorum will miss a number of matches at the start of the season through suspension.
Tomkins got eight games and McIlorum six following incidents during last season’s play-off win over Leeds, and of course the French side only played once more, since they were heavily beaten by St Helens in the semi-finals.
Both players will be a big miss, but especially Micky, who seems to have settled well in France after being so long at Wigan.
Catalans, where Benjamin Garcia will be captain after Rémi Casty’s departure, tend to be consistently inconsistent, and it seems when McIlorum plays well, the Dragons play well.
He’s got the durability and nous to direct from dummy-half.
As with Tomkins, the suspension was deserved, and Catalans will have to cope without McIlorum for those five matches then get him firing as soon as possible.
Remember when Jason Smith swapped Sydney for Hull back in 2001 and brought all the class and quality of an Australian international and seasoned Origin representative player to a black and white jersey over four seasons?
Josh Reynolds mightn’t have quite the CV that Smith did on his arrival, but he is a quality player nonetheless, and if he can replicate his pre-injury NRL form in Super League, the Hull fans will take him to their hearts, just as they did with Smith.
Like new coach Brett Hodgson, the halfback they call ‘Grub’ is under pressure, because Hull really need to move forward after having spent too long treading water.
The two-time NRL Grand Finalist might have had a tough time of it in recent years because of fitness issues, but he is certainly talking the talk, and I like the way he speaks confidently. As a big-name signing, he needs to walk the walk and be the number one organiser, the main man.
Hull and Hodgson need someone to step up, take responsibility and produce the goods, home and away.
With a string of inspired performances and selection for the Super League Dream Team, talented former Canberra halfback Aidan Sezer made quite an impression in 2020.
He can clearly be the key player in the new-look side Ian Watson is moulding at the John Smith’s Stadium.
But can Sezer avoid that second-season syndrome?
He’ll be under more pressure to perform than ever, and opposition coaches and players will have had more opportunity to try to work out how to bottle him up.
As a former halfback himself, I think Watto will have a few ideas on how to get even more out of Sezer, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the Giants go.
The signings spree since Ian’s appointment mean expectations of Huddersfield are far higher than at this time last year.
I’ve said the Giants will finish just outside the top four, but I was wrong about them last season, and I think it would be great for the game if my old club could be right up there challenging the Super League powerhouses.
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