Talking Rugby League: Super League Rookie of the Year revealed

WHEN you watched him play in Super League this year, you might not have believed that Leigh Leopards’ hooker Edwin Ipape was a rookie, who had never previously played in Super League or the NRL.

Ipape had a great season, playing 25 Super League games and three more in the Challenge Cup, the latter culminating in that thrilling win against Hull KR in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley in August.

Ipape joined Leigh in 2022 and spent a season in the Championship with the club as they convincingly swept through the opposition to win the Championship and earn promotion to Super League.

Even at that stage, he was being widely tipped to be a contender for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award, which was remarkable for a player who had never played at this level before.

Ipape is one of those players who have managed to make a name for themselves internationally before playing at the highest level in club football, having made his international debut for Papua New Guinea in their 24-6 defeat by Samoa in the 2019 Oceania Cup.

He then had trials with Manly Sea Eagles prior to the 2020 season and played two games for the Manly team during the NRL Nines, but there would be no further opportunities and he signed a contract with PNG Hunters in the Queensland Cup for the 2021 season.

Surprisingly, in the light of his subsequent achievements, Ipape was shown the door by the Hunters at the end of that season, reportedly for failing to meet the club’s standards and values. His Queensland Cup career was over after just one season.

Fortunately for him, Adrian Lam was looking for a hooker after being appointed as the Leigh coach for 2022 and Ipape couldn’t have chosen a better mentor to get his career back on track.

Of course the rest is history and after playing for the Kumuls in last year’s World Cup, Ipape was chosen at hooker in the team of the tournament.

But he still hadn’t played in the NRL or Super League, which is why he was still a rookie.

He is now the Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year, which of course he would have been a hot favourite for at the start of the season.

As you’ll see from the results of our Readers’ Poll on the opposite page, there were some other strong rookies too – George Delaney of St Helens, Junior Nsemba of Wigan, Matty Nicholson of Warrington, Davy Litten of Hull FC, Harvie Hill of Wigan and Tiaki Chan of Catalans.

It was a very strong field and we congratulate Edwin on his success.