The Garry Schofield Column: Who I think should win Man of Steel and Coach of the Year

IT’S not unknown for the people picking the Man of Steel to go off piste.

I remember a few controversial choices over the years, with 2007, when Trent Barrett missed out after a great campaign at halfback for Wigan, sticking out in my memory.

In recent times, points have been awarded after each Super League round by a panel of former players chaired by my old Leeds and Great Britain team-mate Ellery Hanley, who to be fair, knows a thing or two about the game!

Of course it’s all about opinions. Everyone is entitled to one, and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy and respectful debate as we build up to the big announcement tomorrow night (Tuesday, October 10).

I don’t think too many folk will have any major objections about the three-man shortlist of Jack Welsby, Tom Johnstone and Bevan French.

It’s easy to forget that Jack is still only 22, because he’s such an accomplished operator and so capable in a variety of positions.

This year he has excelled a fullback for St Helens, with the first of his 14 tries coming in the World Club Challenge win over Penrith Panthers – not a bad way to start a season!

Jack has also set up plenty of scores for his team-mates, and fully deserves his place in the trio of top contenders, as does Tom.

He’s made the transition from Wakefield (and how they missed him this year) to Catalans look easy, and importantly, stayed free from the kind pf injury problems which affected him so much when he was at Trinity.

His try haul of 28 in as many matches – so far! – shows just what a terrific finisher he is, and not many wingers have won Man of Steel.

But for me, Bevan’s the boy this time around.

He played a key role in Wigan’s League Leaders’ Shield success, playing in all 27 games and totting up 17 tries.

But not only that, when Wigan needed a new option at stand-off, he stepped up, having previously played wing and fullback, and the Cherry and Whites looked all the better for having his guile and creativity in that position.

As for Super League Coach of the Year, I’m tipping Adrian Lam after the fine job he has done for Leigh.

It’s easy to forget that at the start of the year, most people were saying a successful season would be to avoid relegation.

Now we’re looking back at a campaign that brought a memorable first Challenge Cup triumph since 1971 and a fully-merited place in the play-offs.

Yes, Leigh have Derek Beaumont’s deep pockets and committed backing to call on – and hopefully that will continue, despite his recent frustration with the game – but the right players have to be signed, selected and moulded into a successful side, and with the help of Chris Chester, Lammy has done that, and entertained us into the bargain.

Salford to lose another major asset

IT’S looking like the reigning Man of Steel, at least for another day, Brodie Croft, could be on his way to Leeds, who have cash to splash following a new naming deal for Headingley.

When it comes to the stature of signings Leeds should be making, that’s far more like it, and I’d certainly like to see a quality halfback like him in blue and amber.

But it’s hard not to feel for Salford and their supporters.

The club has progressed so much under the guidance of Ian Blease and now Paul Rowley, who has built on the work done by Ian Watson (Huddersfield must be wondering what has happened since he crossed the Pennines).

Rowls, along with Lammy, Matt Peet and Steve McNamara, is up for Coach of the Year, reflecting another season in which Salford have punched above their weight.

However, without more financial backing, it’s always going to prove hard for them to keep hold of their best players, and we’ve already seen Tyler Dupree depart for Wigan.

I know they tied Croft down on a very lengthy contract this year, but surely a big part of that was to ensure they could command a decent fee for a major asset.

Can we follow the NRL’s example?

I HOPE IMG and Super League were keeping very close tabs on the NRL Grand Final and picking up tips on how to promote and organise a big match.

If we could do even a quarter of what the Aussies managed in Sydney, we’d have a better occasion.

The build-up, led by the Tina Turner tribute, was superb, and really whetted the appetite for what was to come.

And what a treat Penrith and Brisbane served up. I just wish it had lasted longer.

The quality on show was amazing, both sides looked like they had mastered most aspects of the game, and it truly was a match to remember.

Wouldn’t it be great if we were talking about our Grand Final for years, rather than weeks, to come?

Over to you, Super League, Catalans and Wigan.

In aid of Paul

I’D LIKE to thank all those who will be coming along to Friday’s Rugby League evening to support my old Leeds team-mate Paul Gill, who is battling motor neurone disease, and raising funds for research into the condition.

The event at his local, Clayton Conservative Club in Bradford, is a sell-out, with more than 200 tickets sold.

We’ll be looking at putting on further events, so watch this space for the details.