For this week’s column, it seems appropriate to take a look at a particular subject which is going to be coming into focus over the next couple of weeks – the Super League Dream Team.
In case you’re not aware, the media are all given options to vote on who they think should comprise the Dream Team each year, with a 5 point, 3 point and 1 point system for each position, with the person getting the most points making the cut and being included.
It’s been a tough one to pick in 2015, but after some deliberation, here’s the 13 I’ve opted for – with plenty of debate stemming from it, I’m sure!
Full-back: Zak Hardaker (Leeds Rhinos, 5pts)
No-brainer. Hardaker has been comfortably the best full-back in Super League over the past season, and is almost a certainty to be featured in the England squad somewhere for the series against New Zealand later this year.
Second pick: Matty Bowen (Wigan Warriors)
Third pick: Stefan Ratchford (Warrington Wolves)
Wingers: Joe Burgess (Wigan Warriors, 5pts) and Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants, 3pts)
Rare to leave Ryan Hall out of a Dream Team, but he does come in third pick with a solitary point. Burgess has perhaps not been as explosive as the form he showed last year to burst onto the scene, but he has been brilliant for Wigan as always whenever he’s played. Jermaine McGillvary is one of the success stories of the year, and should be good value for England reckoning.
Third pick: Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos)
Centres: Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos, 5pts) and Joel Moon (Leeds Rhinos, 3pts)
It might seem a bit boring, but the best two centres in Super League this year have both played for Leeds. Kallum Watkins might just be the best centre in the world at the moment, whilst Joel Moon has proved an able partner in crime alongside him.
Third pick: Mark Percival (St Helens)
Stand-off: Danny McGuire (Leeds Rhinos, 5pts)
Important to note here that I’ve always viewed both half-back positions as similar enough, so there might be some crossover between who’s played 6 and 7 this year. But Danny McGuire’s form has been magnificent for Leeds – arguably his best in five or six years. He’s more than worth his spot in the team – but this was the toughest pick of the lot between him and George Williams.
Second pick: George Williams (Wigan Warriors)
Third pick: Albert Kelly (Hull Kingston Rovers)
Scrum-half: Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers, 5pts)
When picking the Dream Team I tend to look at players who have had the biggest influence on their teams in 2015. Luke Gale has been perhaps the signing of the year in that regard; he’s the standout leader for the Albert Goldthorpe Medal, and without him, Cas would have been a far, far worse team. A deserved pick.
Second pick: Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants)
Third pick: Matty Smith (Wigan Warriors)
Props: Adam Cuthbertson (Leeds Rhinos, 5pts) and Alex Walmsley (St Helens, 3pts)
For my money, the two best props in the competition by some distance comprise my front row. Alex Walmsley MUST be in England reckoning somehow after yet another great year for St Helens, whilst Adam Cuthbertson has been a marvellous addition to Super League. He could have gone in at 13, but he’s played most of his rugby at prop, so that’s where he stays!
Third pick: Jamie Peacock (Leeds Rhinos)
Hooker: James Roby (St Helens, 5pts)
A fairly straightforward choice; much like Luke Gale at Cas, it’s hard to imagine St Helens without their talisman. He will make a welcome return for England this year, that’s for sure.
Second pick: Paul Aiton (Leeds Rhinos)
Third pick: Michael McIlorum (Wigan Warriors)
Second-rowers: Stevie Ward (Leeds Rhinos, 5pts) and Ben Currie (Warrington Wolves, 3pts)
The inclusion of Stevie Ward is one I imagined I’d be making at some point in the future, and 2015 has been the year where the Leeds youngster has really come of age. In a youthful Leeds team with plenty of exciting talent, Ward is perhaps at the head of that list. Ben Currie’s pick might surprise some, but he’s been Warrington’s standout man in 2015 – and he too could be a shout for England against New Zealand.
Third pick: Joe Wardle (Huddersfield Giants)
Loose-forward: Joe Westerman (Hull FC)
The toughest position of the lot to sort out – mostly because most teams throw an extra prop in at 13 these days to try and beef up their pack. Of the traditional 13s that remain, I really like watching Joe Westerman. He brings dynamism, flair and skill to the head of the Hull pack, whilst also providing an important influence for them on the field.
Second pick: Ukuma Ta’ai (Huddersfield Giants)
Third pick: Nathan Massey (Castleford Tigers)
Feel free to debate that!