As the curtain comes down at the end of a thrilling Betfred Super League regular season, the 2023 Dream Team, as voted for by the Man of Steel panellists, is today unveiled.
This year’s line-up includes six debutants, alongside seven players who have already featured in previous Dream Team selections.
Four of those new faces come from one of the teams of the year: Leigh Leopards. Tom Amone, John Asiata, Edwin Ipape and Lachlan Lam have all earned places after playing their part in a historic season which has seen the Leopards surprise the pundits by lifting the Challenge Cup trophy for the first time in 52 years and reaching the Betfred Super League play-offs for the first time.
Warrington Wolves prop Paul Vaughan and Wigan Warriors centre Jake Wardle are this year’s other debutants, the pair consistently catching the eye regardless of team form.
Wardle is included alongside teammates Liam Farrell and Bevan French – the trio having spearheaded the Warriors’ quest for a seventh League Leaders’ trophy. England backrower Farrell is included for the sixth time, equalling Sam Tomkins’ record of five consecutive Dream Team selections from 2009-2013. Bevan French is Wigan’s other representative, chosen this year at stand-off having previously been selected at full-back (2020) and wing (2022).
Leigh Leopards winger Josh Charnley returns to the Dream Team for the first time in 10 years, having previously been included in 2013 and 2012, with another of this year’s leading try scorers, Tom Johnstone of Catalans Dragons, named on the other wing for the second time.
Named for the third time – and, like Bevan French, in a third different position – is St Helens’ Jack Welsby, whose last line of defence now matches the attacking prowess that earned him selection at stand-off last year. 22-years old Welsby is the youngest player included this year, with Hull KR’s Shaun Kenny-Dowall the oldest at 34.
Finally, there is a third Dream Team selection for Salford Red Devils’ Kallum Watkins – this time in the back row having previously been chosen at centre whilst with Leeds Rhinos in 2014 and 2015.
Three-times Man of Steel and chair of the Dream Team selection panel, Ellery Hanley MBE, says:
“Every year the Dream Team selection asks as many questions as it answers – and this year is no different. Just as the battle for the League Leaders trophy went down to the wire, so too did the Dream Team selection process. We could have picked a second Dream Team to rival this one!
“Ultimately, every one of these 13 players deserves recognition for what they’ve delivered on the field during 2023. These are the players who have entertained us, eaten up the metres, provided the assists, defended like trojans and scored some unbelievable tries.
“The selection of five Leigh players is a measure of what that club has achieved in 2023. Liam Farrell’s selection reflects what he has delivered week in and week out for the past five seasons. He’s the kind of Mr Consistent who would grace any Dream Team in any era.
“The Dream Team announcement gets people talking about the players – and that’s how it should be. Who’s in, who’s not…the arguments will continue until the early hours, but supporters talking about how good players are can only be a good thing, even if we can’t all agree on the final 13.”
Betfred Super League Dream Team 2023 (including heritage number)
1 Jack Welsby (195)
2 Josh Charnley (122)
3 Jake Wardle (211)
4 Shaun Kenny-Dowall (201)
5 Tom Johnstone (171)
6 Bevan French (186)
7 Lachlan Lam (209)
8 Tom Amone (206)
9 Edwin Ipape (208)
10 Paul Vaughan (210)
11 Kallum Watkins (140)
12 Liam Farrell (150)
13 John Asiata (207)