We’ve put together a XIII of players to have previously won the Man of Steel award.
We’ve done our best to base each selection on each player’s performance in the season they won the accolade, and in the position they played most of that season in.
Fullback – Zak Hardaker (2015, Leeds)
Despite his well-publicised off-field discrepancies, 2015 was a extraordinary year for Hardaker and a season where he was often unplayable. He’d cemented the fullback spot at Headingley and, alongside the likes of Danny McGuire, Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow and Kallum Watkins, starred as the Rhinos won the treble. Not only was the former Featherstone man a potent attacker but his defensive ability was the best in Super League, with his positioning, catching and tackling preventing many a try being conceded and helping the club claim numerous big wins.
Other candidates: Ben Barba, Sam Tomkins, Brett Hodgson, Paul Wellens, Joe Lydon, George Fairbairn
Wingers – Martin Offiah (1988, Widnes) and Pat Richards (2010, Wigan)
Only two wingers have ever won the accolade, which makes this choice much easier, but that doesn’t detract from the quality they both demonstrated throughout their respective careers. Offiah was electric from the moment he stepped foot on a pitch and is widely regarded as one of the all-time greats. In the 1987/88 and 1988/89 seasons, he scored an extraordinary 70 tries, demonstrating his blistering pace and natural try-scoring ability. Richards was a very different type of winger, using his strength and aerial presence to his advantage. In 2010 he scored 32 tries in 34 games, as well as kicking an excellent 167 goals to help Wigan claim their third Super League title.
Centres – Jamie Lyon (2005, St Helens) and Jonathan Davies (1994, Warrington)
Lyon still goes down as one of the best overseas signings Super League has ever seen. Joining St Helens from Parramatta in 2005, he was an instant hit, with his handling skills and defensive capabilities making him a fan-favourite. His impact saw Saints crowned as League Leaders, however he would have to wait until the following season to win the Grand Final. Welshman Davies was a phenomenon when he crossed codes from rugby union in 1989. A speedy centre or fullback with an exceptional sidestep, he was Warrington’s top try and point scorer in 1994, having had previous spells at Widnes and Canterbury-Bankstown, and was key as the club finished third in the league – their joint-second best league finish at that point.
Other candidates: Dean Bell
Stand-off – Shaun Edwards (1990, Wigan)
The two halves positions are the spots that have seen the most Man of Steel winners, making them extremely tough to choose. Edwards’ impact in Wigan’s 1990 league title win, however, sees him just edge it at no.6. The Great Britain international scored 15 tries and set up countless others as the club won 20 of their 26 games to edge out Leeds and become league champions for the 11th time in their history.
Other candidates: Rangi Chase, Iestyn Harris, Garry Schofield
Scrum-half – Sean Long (2000, St Helens)
Long was a fresh-faced 24-year-old when he won the award in 2000, with his career gaining traction after a move from Widnes to St Helens three years earlier. He was unplayable that season, topping the try and point-scoring charts with 22 and 352 respectively and helping lead Saints to their third Super League triumph. A charismatic halfback, Long would go on to become a club legend, achieving further success at both club and international level.
Other candidates: Jackson Hastings, Luke Gale, Danny Brough, Allan Agar, Ken Kelly
Props – Andy Platt (1993, Wigan) and James Graham (2008, St Helens)
Platt was a traditional tough, hard-working prop and had a hand in five of Wigan’s league title wins, including in 1993 when he was named Man of Steel, affirming his status as the competition’s best front rower at the time. He made over 300 appearances for the club, before trying his hand in the Southern Hemisphere with Auckland Warriors. St Helens product Graham has always been an outstanding competitor, not least when he burst onto the scene around the mid-2000s. Despite only being 23 at the time, Graham led from the front as Saints stormed to the League Leaders Shield in ’08 and has since gone on to carve out a career as one of the world’s best props.
Other candidates: Gavin Miller, George Nicholls
Hooker – James Roby (2007, St Helens)
Roby has been one of Super League’s most consistent performers for years, however 2007 was only his fourth year as a professional player. Then 22, he actually only made 12 starts for Saints, being used more as an impact player with club legend Keiron Cunningham still donning the no.9 shirt. If anything, though, it showed just how much of a talent he was and the award was an early glimpse of what was to be be expected from Roby in the following decade.
Other candidates: Danny Houghton, Daryl Clark, James Lowes, David Ward
Second Rowers – Jamie Peacock (2003, Bradford) and Denis Betts (1995, Wigan)
Peacock is arguably Super League’s best-ever player. He may have still been in the early stages of what would become a glittering career when he was named Man of Steel in ’03, but he played a huge part as Bradford won both the league title and Challenge Cup. He would go on to win over 20 major trophies in total. Tough back rower Betts played out his most successful Super League season in ’95, scoring 14 tries as Wigan won the league title and earning a move to the ARL with Auckland the following year. A Great Britain and England international, Betts is still considered one of the Warriors’ greatest-ever forwards, racking up a total of 367 club appearances.
Other candidates: Mick Morgan
Loose Forward – Ellery Hanley (1985, Bradford Northern; 1987, Wigan; 1989, Wigan)
As the only player to ever win three Man of Steel awards, Hanley claims the 13 jersey ahead of four other top-class candidates. He first picked up the accolade with Bradford Northern, scoring a remarkable 55 tries in just 37 games, before joining high-flying Wigan the following season. In the other two years he was named Man of Steel, the Warriors won trophies in both, collecting the Super League title in ’87 and the Challenge Cup in and ’89. Hanley had a huge hand in those victories and is undoubtedly one of the game’s greatest-ever players.
Other candidates: Andy Farrell, Paul Sculthorpe, Adrian Vowles, Doug Laughton