When we go into any Super League season, people always have their own ideas about which players will go on to shine.
It’s easy to pick out the usual suspects, but every season there’s a few guaranteed surprise stars throughout the campaign. These can either be youngsters, squad filler and unknown signings which go on to become vital members of the team week in week out.
So, with that in mind we’re looking at every club’s breakout star of 2022.
Castleford Tigers: Alex Sutcliffe
The strength in depth in Castleford Tigers’ squad makes it difficult to identify a breakout star as they have superb cover in most positions. Deep into their squad numbers are players with plenty of Super League experience and even Alex Sutcliffe himself can claim to have a decent amount of experience having won the Challenge Cup at Leeds. However, there can be no doubt that he’s taken a stop up this year having switched to Castleford and his tries recently have proven that including a magnificent long range effort against Hull FC. A key asset at centre or second-row, he’s proven he can be a first team player at Castleford and will likely be part of the first choice 21 man squad next season. Brad Martin should also receive a mention. Despite wearing number 28, he too has cemented himself in the team in recent weeks whilst Cain Robb has a bright future but hasn’t featured consistently enough to be regarded as a breakout star.
Catalans Dragons: Joe Chan
The fact this young second-row has been poached by Melbourne for 2023 tells you everything you need to know. For much of the season the Dragons have done without Mike McMeeken and Matt Whitley dismantling their superb backrow but the form of Joe Chan whether starting or coming off the bench has seen this be much less of an issue it might have been. Tenacious, powerful and with a big frame, he’s tested defences all year.
Huddersfield Giants: Innes Senior
I think many people believed Innes Senior would be a bit part player at Huddersfield this year after spending over a year on loan at Wakefield. He was given the highest squad number of all of Huddersfield’s wing options with brother Louis seemingly above him in the pecking order. However, injuries saw both start the season opener against Toulouse and although both shone, Ian Watson admitted that something told him that Innes was the one to stick by. He’s since held onto that left wing spot ever since benefitting from the form of Ricky Leutele, being a powerful runner at the starts of sets and keeping his left wing spot for the Challenge Cup Final against Wigan.
Hull FC: Connor Wynne
This year Connor Wynne has finally come into his own. A young man who has always had high potential, for a long time there was a debate over where his best position was. It now seems that he’s settled as a centre and has been one of Hull’s main try scoring threats all season. Despite the arrival of Liam Sutcliffe for next year, Wynne deserves either the 3 or 4 shirt after the season he’s had.
Hull KR: Zach Fishwick
A few weeks ago we’d have no idea who this young man is but for a teenager he’s one hell of a unit and has fit right in at Hull KR under Danny McGuire. He made his debut on a huge stage at the Magic Weekend in a Hull derby and hasn’t looked out of place since. We’ve even seen him start games in the middle of the park he’s earnt that much trust from McGuire and co.
Leeds Rhinos: Jarrod O’Connor
After being a bit part player in 2020 and 2021, Jarrod O’Connor has become an integral cog in the Leeds Rhinos machine this year. It would be easy to claim that his rise to prominence was a result of Kruise Leeming’s injury, but earlier this season he was doing a terrific job in his normal loose-forward position when called upon. Rohan Smith quickly identified O’Connor’s value to the side with deceptive strength and skill making him a threat down the middle always including him in the side either as a forward option or as a hooker even ahead of Brad Dwyer in the pecking order. Ultimately, Leeming’s injury has seen him become Leeds’ starting nine recently and he’s taken to it like a duck to water with plenty of assists and some great bursts up the middle.
Salford Red Devils: Deon Cross
When Deon Cross was signed at the start of the season, few could have imagined the big role he’d play in Salford’s campaign as they’d go on to push for play-off rugby. Some injuries in the centre spots certainly opened the door for him but his form and the way he has seamlessly settled into that centre spot linking nicely with Ken Sio has made him undroppable.
St Helens: Jon Bennison
It’s easy to forget that early this season the gaps on the wing at St Helens were going the way of Josh Simm, but the fact Simm has ended up spending a long time on loan at Hull FC shows that Jon Bennison has pushed himself up the pecking order throughout the year. He’s slotted in on either wing as an able deputy to Tommy Makinson and Regan Grace and has even done a fine job at fullback. An elusive runner like Regan Grace, he’s been key to taking the ball forward at the starts of sets and is a real attacking threat. Grace’s season ending injury will likely see him remain in the side for the rest of the year as Saints chase a fourth consecutive title.
Toulouse Olympique: Maxime Stefani
Though Maxime Stefani has recently lost his spot in the side, the fact he’s still included in pretty much every Toulouse 21-man squad shows a growth in his standing at Toulouse. He started the season playing in Toulouse’s second team in the Elite One Championship and developed into a top forward option in for the French side this year.
Wakefield Trinity: Lewis Murphy
This was a pretty easy pick. In a year that marks the end of Tom Johnstone’s Wakefield career, Trinity have been lucky enough to discover the next Johnstone in the shape of Lewis Murphy. Capable of scoring mesmeric tries and also no stranger to top notch try saving tackles, he’s the future of Wakefield’s wing spot.
Warrington Wolves: Josh Thewlis
To be fair, Josh Thewlis and Connor Wrench could both have been regarded as Warrington’s breakout star of 2021 as well but the duo have continued their development this year and you’d expect one of them to be given the vacant number two shirt next year.
Wigan Warriors: Jai Field
This might seem like a strange pick, but after a difficult first season in Super League due to injury Field was given the number 23 shirt and most expected him to be far away from Wigan’s first choice side when Bevan French, Zak Hardaker, Thomas Leuluai and Cade Cust were all fit. It was only when Field shone in a pre-season friendly at fullback against Warrington that people started to expect him to start Round One in the role as Wigan waited for Bevan French to return. It was an interesting pivot away from the conventional thinking which was that Hardaker would be the man to play fullback in French’s absence. Then in Round One, Field starred against Hull KR and backed that up with a hat-trick against Leeds the week after. Since then he’s been the front runner in the race for the Man of Steel and definitive star of Super League. But as last season ended I don’t think anyone would have expected him to be one less than a year later.