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Every team’s surprise star this season

Before every season, every team has those players we all expect to grab the headlines and be the star of the show. Often, they live up to the hype and prove to be that team’s most influential player. However, sometimes these stars have to share the lime light with an unexpected player. Someone we knew little about prior to the season or a player who had not shown their true abilities just yet. So today, we’re picking every team’s surprise star of the season looking at youngsters who have just burst onto the scene or players who weren’t tipped for big years.

Castleford: Jesse Sene-Lefao

This may be his last season as a Tiger, but Jesse Sene-Lefao has done a stand-up job in the backrow for Castleford this year. Many believed his best days had gone going into 2021 and expected him to be a bit part player this term. He instead established himself as Castleford’s first choice backrower alongside Oliver Holmes and often set a good platform from which players like Gareth O’Brien could attack.

Catalans: Mickael Goudemand

Catalans were always going to have to rely on guys like Mickael Goudemand and Paul Seguier this season following the departure of Remi Casty and co. Goudemand has stepped up and then some nailing down a place in Catalans’ strongest 17 and even starting ahead of the likes of Gil Dudson in recent weeks. Hard working and powerful, he’s been key to Catalans’ success this year.

Huddersfield: Will Pryce

2021 has been a disappointing one for the Giants. Tipped for big things at the start of the campaign, Huddersfield have struggled and ended up being a long way away from the play-offs everyone assumed they’d be a part of. There have been shining lights for the Giants however most notably in their youngsters especially Will Pryce who has demonstrated real quality in attack thanks to his skill and pace. He’s a star of the future for sure.

Hull FC: Adam Swift

With 13 tries to his name this season, Adam Swift more than justified Brett Hodgson’s decision to use him as his first choice winger this term. After being written off at St Helens and being left on the side lines at Hull last year, Swift has shown his quality to the world once again and has been Hull’s most consistent player this term.

Hull KR: Luis Johnson

Many believed Warrington got the better deal when they swapped Luis Johnson form Rob Mulhern but the former has been a revelation at Hull KR this season. Hard working with a touch of class, Johnson is the perfect all-rounder and has cemented himself in Tony Smith’s first choice 17.

Leeds: Kruise Leeming

At the start of the season, we knew Leeds were going to have problems in the halves. Luke Gale tore his pectoral, Rob Lui suffered a four-month injury setback and Kyle Eastmond never got going in a Leeds shirt. Liam Sutcliffe did a sound job and everyone expected Richie Myler to be another option. But despite the number of players capable of stepping into the role, it’s been Kruise Leeming who has really starred in the halves and has arguably been Leeds’ best halfback this year. He offers a great running game which stretches defences before his distribution opens up holes. Furthermore, he’s again impressed at nine turning teams around with delicate kicks which often yield 40/20s. He also scores and creates tries for fun with 24 try involvements this season including 10 tries and 14 assists.

Leigh: Adam Sidlow

When you looked at Leigh’s squad at the start of the season, Adam Sidlow wasn’t a name which stood out. That said, the former Bradford man has excelled even in the try scoring department. He’s offered power and a touch of explosivity down the centre which has made him a real threat to opponents all season.

Salford: Harvey Livett

The former Warrington backrow was tipped for big things when he crossed for a hat-trick at Headingley three years ago but things stalled for him and he was moved onto Salford where he wasn’t expected to set the world on fire. This year he has however. He established himself as a real leader and has been a constant threat out wide as well as down the middle always putting his shoulder to the wheel in yardage sets.

St Helens: Joe Batchelor

At the start of the season, it looked like Joe Batchelor wouldn’t get a look in at Saints with quality backrowers like Joel Thompson, James Bentley and Sione Mata’utia in his way. But injuries opened the door for him to step into the side and he’s been St Helens best second-rower this term offering size as well as work rate down the middle. Now a Challenge Cup winner, he easily makes St Helens’ first 17 and has even kept Thompson out of the side recently. He’ll most certainly inherit the number 11 or 12 jersey next year.

Wakefield: Liam Kay

Who’d have guessed Liam Kay would wind up playing at hooker this year? Not me. The winger started the season off slowly fighting with Innes Senior and Lee Kershaw for a place on the flank but since making the move to nine he’s been a revelation. He works hard, has a good pass on him and his pace always makes him a threat.

Warrington: Josh Thewlis

The focus at Warrington this season was on the likes of Greg Inglis and co with many casting aside the talented youngsters at Warrington. But, the likes of Josh Thewlis and Ellis Longstaff have forced their way into the team and have really shone. Thewlis especially has impressed with solid performances at the start of the year enabling him to push for a spot on the wing even getting the nod ahead of Tom Lineham at times.

Wigan: Kai Pearce-Paul

Like Batchelor at St Helens, Kai Pearce-Paul was expected to get very minimal minutes this season with John Bateman, Liam Farrell, Morgan Smithies and Willie Isa in his way, but injuries gave him a chance and he’s taken it. A lanky and gangly figure, he manages to be both brutal and elusive with ball in hand offering a spectacular offload every now and then.

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