One of the toughest decisions any coach has to make is deciding who should take to the field in a big game.
These days, so many teams have big squads packed full of quality meaning that when a big game rolls around some star players have to be left out.
With that in mind, here’s five of the biggest omissions in Super League history.
Andrew Dunemann and Matt Adamson – 2004
I’ve bulked these two in together as they both missed out on Leeds’ Grand Final 17 in 2004 despite playing key roles in the season up until that point. Adamson lived and breathed the club and was even a Manchester United fan so was desperate to make his final appearance for Leeds at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Dunemann is the forgotten fourth member of Leeds’ sensational set of halfbacks that year. He made an impressive 26 appearances for the Rhinos that season. He, along with Adamson, was left out of Leeds’ semi-final success against Wigan the week before as Tony Smith looked for better balance. However, they might have expected to feature the following week as Smith never played the same team twice in a row during 2004. That was the case until it came to the Grand Final. Smith fielded the same 17 that beat Wigan and they did the job delivering Leeds’ first Championship in 32 years.
Kevin Sinfield – 2015
Not only is Kevin Sinfield a Leeds legend, he’s a Super League legend. 2015 was set to be his grand finale however having announced he’d be leaving the sport at the end of the season he soon found his form decreed not good enough by coach Brian McDermott. McDermott elected to field young Liam Sutcliffe in the halves whilst naming Leeds’ talismanic skipper on the bench. He even did so as Sinfield got ready to make his 500th Leeds appearance against Warrington. Sinfield was only brought on after 45 minutes by which time the game was all but gone at 20-4.
Sam Tomkins – 2012
You might call me a cheat for this one seen as though Sam Tomkins was injured when Wigan welcomed Leeds to the DW Stadium in the Super League semi-final. However, it was a minor injury with the fullback expected to play in the Grand Final the week after should Wigan beat Leeds as expected. So, Tomkins wasn’t risked and it was a decision that back-fired. The Warriors led 12-11 going into the final minutes before a towering Sinfield bomb was spilled by young fullback Jack Murphy leading to a Leeds penalty. Sinfield nailed the two-pointer taking Leeds to the Grand Final but it could’ve been a different story had Tomkins played.
Leon Pryce – 2011
Leon Pryce was left out of another Wigan semi-final defeat as his St Helens side vanquished the reigning Champions whilst he watched on at home battling illness. Pryce was expected to return to the Saints team in the Grand Final a week later adding vital experience to a youthful St Helens side taking on Grand Final veterans Leeds. However, he wasn’t even included in the 19 man squad with Gary Wheeler selected ahead of him.
Zak Hardaker – 2017
Castleford were all conquering in 2017. The Tigers had cruised to the top of the table with 50 points and then beat St Helens in the semi-final booking their place in the Grand Final for the very first time. They were overwhelming favourites to win the decider and that was largely down to the quality combination of Luke Gale and Hardaker both of whom had been nominated for the Man of Steel. However, a few weeks earlier it was discovered that Hardaker had taken an illegal substance before a match. Though Super League didn’t demand that he be left out of the decider, Castleford made the bold decision to leave him out and play prolific winger Greg Eden at fullback. It didn’t work as Danny McGuire kicked Cas to death leading Leeds to the trophy.