Despite being hailed the biggest signing in Super League history, Toronto Wolfpack star Sonny Bill Williams is only fourth favourite at 16/1 to be named the 2020 Steve Prescott Man of Steel.
Blake Austin, who led the race for the 2019 award until a mid-season injury, heads the market at 12/1 with Super League sponsors Betfred. However, next season will see Gareth Widdop alongside him in the halves and with arguably the Wolves’ best player last season Daryl Clark in there too, you have to feel this will hinder Austin’s chances. Points are awarded to the best three players in each game, with the player with the most points at the end of the year being awarded the trophy, a system that favoured last year’s winner Jackson Hastings.
Hastings, now at Wigan, is joint favourite with Austin at 12/1 and as mentioned, he was a big fish in a smaller pool at Salford, without sounding too disrespectful, so he was able to pick up plenty of the star man points in a high percentage of the Red Devils’ games. This will lead many to believe that the points may not come as easy to him next year, but I imagine most of what Wigan do in 2020 will go through Hastings and I certainly wouldn’t rule him out.
For me, James Maloney’s move to Catalans is up there with Sonny Bill at Toronto and he is next in the betting at 14/1. It’s not often an NRL star moves to Super League while still at the top of his game, but that is certainly the case here. I would be more bullish about Maloney’s chances if he was at one of the clubs this side of the Channel, as the Dragons’ poor away form could prove problematic.
Given Catalans’ problems in away games down the years, often put down to travel, you would have to predict that Toronto may suffer the same fate. Sonny Bill is the only forward in the top 15 of this market and it’s with good reason, the current voting system seems to favour the backs. You only have to look at the amount of times someone in a jersey 1 to 7 picks up the man-of-the-match award on Sky Sports, and failing that it’s normally a hooker.
Back to the odds and three other players share fourth favouritism with SBW, they are Lachlan Coote, James Roby and Gareth Widdop. Although these three are top class players, I would probably look further down the list for where the value lies.
My pick would be a revitalised Zak Hardaker at 20/1. He was Wigan’s best player towards the end of the season and one of the main reasons they went on that amazing run that took them from the bottom to within 80 minutes of Old Trafford. His well-publicised problems look well behind him and he even made the Great Britain squad. Obviously he will have to share a lot of points with Hastings, but I think Zak rates just a touch more value. Like Hastings, Hardaker is also a former Man of Steel winner but that was under a different system, although he was the pick of a Leeds side packed with stars when they won the treble in 2015.
Also priced at 20/1 and another former winner is new Leeds signing Luke Gale. If he can play the majority of games and be at 100% fitness then you would say these odds are justified, but there has to be major doubts on this.
There are five players priced at 25/1, these are Jake Truman, Jake Connor, Albert Kelly, Jonny Lomax and Daryl Clark. Whilst Lomax was unlucky to not win last year, it is Clark who would be my pick of these five. Again, Clark will likely have to share points with the other stars in the Wolves side, but he is what makes them tick and would be my next best to Hardaker.
Obviously this is a wide open market and there are a number of big-name players down the list who could be worth a punt. Wakefield centre Bill Tupou looks big at 100/1, while Leeds’ powerhouse Konrad Hurrell also looks overpriced at 50/1. You can view the full Man of Steel market on the Betfred website here.
As always, please gamble responsibly.