Ranking the top ten captains in Super League history

There have been 26 years of Super League and in that time, there have been some superb leaders. It takes many things to be a great captain so we have taken all teams, achievements and players into consideration when compiling this list.

10. Danny Kirmond

To many, Kirmond’s inclusion in this list will come as a shock. The former Wakefield skipper never got close to lifting the Super League trophy, but that’s not what this list is solely about and Kirmond showed incredible leadership and loyalty to Trinity during many testing times, especially during his time as captain from 2012-2019. From leading a team put together from scratch to the play-offs in his first season as captain, to surviving the drop three years later as the club headed towards financial meltdown, the steely back-rower rode out the tough times to end his spell as skipper with two consecutive fifth-place finishes.

9. Iestyn Harris

Very few people can claim to have captained two of Super League’s most successful clubs, but Iestyn Harris can. The Welshman thrived in the role, providing excellent organisation, structure and influence on the teams he skippered. After joining Leeds for a record fee in 1997, Harris became the club’s youngest ever captain a year later, aged just 21, leading the Rhinos to the first Super League Grand Final. He then lifted the Challenge Cup at the old Wembley in 1999 before departing to rugby union a few years later. Harris joined Bradford on his rugby league return in 2005 and was named captain the following year, taking over from Jamie Peacock.

8. Gareth Ellis

Ellis is a player who deserved to lift the Super League trophy as a captain, but that chance never came close. After returning from the NRL, Hull FC fought off big competition to sign the no-nonsense back-rower and he was named captain from the outset. His influence was there for all to see, guiding the Black & Whites to consecutive Challenge Cup triumphs in 2016 and 2017. Ellis was the epitome of a professional, who led by example and who always stood up when times were tough, making him a superb captain and one of Hull’s all-time best.

7. Adrian Morley

Morley is another player who deserved to lift the Super League trophy as a captain. In his seven-season stint as Warrington skipper, ‘Moz’ oversaw a period in which the club went from the bottom to the top of Super League, lifting the League Leaders Shield in 2011. The highlight of his spell as skipper saw the Wolves win the Challenge Cup three times in four years, with the big prop demonstrating all his big-game experience when it mattered most. Morley moved to his boyhood club Salford to captain them before bowing out of the game in 2015

6. Robbie Paul

Paul’s captaincy was perhaps slightly underrated at Bradford, leading them to three Super League titles and the treble in 2003. The Bulls star-studded side was full of big-name players and is perhaps the reason many don’t include the Kiwi when talking about the competition’s best captains. He deserves to be high up on this list for me though, showing there are many ways to showcase great captaincy. Paul did that through his quality, often saving his best for the biggest games, scoring big tries and creating big moments in many finals.

5. Paul Sculthorpe

Twice-crowned Man of Steel Paul Sculthorpe was made Saints captain in 2004. During that time, the talented loose-forward won three Challenge Cups and one World Club Challenge – though he missed the 2006 Grand Final through injury. That was, unfortunately, a sign of things to come for Sculthorpe and he retired just three days shy of his 31st birthday in 2008. Would have been higher up this list if it hadn’t have been for the stop-start nature of his last few years as skipper.

4. Chris Joynt

What places Chris Joynt above Paul Sculthorpe in this list is the former is arguably the definitive St Helens Super League captain. Not denying the influence of successors Sculthorpe and Sean Long, but neither were able to recreate the sustained period of success Joynt did as he became the first skipper to lift consecutive Super League trophies. Like the aforementioned Paul, Joynt was a big-game player, typified by the most iconic Super League try ever, but he also possessed all the vocal qualities needed and is the only captain on this list to never lose a Grand Final.

3. Andy Farrell

Farrell had it all and that included superb leadership. You would probably give him the captaincy on his toughness alone, but the two-time Man of Steel winner could play and organise as well. That talent was seen early and ‘Faz’ was appointed Wigan skipper in 1996 aged 21, becoming the youngster-ever Great Britain captain later that year. He became the first player to lift the Super League trophy at Old Trafford in 1998 and was the most influential player in the country for a number of years

2. Sean O’Loughlin

If ever a player embodied what their team was about then it’s probably Sean O’Loughlin. The Wigan sides he has captained down the years have become synonymous with their dominant defence and flair in attack, both of which ‘Lockers’ has in abundance. He is the second most successful skipper in the competition having guided the Warriors to four Grand Final triumphs, but it didn’t come without times of struggle, almost suffering relegation in his first season as captain in 2006. O’Loughlin is a towering figure and when he plays, Wigan normally win, with previous coach Shaun Wane often saving him for the big occasions, knowing his skipper wouldn’t let him down on the big stage.

1. Kevin Sinfield

Described by fellow legend Jamie Peacock as “the greatest leader I’ve had”, Kevin Sinfield is not just Super League’s most successful captain, but in my opinion the best. He was made Leeds skipper in 2003, aged just 22, and would oversee the greatest period of success in the club’s history. Sinfield’s 13 years at the helm saw him lift seven Super League titles, while winning a whole host of other team and personal accolades along the way. He was the headline act of a golden generation of players, with everything from his pre-game preparation to his in-game organisation and goal-kicking done with ultimate professionalism. Sinfield was not just the perfect captain, but an ideal role model for future generations.

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