In the last of this series, we look at the Super League Team of the Decade. This time its the Loose Forwards.
This is in no particular order.
Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors)
O’Loughlin came through Wigan’s academy back in 2001 and was made captain of the club in 2006.
Moving into this decade, The England international really came into his own. He topped a lot of the main stats for the Warriors and helped them to the League Leaders Shield and the Super League Grand Final with victory over St Helens.
A year later, he started at loose forward as the Warriors won the Challenge Cup, with victory over Leeds Rhinos.
In 2012, he helped Wigan to the League Leaders Shield, and then in 2013, he played both finals as Wigan completed a League and Cup Double.
Then after two straight Grand Final defeats in 2014 and 2015, O’Loughlin went on to help the Warriors record another Grand Final win in 2016.
He won his final trophy of this decade with the 2018 Super League Grand Final.
Moving forward, he revealed a few weeks ago that he has signed his final contract at the club, meaning he will retire at the end of the 2020 season, having played almost 500 games for the Warriors.
Kevin Sinfield (Leeds Rhinos)
Sinfield came through the Leeds academy system in 1998, and since then, hasn’t looked back.
He is a versatile player, who can either play at Loose Forward or in the halves, he has even deputised at hooker.
Sinfield was coming into the decade having been named the best Loose Forward in the World by the RLIF.
For the first time since 2006, Leeds hadn’t won a trophy in 2010 after they lost in the Challenge Cup Final against Warrington Wolves.
A year later, Leeds won their fourth Super League title in five years with another win over St Helens.
Sinfield then put in a Harry Sunderland Trophy winning performance as Leeds won the title from fifth place for the second straight year.
The England international had lifted everything he could as captain, apart from the Challenge Cup. But that changed in 2014 when they beat Castleford Tigers at Wembley.
Then a year later, in Sinfield’s final year, Leeds won the treble for the first time in their history, and were only the third side in the Super League era to do it.
They retained the Challenge Cup with a 50-0 win over Hull KR at Wembley and then won the League Leaders Shield on the final night against Huddersfield Giants. They crowned it with a win over Wigan Warriors in the Super League Grand Final.
After a short stint in rugby union, he retired from the game completely.
Sinfield retired as the top goal-kicker in the history of the Super League, with 1,775. He remains involved with the Rhinos as Director of Rugby.
Gareth Ellis (Hull FC)
Ellis came through at Wakefield in the 1990s, before moving onto Leeds Rhinos and Wests Tigers before the end of the 2000s.
He returned to this country in 2013 with Hull FC, and has since helped the club through one of their most successful periods for a long time.
In his first season, he helped them to the playoffs, but they were well beaten by League Leaders Huddersfield Giants. They also reached the Challenge Cup Final, but lost against Wigan Warriors.
The next season was a bit of a struggle for the Black and Whites, as they finished 11th at the end of the regular season. However, they would bounce back to make the top eight in 2015.
2016 would prove to be the best year, as they finally put their Wembley curse behind them, as they beat Warrington Wolves to lift the Challenge Cup.
They also finished second at the end of the weekly rounds, setting up a home semi-final against Wigan Warriors. But they couldn’t make a first Grand Final since 2006.
Ellis was also captain of the team during this period.
The next season saw them retain their Challenge Cup crown, but they fell agonisingly short in their battle for the Super League, as they lost 18-16 against eventual champions Leeds Rhinos.
Ellis had initially retired following the conclusion of this season, but overturned his decision halfway through the 2019 season, as Hull needed to end a 13-game winless streak.
Moving forward, he certainly has no evident plans to go back into retirement and will enter the new decade still going strong at 38.
Jon Wilkin (St Helens)
Wilkin started out at Hull KR in 2001, before making the move to St Helens ahead of the 2003 season. It was here where he realised his potential.
He is another versatile player, who can play in the second row, loose forward or in the halves.
Moving into the present decade, Wilkin helped Saints reach a fifth straight Super League Grand Final, but couldn’t stop a fourth straight defeat as they came unstuck against Wigan. The same thing happened a year later against Leeds.
Saints then went through a bit of a transition period during the 2012 and 2013 seasons, as they were building a younger team after losing so many players either to injury, or seeking further opportunities elsewhere.
However, Wilkin remained part of that side, but missed out on the 2014 Grand Final because of injury.
Once Paul Wellens had stood down as captain the following year, Wilkin was appointed to the position. Later that year, he helped Saints secure a semi-final spot in the Super League, but they lost out to treble winners Leeds.
He remained an integral part of a side that continued to compete at the top, but limited game time saw him pass the armband to James Roby.
Wilkin then left the Saints following the expiration of his contract to sign with Toronto Wolfpack. He left having made over 400 appearances and won four major domestic titles (one Super League and three Challenge Cups)
He has helped the Wolfpack gain promotion to the Super League, and will likely play against his old club, if fit.