We’re over a quarter of the way through Super League XXVI and the league is starting to shape up. The challengers are pulling away from the pack and the strugglers are floundering at the back. But who have been the best individual performers so far this campaign? Who makes the team of the season so far?
Fullback: Sam Tomkins
The fullback slot was a tough one to pick. So many English fullbacks have impressed this season including the likes of Jake Connor and Zak Hardaker and that’s just the Englishmen. But, despite the fact the Dragons were able to win without him last Saturday, Tomkins has been immense this season. Without him the Dragons wouldn’t be where they are. He often dragged them to victories in the earlier stages of the season and has nine assists to his name. I’d say he looks back to his best but the former Wigan player looks so much more mature. He’s having a brilliant season.
Wingers: Adam Swift and Regan Grace
Regan Grace has taken things up a notch so far this campaign. His ability to score impossible and mesmeric tries has often been the difference for a Saints team that have struggled in attack at times. He’s simply exhilarating to watch. The man he replaced at St Helens has been equally impressive at Hull FC. Brett Hodgson has brought the very best out of Adam Swift trusting him over Bureta Faraimo. He’s absolutely reliable on the left edge for the Black and Whites as he makes metres and proves stern in defence. He’s got four tries and an assist to his name as well. Once again, Super League have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to brilliant wingers. Ryan Hall is back with a bang with seven tries, Bibby is one ahead of him and Grace with eight whilst Tom Davies continues to impress. Despite that, Grace and Swift get the nod for me.
Centres: Jack Welsby and Toby King
Many wondered whether Grand Final hero Jack Welsby could live up to the hype in 2021. I’d say he’s exceeded expectations and is now St Helens’ first choice centre. He offers everything when on the left edge due to his widespread skillset and physical attributes. He’s created some quite simply brilliant tries this season. A shoe in for Young Player of the Year at this rate for sure. Jake Bibby can also count himself unlucky when it comes to the centre position as he’s done a fine job there in recent games but his versatility has worked against him in this instance as Toby King gets in ahead of him. King continues to excel at centre for Warrington. The Wolves have quite rightly given him a new deal to keep him at the club beyond this season. He has everything and is no doubt the league’s best centre at the moment.
Halfbacks: Jonny Lomax and Jordan Abdull
Along with Sam Tomkins, Lomax sits top of the Man of Steel rankings with 12 points as he continues to show that he is one of the best and most important players in Super League. He makes St Helens tick and plenty of their tries have been down to him. He had a whopping eight try assists to his name going into this weekend. Joining him in the halves is Hull KR’s Jordan Abdull. Recently signed to a new deal, Abdull has been the creative hub for the Robins this season with two tries and six assists. Everything goes through him and he’s taken the Rovers to some unlikely wins and has 10 Man of Steel points.
Props: Mikolaj Oledzki and Chris Satae
Mikolaj Oledzki has been one of the rare bright sparks in a poor season for the Rhinos. He continually busts tackles, gets quick play the balls and his explosivity has been one of the few ways Leeds have been able to test opposition defences. He’s going to be a special player. As for Chris Satae I’ve been really impressed with the way he and Ligi Sao have carried Hull in the absence of Scott Taylor and others. They get through so much work and have kept Hull in games they had no right to be in.
Hooker: Paul McShane
Perhaps no player is as essential to their team’s success as McShane is to Castleford. The reigning Man of Steel comes up with big play after big play and the Tigers don’t look the same without him. He faced stern opposition for this spot from former Cas man Daryl Clark who has shown moments of class throughout this season.
Second-Rowers: Andre Savelio and Ben Currie
Despite the controversy at Wigan, Savelio’s season shouldn’t be remembered for the altercation with Tony Clubb. This has been his best campaign in a long time. He’s looked dangerous out wide and has always been a willing runner and a powerful tackler. Joining him in the back-row is Ben Currie. I’ve long been an admirer of Currie’s and he continues to impress in 2021 even though his season is perhaps going under the radar. However, he still has five Man of Steel points and sits ninth in the rankings. He offers speed and attacking fluency on the edge and should be considered for England at the end of the year.
Loose-Forward: Benjamin Garcia
There was major pressure on Garcia going into this season following his appointment as Catalans captain. However, the responsibility has brought the best out of him. He’s a work horse in the middle of the park often bursting tackles and getting the Dragons on the front foot. They look much better when he’s in the side. That said, the likes of Joe Cator and George Lawler both deserve praise.