The final part of out Christmas Day ‘top five’ series has seen us analyse and pick out the five most influential Super League captains of all time. There have been some superb leaders in the 27 years of Super League, but we landed on our five and the order after much deliberation.
5. Chris Joynt
The absence of Paul Sculthorpe on this list will certainly raise a few eyebrows, but Chris Joynt edges him out. Nobody is denying the influence of Joynt’s 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 Sculthorpe and Long, Joynt was a big-game player, typified by the most iconic Super League try ever, but he also possessed all the vocal qualities needed to lead a star-studded squad. Joynt is the only captain on this list to never lose a Grand Final.
4. James Roby
James Roby was named St Helens captain ahead of the 2018 season and since then the Saints have enjoyed their most dominant spell in the Super League era. The timeless number nine is one of those captains that leads by example in his actions rather than his words, though he’s certainly become more vocal since he was named skipper too. Roby has lifted the Challenge Cup once, League Leaders’ Shield three times and Super League trophy four times since becoming captain, and after delaying his retirement to play on again in 2023 that total could be added to yet.
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 captained down the years became synonymous with their dominant defence and flair in attack, both of which ‘Lockers’ had in abundance. He is the joint-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 was a towering figure and when he played, Wigan normally won, 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 Super League’s most successful ever captain. 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 is the perfect captain and an ideal role model for future generations, as we see now with his incredible charity work for ex-teammate and MND sufferer Rob Burrow.