Such is the nature of sport, some of the greatest players to grace Super League over the last 25 years were not or have not yet been lucky enough to feature in the competition’s showpiece event – the Grand Final.
With the 2020 staging just one day away, we have named the 10 best players to have played in Super League but not feature in a Grand Final to date.
10. Jermaine McGillvary
The England international’s finest form arguably wasn’t seen in Super League but rather the 2017 World Cup which very nearly propelled him to the NRL. Fortunately for us, we still get to see him in Super League week in week out. He’s truly a tank on the flank with great strength and finishing power. It was that finishing power that catapulted him to the top of the try scoring charts in 2015 and the Super League Dream Team. Despite the fact he has yet to play in the decider, his Super League career hasn’t been barren as he helped the Giants win the League Leaders’ Shield in 2013.
9. Andy Lynch
With 452 Super League appearances, Lynch has the second most in the competition’s history. Despite the fact he never played in a Grand Final, he played an important role in taking Bradford to Old Trafford in 2005 and Castleford in 2017. The big prop always powered his side forward and threw himself into tackle after tackle. A Super League legend for sure.
8. David Solomona
It still surprises me that this enigmatic second-rower never played in a Grand Final. He had one of the best offloads in the business which made him a superb attacking weapon. After an excellent spell at Bradford, he helped Tony Smith’s revolution at Warrington that made them contenders again. His flair helped them finish top of the pile in 2011 as they only just missed out on the final. A player so enterprising and creative he deserved to play on the biggest stage.
7. Adrian Vowles
Vowles is one of only five Man of Steel winners in the Super League era to not feature in a Grand Final. A superb, hardworking loose forward with a touch of class, he was a player who deserved to be battling it out in the upper echelons of the league. And in 1999 – the year he won the Man of Steel Award – he carried Cas to play-off victories over both Wigan and Leeds as they got to within 80 minutes of the Grand Final. Sadly, it wasn’t to be for the Tigers that season. They would make the decider 18 years later however and perhaps his leadership and quality were what they were lacking that night.
6. Ben Barba
A controversial figure for sure, but a player who certainly lit up Super League. The 2018 Man of Steel is the most recent Man of Steel to fail to make it to the Grand Final despite his successful stint at St Helens which saw them get to back-to-back Super League semi-finals. Overall, in his time in England he scored an impressive 34 tries in 34 games, so it was no surprise that he led the Saints to the League Leaders’ Shield in 2018, but sadly a Grand Final never followed.
5. Matt King
One of the classiest overseas signings to grace Super League, it’s a rotten shame that he never reached the Super League Grand Final. In his time at Warrington he scored 66 tries in 106 appearances, including one in the Super League semi-final in 2011 which was his final game in this country. That season the 2010 Dream Team member helped the Wolves to the League Leaders’ Shield and perhaps the Super League trophy should have followed.
4. Steve Menzies
The 2008 NRL Grand Final winner was a player who oozed class and was respected by all. Menzies is a legend of the sport, renowned for his leadership and work rate – even till his late 30s – and a player with immense skill despite playing in the back-row. In two seasons at Bradford, he impressively poached 27 tries, despite playing in the pack, before he concluded his career with three superb years at Catalans, carrying them to fourth place in 2012.
3. Danny Houghton
If things go according to plan for the Black and Whites, Houghton may not be eligible for this list by the end of his career. However, at this moment in time, he stands as one of the best Super League players to never feature in a Grand Final. He’s a Grand Final calibre player, largely due to his defensive pedigree as a recurring winner of Super League’s top tackler. The year 2016 was undoubtedly Houghton’s high point as his tackle won Hull the Challenge Cup and he was crowned the Man of Steel. Despite all that he has accomplished, he has yet to play in a Grand Final and he’ll be hoping to change that in the twilight of his career.
2. Danny Brough
Like Houghton, Brough is another Man of Steel who failed to make it to a Grand Final. After a successful stint at Hull FC, he will have been disappointed to be left out of their Grand Final team in 2006. However, his career really hit new heights when he joined Huddersfield. There he consolidated the Giants as play-off regulars before guiding them to the League Leaders’ Shield in 2013, as he won the Man of Steel. But that season, like in 2010 and 2015, he and the Giants could only get within 80 minutes of the title decider. A quality organiser with one of the best kicking games the competition has seen, Brough was arguably built for a Grand Final but it sadly never came to pass.
1. Trent Barrett
Barrett was another classy half who sadly only ever made it as far as the Super League semi-finals. The former St George Illawarra Dragon was one of the finest overseas signings Super League has seen and he somewhat carried Wigan in 2007 and 2008. In two seasons for the Cherry and Whites he scored 26 tries and led them to within 80 minutes of the final in both campaigns, despite the fact they had finished sixth in 2007. Perhaps had he stayed for more than two seasons, the 2007 Rugby League Writers Association Player of the Year might have led the Warriors to a Grand Final.