Winning the Super League Grand Final is the pinnacle of a player’s career, but for some that opportunity – no matter how blessed they are on the field – just never comes to fruition. Here are the five of the best to have never paraded down the Old Trafford red carpet.
Despite playing just two seasons in Super League, Trent Barrett’s impact on his English club Wigan was seriously impressive. The ex-St George playmaker carried the Warriors side in 2007 and 2008, scoring 26 tries and leading them to the semi-finals of the play-offs in both years. The 2007 Rugby League Writers’ Association Player of the Year bowed out with no medal to show for it, though he did stamp his mark firmly on the northern hemisphere.
Man of Steel in 2013, Danny Brough helped guide Huddersfield to the League Leaders’ Shield that year after a few steady seasons of making the play-offs. Yet again though, like in 2010 and 2015, the halfback could only help the Giants to a semi-final play-off spot before exiting the competition 80 minutes from Old Trafford. It was a bitter blow for a superb organiser and a halfback with one of the greatest kicking games the league has seen. The memory of not being selected for the Grand Final in 2006 with Hull FC would perhaps have made Brough feel even worse too.
Another Man of Steel that has failed to make an appearance on the Hallowed Turf, Danny Houghton won the prestigious award in 2016 as he helped Hull FC to a Challenge Cup success. Another Wembley triumph was forthcoming a year later, but the hooker and his Hull side have fallen short of making the Grand Final for one reason or another. At the age of 32, it is still possible for the number nine to guide his side to Old Trafford, but the chance is slipping from his grasp with each passing year.
Scoring 66 tries in 106 appearances over a period of four seasons for Warrington, Matt King starred in the rise of the Wolves at the end of the noughties. The rangy three-quarter helped Warrington to Challenge Cup victories in 2009 and 2010, but couldn’t get his hands on that elusive Grand Final trophy. This was particularly heartbreaking for the Wolves in King’s last season when they finished top, only to exit at the semi-final stages of the play-offs, 26-24 to Leeds.
The third Man of Steel on this list not to feature in a Grand Final in the Super League era is Adrian Vowles. Nicknamed ‘The Assassin’ for his superb hits out of nowhere, the loose forward joined Castleford in 1997. It was in 1999, however, that Vowles and the Tigers should have been parading down the red carpet at Old Trafford having cast aside Wigan and then Leeds in superb fashion away from home in the play-offs. A defeat in the semi-final to St Helens, however, ended that dream and for Vowles it signalled the end of his hopes of making the Grand Final with the Tigers.
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