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The five best players to never win the Man of Steel

The Steve Prescott Man of Steel is the single most prestigious individual accolade in Rugby League’s northern hemisphere.

First introduced in 1977, 13 clubs have had winners in their squad with Wigan currently leading the pack with 13 players being given the award.

But, some stars often fail to get recognised for their incredible work ethic or skill. Here are five of the best Super League players to have never been honoured with the Man of Steel.

Kevin Sinfield

It seems absolutely baffling that Super League’s greatest ever player has never won the Man of Steel. With seven Grand Final victories under his belt, as well as two Challenge Cup successes and three World Club Challenge triumphs, Sinfield’s trophy cabinet was bulging during his time at the Rhinos. What makes it even more remarkable is that Sinfield’s record-holding 3443 Super League points tally, as well as his fantastic leadership skills, brought Leeds to the forefront of Rugby League and changed the top-flight landscape forever.

Gareth Ellis

With a career spanning four decades, Gareth Ellis was the epitomy of a ‘man of steel’. With spells at Wakefield, Leeds and Hull yielding two Grand Finals and two Challenge Cups, the success of the powerful second-rower was substantial to say the least. But, it was Ellis’ time at the KCOM Stadium that could have seen him scoop up the award. Captaining Hull to back-to-back Challenge Cup successes in 2016 and 2017 and playing until he was 39 to help the Airlie Birds out of an injury crisis made him go down in folklore with the Hull faithful. Unfortunately, his only time on the shortlist was in 2016 when Ellis was beaten by teammate Danny Houghton.

Keiron Cunningham

Again, rather surprisingly, Keiron Cunningham cannot boast the title of ‘Man of Steel’. That is despite winning five Super League titles and seven Challenge Cups and being one of St Helens’ greatest players in the modern era. Indeed, having a statue outside Saints’ new stadium shows just how important he was in his pomp, but sadly the main individual prize never came his way. It’s even more incredible when considering that seven Saints players won the Man of Steel in the noughties, with Cunningham not amongst them.

Rob Burrow

Did anyone perform better on the big stage than Rob Burrow? The livewire halfback won two Harry Sunderland trophies due to his performances in the 2007 and 2011 Super League Grand Finals. Almost certainly one of the greatest and most unique to have ever played the game in a career that spanned 17 years, Burrow could not, however, triumph at the Man of Steel awards despite being a major catalyst in Leeds’ eight Super League and two Challenge Cup successes in his time at the club.

Danny McGuire

It truly is astounding that three of Leeds’ most influential playmakers in their entire history have never won the most prestigious individual accolade, but Danny McGuire fills the last gap in the Rhinos’ triumvirate. Like Burrow, McGuire was at the helm of Leeds’ Golden Era, winning eight Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and three World Club Challenges. Incredibly, only three players have won the Harry Sunderland trophy in two Grand Finals – Sinfield, Burrow and McGuire with the latter scooping up the man-of-the-match award in 2015 and 2017. McGuire was also the first player to score 200 tries in Super League, becoming the highest try-scorer in the competition’s history. An absolute disaster that he was never named the league’s greatest player.

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