The end of the 2020 Super League season marked 25 years of the competition’s existence. So, ahead of the upcoming season, we select the ultimate starting 13 from the era so far.
The introduction of the competition saw a huge number of Rugby League greats emerge, and here we recap some of the best to ever grace the sport.
Players will be chosen based on a combination of impact, ability, and their achievements during their time in Super League.
1. Paul Wellens
A one club-man, Wellens enjoyed a seventeen-year spell as St. Helens fullback. He brought reliability, intelligence as well as a huge attacking threat throughout his near 500 game career. Wellens led St. Helens to five Grand Final wins, as well five Challenge Cups and two World Club Championships. As the 2006 Man of Steel and consecutive winner of the Lance Todd trophy, Wellens is undoubtedly a Super League great.
2. Ryan Hall
Hall, set to return to Super League in 2021 with Hull K.R, was ever present for the Leeds Rhinos in the 11 years he spent at the club. His size and strength made him a handful for defenders, as he registered 231 tries for the Rhinos. This impressive stat includes a last gasp winner against Huddersfield to earn Leeds the 2015 League Leaders’ Shield. Winning six Grand Finals as well as appearing in the SL Dream Team four times, Hall proved himself to be a top winger, and makes our team as a result.
3. Jamie Lyon
In his brief spell in Super League, Jamie Lyon was able to solidify himself as a St. Helens legend. In the two seasons he spent at Saints from 2005, the Australian international earned himself two Dream Team spots, as well as being named Man of Steel in his debut year. In his second year at the club, St. Helens won a treble in which he was integral. Lyon was an excellent goal kicker and racked up almost 600 points for Saints despite the short length of time he spent there. He left for Manly Sea Eagles in 2007 having left a big impact on Super League.
4. Keith Senior
The first player to register 500 Super League appearances, Senior was an imposing centre who intimidated opposition defenders. Starting his career at Sheffield Eagles, where he won a Challenge Cup, the Great Britain star went on to win everything possible at club level. The best years of his career were spent at Leeds Rhinos, where he became a fan-favourite as the Rhinos won four Grand Finals. Senior is an all-time great and will always be synonymous with the early years of Super League.
5. Lesley Vanikolo
Vanikolo has become a cult hero amongst Rugby League fans. Big enough to terrify most forwards, yet deceptively quick, the ‘Volcano’ could be impossible to stop at times. The ‘Volcano’ had mastered the art of picking out and stream-rolling defenders, and bagged himself 149 tries for the Bradford Bulls, as well as helping them to two Grand Final victories.
6. Danny McGuire
McGuire was part of eight Grand Final winning teams for Leeds, the second highest in the competition’s history. This, combined with him being Super League’s record try-scorer with 247, makes him one of the easier selections on the list. He was a player for the big moments, whose intelligence and leadership skills saw him consistently win trophies.
7. Sean Long
‘Longy’ started his career at Wigan but, controversially, would spend his most successful years in a St. Helens shirt. The entertaining scrum-half would be part of a Saints side that won four Grand Finals and five Challenge Cups. Like the other halfback in our side, Long seemed to thrive under pressure. He produced some his best performances in the big games, including the match winning drop goal in 2002 Grand Final against Bradford. And, Long’s exciting playing style has certainly left many Saints fans with many fond memories.
8. Adrian Morley
Arguably, ‘Moz’ spent his best playing years in Australia, but the fact he still makes our list is testament to the quality and longevity of his career. Morley played in four SL Grand Finals, with Leeds, Bradford and Warrington, yet was only victorious in one of them. The Salford-born prop was aggressive and hard hitting in both defence and attack, and his physical approach often helped him get his team on the front foot. Morley will deservedly go down as one of Britain’s greatest ever Rugby League players.
9. Keiron Cunningham
Cunningham becomes the fourth St. Helens player on our list who, like Wellens, was Saints through and through. The hooker won five Super League titles as well as seven Challenge Cups. He made 496 appearances for his club, as well as representing both Wales and Great Britain at international level.
10. Jamie Peacock
Having won nine Grand Finals with both Bradford and Leeds, Peacock has more Super League titles than any other player. In his 18-year career, Peacock amassed a huge collection of personal awards, including the 2003 Man of Steel of Steel and earned a place in the Dream Team 11 times. He was a hard-working and committed player whose dedication saw him become the most successful player in Super league’s history.
11. Paul Sculthorpe
A fantastic utility player and goal-kicker, ‘Scully’ won the Grand Final with St. Helens in three different positions. He was named Man of Steel consecutively in 2001 and 2002 – a feat yet to be matched. Sculthorpe became the most expensive forward in the sport’s history after his move from Warrington to Saints for £375,000. It was a figure he would go on to more than pay back, as he helped Saints to four Grand Finals and four Challenge Cups in his 11-year tenure at the club.
12. Gareth Ellis
Gareth Ellis’ career spanned over four decades, plying his trade at Wakefield, Leeds and Hull. With two Grand Finals and two Challenge Cups to his name, as well as being one of the strongest ball carriers in the competition’s history, it would be unfair not to include him in our side.
13. Kevin Sinfield
Possibly the hardest selection in the entire team, Super League has seen some fantastic examples what a ‘proper 13’ should be. However, it’s the competition’s record points scorer that beats the likes of Andy Farrell and Sean O’Loughlin to complete our squad (sorry Wigan fans). Yet another fantastically decorated Leeds player, Sinfield added seven Grand Final victories to his trophy cabinet during his time at the Rhinos. Sinfield’s record-holding 3443 Super League points tally, as well as his fantastic leadership skills, see him claim the loose forward spot.