When the current chapter of Super League history closes, I feel we’ll look back nostalgically at the current stars and see it as a period full of great players we often didn’t given full credit to during their peak.
But 2022 is perhaps a brilliant chance to rectify that and give credit to three of the players who have helped define the upper echelons of Super League over the last decade as they’re all deservedly awarded with testimonials in 2022. So, without any further ado let’s look at the three players we’ll be celebrating in the following 12 months.
A reigning Super League Champion, Alex Walmsley has been one of the foundations St Helens have built their Super League success on over the last four players. One of just 23 players to win three consecutive Grand Finals in Super League history, he’s an exceptional talent and heads into his 10th season as a Saints this term.
Arguably the best forward in Super League over the last decade, he took on the mantle as the premier prop in the comp from Jamie Peacock following his retirement in 2015. He should be regarded as a Super League legend and has four Grand Final wins and three League Leaders’ Shields to his name. Meanwhile he also helped end St Helens’ 13-year wait for Challenge Cup success this year.
A devastating runner, the England and Great Britain international is no stranger to a try or an assist coming up with the latter in St Helens’ semi-final win over Leeds this year in what was an astonishing performance from the former Batley man.
Since leaving the Championship for the Saints, he’s made 225 appearances for the Champions and crossed for 41 tries. Upon being awarded a testimonial for next year, he said: “I’m honoured to have been awarded a testimonial year at St Helens. Ever since I pulled on the famous Red Vee back 2012, I knew this was my home. The past nine years have truly been memorable and it doesn’t get much better than winning three Grand Finals in a row and a Challenge Cup. It’s what dreams are made of.”
A testimonial match has yet to be pencilled in, but it should be a big year for the Saint especially if he can help his club to a fourth consecutive title.
2022 will mark 10 years since Stefan Ratchford swapped Salford for Warrington. The then versatile youngster had stepped up in the absence of Richie Myler who’d become the most expensive teenager in the game when leaving Salford for the Wolves in 2010 and Ratchford quickly followed Myler to the Halliwell Jones in 2012.
He instantly proved invaluable to Warrington covering a variety of positions in 2012 as the Wolves won at Wembley before playing in a first ever Grand Final. That night he played at centre as Warrington lost to Leeds but a year later he’d feature at fullback as the Wolves lost to Wigan at Old Trafford – it was a position he’d make his own over the next eight years.
His injury that night helped derail Warrington’s push for a first Super League title. Had he remained on the field, Wigan may not have completed their 14-point turn around as they came back from 16-2 down to win 30-16.
Over the next few years he’d cement himself as a key player at Warrington, a regular England international as well as a top class yet underrated player in Super League. In 2018, he spearheaded Warrington to both major finals but unfortunately for him he had to endure defeat in both despite the fact he claimed the Harry Sunderland Award trophy in the 12-4 Old Trafford defeat to Wigan. This was his fourth Grand Final appearance having featured in Warrington’s loss to Wigan two years previously.
In 2019, he’d end a 7-year wait for victory in a major final when the Wolves defied the odds to defeat St Helens at Wembley. Two years on he’s still key for Warrington and has again been awarded the number 1 jersey for 2022 under new coach Daryl Powell as a new era beckons.
On being awarded a testimonial for his services to Warrington, he said: “Rugby has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, it brought me so much joy as a kid and that enjoyment has carried on throughout my professional career.
“I feel honoured to have been able to play the game at the top level for so long and have been very fortunate in being taken to many places around the world both training and playing.”
Warrington will play Wigan in his testimonial on January 29th.
As Tom Briscoe goes into his 15th season as a Super League player, the over 350-game veteran has been awarded a testimonial by the RFL for his services to the sport having given six years of service to Hull FC and eight years to Leeds.
Briscoe made his Super League debut in 2008 for the Black and Whites before featuring in Hull FC’s Wembley defeat to St Helens from the bench as an 18-year-old.
A member of the 2011 Super League Dream Team and an England international, he left Hull FC at the end of 2013 regarded as one of the top wingers in the league with a record of 90 tries in 147 appearances for the Black and Whites and having played in two Challenge Cup Finals. However, he is best remembered at the MKM Stadium for his try-saving tackle on Peter Fox in the 2010 Hull derby
In 2014, he joined Leeds and quickly announced himself to Rhinos fans with a hat-trick on debut against Hull KR. He then scored the try which took Leeds back to Wembley before crossing for a score in the cup final win itself over Castleford.
A year later he again led the Rhinos to Challenge Cup glory with a record breaking five tries at Wembley against Hull KR in a 50-0 triumph as he was awarded the Lance Todd trophy. He would then figure in a few more key moments that season as Leeds secured the treble.
In 2017, he scored a brace at Old Trafford as Leeds won an eighth Super League title but as things got difficult for Leeds he became no less important finishing 2018 as Leeds’ leading scorer and receiving individual honours at the Rhinos award nights in both 2018 and 2019.
Then in 2020 he crossed for a ninth major final try for the Rhinos in just five major final appearances as he helped Leeds to another Challenge Cup against Salford.
In 2022, he’ll be rewarded for a stellar career with a testimonial. Although no testimonial fixture is yet planned, he does however has a festive dinner on December 15th.
Speaking about his testimonial, Briscoe previously said: “I would like to thank the RFL for granting my testimonial and I’m looking forward to it. Over the years, I have been involved with a number of players’ testimonials here at Leeds and I know the Rhinos fans are always very supportive. I am very proud of our sport of Rugby League and it has been a privilege to be involved at the highest level for nearly 20 years. Hopefully, during my three month testimonial, it will give me an opportunity to also thank those people who have made my career possible with a number of events planned.”