It’s that time of year again when everyone steps up to the plate to praise the stars of the season. We’ll soon see a new Man of Steel, a new Young Player of the Year and of course we’ll see the Dream Team announced. I’ve always loved the concept and think it’s a terrific way of rewarding the top performers during the season. But with so many star showings in 2021, it’s going to be as difficult as ever to select the Dream Team. That said, I’m going to give it a go.
Fullback: Sam Tomkins
With 30 try involvements this season, the former Wigan man has been a machine in attack. He’s playing the best rugby of his career which is saying something given the fact he claimed the Man of Steel back in 2012 and was of course a scintillating attacking threat at the start of his career. Now at the end of his playing time, he’s become smarter and much more nuanced but equally as devastating. He appears to be a shoe-in for the Man of Steel and will certainly be named at fullback in the Dream Team.
Wingers: Regan Grace and Ryan Hall
There’s been some top-class wingers this season. Adam Swift has shone at Hull FC, Jake Bibby has scored plenty of tries despite Wigan’s troubles but I can’t look beyond Regan Grace and Ryan Hall. Grace has come of age in 2021 and has been St Helens’ most important player at times this season. He scores impossible tries and is always brilliant to watch. As for Ryan Hall, he was fighting for the top try scorer award with the likes of Ken Sio before his injury but try scoring is just one component of his game. He makes loads of metres and is a superb leader for the Robins.
Centres: Jack Welsby and Jake Mamo
The hardest decision to make with regards to Jack Welsby was always going to be where he should feature in the Dream Team. He’s scored plenty of tries on the wing, done a job at halfback but is probably most comfortable at fullback. That said, at the start of the season he was mesmeric at centre and his performances this term deserve to be rewarded with a place in the Dream Team. Joining him is Warrington’s Jake Mamo. The centre is like lightning especially when given the space to devastate teams. The Wolves will miss him next term.
Halfbacks: Jordan Abdull and Josh Drinkwater
Hull KR’s recent slump can be traced back to Jordan Abdull’s injury. In many ways the Robins’ number seven is something of a rarity. Few scrum-halves can be both an organiser as well as a creative spark yet Abdull can. He always provides his team with the perfect platform but is often the creator when it comes to tries. He was 13 assists to his name as well as four tries. Speaking of assists, no one has more than Josh Drinkwater this season. The Catalans half has 28 to his name as he plays the best rugby of his career. He constantly kills teams with his boot.
Props: Chris Sate and Matt Prior
You could argue that Alex Walmsley should feature here. Undoubtedly the league’s best prop in terms of quality, he was stunning against Leeds and certainly seems to be finding form at the right time but this hasn’t been his finest season even if his recent performances have been some of the best of his career. Elsewhere, at Hull and Leeds the props have carried both clubs this season. Both Ligi Sao and Chris Satae devastated teams for Hull whilst Matt Prior and Mikolaj Oledzki were keeping Leeds afloat when they were struggling for fit bodies at the start of the season. The Rhinos have been unable to replace the impact Oledzki brings since his injury. All four deserve to make the team but Oledzki’s injury sees him miss out and Satae’s explosivity sees him edge in ahead of Sao. Meanwhile, Prior’s selection cannot be argued with. He gives Leeds metres, huge tackles and even effective ball movement.
Hooker: Paul McShane
The reigning Man of Steel has again impressed this season. He’s proved to be Castleford’s most important player this term and always causes defences problems with ball in hand creating openings for his forwards and exploiting quick play-the-balls.
Second-Rowers: Kane Linnett and Liam Farrell
Kane Linnett has a remarkable 12 tries to his name this season which should impress anyone. Most backrowers are lucky to poach half of that tally in a season. He also ticks all the boxes you’d want from a backrower. He makes tackles, takes in huge carries and acts as a leader. Speaking of leaders, Liam Farrell has again stepped up as a leader this season following the retirement of Sean O’Loughlin. He hits magnificent lines, tackles hard and can come up with something from nothing in the big moments.
Loose-Forward: Morgan Knowles
Once upon a time the 13 spot always belonged to Sean O’Loughlin. I believe that soon Morgan Knowles may enjoy a similar level of dominance over the spot in the Dream Team. He has everything you’d want from a loose-forward. He offers physicality as well as skill and has really impressed in the latter half of the season.