It’s TIME TO vote for this year’s First Utility Super League Dream Team.
Nothing is guaranteed to upset fans more than somebody else’s choice of form players, but here we go.
Full-back is actually an easy one. Zak Hardaker has been head and shoulders above anyone else in that position all year and the Leeds Rhinos man is a shoo-in for a second successive Dream Team selection.
Honourable mentions go to Niall Evalds, who has been a shining light in a disastrous season for Salford Red Devils and Wigan Warriors’ Matty Bowen, as he bows out in good form.
Super League is blessed with good wingers, though several of them have spent much of this year on the sidelines. That rules out Tom Briscoe, who has been in scorching form either side of his shoulder injury and Castleford’s prolific Denny Solomona.
Huddersfield Giants’ Jermaine McGillvary has had an outstanding season, bagging 21 tries and he deserves one of the Dream Team wing spots, with the other going to Josh Mantellato, of Hull KR.
The Italian international has been one of the signings of the season and his finishing and goal kicking were a big factor in Rovers reaching Wembley. Third choice is Hull’s Tom Lineham.
Leeds Rhinos’ Kallum Watkins and Joel Moon take the centre spots.
Watkins has emerged as a world-class talent and justifies comparisons with Aussie great Greg Inglis. Moon is less spectacular, but rock solid and has contributed some important tries this season.
The third vote goes to Castleford Tigers’ skipper Michael Shenton, who is an outstanding defender and stronger finisher.
Kevin Sinfield is in at stand-off. He has been integral to everything Rhinos have done this year, his game-management is second to none and he underlined his professionalism with the way he handled a mid-season setback when he was dropped to the bench or from the side altogether for a few games. Second and third choices: Danny Brough (Huddersfield) and George Williams (Wigan).
Alongside Sinfield, Danny McGuire may have lost some of his pace, but he has developed into a controlling all-round half-back and has played some of the best rugby of his career this term. Second and third, Luke Gale and Matty Smith.
At prop, Adam Cuthbertson has been a revelation since joining Rhinos from Newcastle Knights. Before last weekend he had made 115 off-loads, a remarkable 59 more than anyone else. Even at 37 it is impossible to leave Jamie Peacock out. He is a phenomenon and still a player every team would want in their ranks. Third choice goes to St Helens’ Alex Walmsley.
Stevie Ward has bounced back from a tough couple of years to take one of the second-row spots. He has been a rock for Rhinos this year, a workhorse who combines an ability to break the line with strong defence.
Joe Wardle has featured in the centres at times for Huddersfield Giants this year, but is more at home in the second-row and has made a big impression with his strong-running and a knack of scoring important tries. Third pick is Rhinos’ Carl Ablett.
Loose-forward is a tough one, because the position doesn’t really exist any more. The days of a creative, ball-handling player – a Kevin Sinfield-type – at the back of the scrum are long gone and many coaches now use the No 13 slot to field an extra prop.
Castleford’s Nathan Massey has filled that role with admirable consistency all season and gets the vote, ahead of Rhinos’ Brett Delaney, with Ukuma Ta’ai, of Huddersfield Giants, third.
So this writer’s Dream Team 2015 is: Full-back Hardaker (Leeds Rhinos), wingers McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants) and Mantellato (Hull KR), centres Watkins and Moon (both Leeds), stand-off Sinfield (Leeds), scrum-half McGuire (Leeds), props Cuthbertson and Peacock (both Leeds), hooker Roby (St Helens), second-rows Stevie Ward (Leeds) and Wardle (Huddersfield), loose-forward Massey (Castleford).