THE DOMESTIC season has finished so it’s time to hand out some awards.
BEST TEAM: Castleford Tigers.
Leeds Rhinos are deserved champions, but Tigers were the most consistent team and played the best rugby over the season as a whole.
MOST INFLUENTIAL PLAYER: Danny McGuire (Leeds Rhinos).
McGuire was written off last year when injuries restricted him to just 13 appearances and he didn’t score a try.
Fully-fit, he grew in influence as the season went on and was a major part of Rhinos finishing second and going on to win the Grand Final.
His two-try display that afternoon – plus his game-management and some outstanding kicking in the wet conditions – made him a unanimous winner of the Harry Sunderland award as man of the match.
BEST SIGNING (2018): Danny McGuire (Hull KR).
BEST SIGNING (2017): Matt Parcell (Leeds Rhinos).
James Segeyaro’s refusal to return for pre-season training could have been a disaster for Rhinos, but they played a blinder by snapping up Parcell from Manly Sea Eagles.
Born to play in Super League, he crossed for 19 tries – the most by a Leeds forward in the summer era – and was their only representative in the Dream Team.
UNSUNG HERO: Matty Ashurst (Wakefield Trinity).
If Ashurst played for Leeds or Wigan he would be in the England squad and a Dream Team regular. A model of consistency, the second-rower was outstanding for Trinity without gaining the recognition, outside the club, his performances deserved.
BEST GAME: Castleford Tigers v St Helens – Super League semi-final.
It had everything: thrills, spills, controversy, two remarkable fightbacks and one of the most dramatic finalés in the competition’s history.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT (team): Catalans Dragons.
The French club have been a success off the field, but continue to struggle on it and were a game away from relegation. Each year they are tipped as Grand Final dark horses and every season they fail to live up to their billing.
Heavily-reliant on overseas players they are also contributing little to the development of the sport in France. Must do better.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT (player): Sam Tomkins.
He has looked a shadow of the star he was before his move to New Zealand Warriors. England needs an on-form Sam Tomkins.
BIGGEST STORY: Drugs.
Three Super League clubs – that’s 25 per cent – lost a player to a failed test.
Anyone who thinks the sport doesn’t have a problem with recreational drugs is kidding themselves.
QUOTE: “We can still win the Grand Final.” Leeds Rhinos boss Brian McDermott after a 66-10 drubbing at Castleford Tigers in March.
Of course you can, Brian!
WORST DECISION: Livestreaming (the Rugby Football League).
The RFL decided to broadcast England’s mid-season Test against Samoa on their website – at a cost – rather than allowing it to be shown free on the BBC.
The stream was dogged by technical issues. The governing body refused to reveal the number of subscribers, so you can draw your own conclusions.
MOST AMAZING COMEBACK: Joint Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers) and Stevie Ward (Leeds Rhinos).
Gale returned to action 16 days post-emergency appendix surgery and Ward played the full Grand Final eight days after suffering a dislocated shoulder. How do they do it?
BEST APPOINTMENT: Neil Kelly (Dewsbury Rams).
Despite his impressive record, nobody was prepared to take a chance on bringing Kelly back from rugby union until Rams chairman Mark Sawyer stepped in. He inspired a remarkable turnaround which led to Rams, who had lost their opening eight league games, comfortably beating the drop and securing a place in the Championship Shield semi-finals.