THE 2014 First Utility Super League Dream Team will be announced next week.
Journalists who cover the competition on a regular basis are asked to vote for their top three players in each position, with first choices receiving five points, three for second and one for the third pick. The cumulative totals then decide the mythical form team for the year.
Leeds Rhinos’ Zak Hardaker has had an outstanding season and is this writer’s selection for the full-back role. He is one of the main reasons Rhinos boast the best defence in the competition and is also a menacing attacking threat with his exciting kick-returns. Second-choice: Morgan Escare (Catalan Dragons), third: Luke Dorn (Castleford Tigers).
Ryan Hall hasn’t registered as many tries as he would have liked this season, but has been solid in defence and under the high ball and contributes some important work helping out his forwards. St Helens’ Tommy Makinson, whose 24 touchdowns so far include some spectacular scores, gets the second vote. Third choice: Josh Charnley (Wigan Warriors).
In the centres, Michael Shenton, the Castleford Tigers captain, has had a new lease of life since returning to his hometown club, recapturing the form which earned him an England call-up and a long-term deal at St Helens a few years ago.
He is first pick, with three points going to Joel Monaghan. Selecting Monaghan in the centres is a bit of a cop out, in order to include him alongside both Hall and Makinson, but he has switched between the three-quarter roles for Warrington and is a prolific try scorer and a class act wherever he plays. Third choice: Kallum Watkins (Leeds).
Allowed by Salford Red Devils to join Castleford Tigers on a year-long loan, Marc Sneyd has been a revelation and his form has underpinned their push for the league leaders’ shield. He tops Super League’s goal chart – with 98, despite the most bizarre kicking action – and has been at the heart of everything Tigers have done on attack. He gets the five points for stand-off. Second: Kevin Brown (Widnes Vikings), third: Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants).
Danny McGuire, despite some injuries, has had a fine season for Leeds and is number one choice at scrum-half, ahead of Matty Smith (Wigan) and Luke Walsh (St Helens).
Prop was probably the toughest choice. Rhinos veteran Jamie Peacock actually seems to be getting better as he ages and he had to be in there. Chris Hill, of Warrington, has had an outstanding year and was second-choice, just ahead of Cas’ Andy Lynch.
Hooker is easy. Castleford Tigers’ Daryl Clark is probably the most exciting rising talent in the game and a Man of Steel and young player of the year contender. Josh Hodgson (Hull KR) was second choice, ahead of James Roby (Saints).
Second-rows are Elliott Whitehead, a prolific try scorer for Catalan Dragons and Leeds’ Carl Ablett, with Cas’ Oliver Holmes as third choice.
And Grant Millington, of Castleford, gets the five points at loose-forward, with Hull’s Joe Westerman second and Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan) the third pick.
So this writer’s Dream Team is: Full-back Zak Hardaker, wings Ryan Hall and Tommy Makinson, centres Michael Shenton and Joel Monaghan, stand-off Marc Sneyd, scrum-half Danny McGuire, props Jamie Peacock and Chris Hill, hooker Daryl Clark, second-rows Elliott Whitehead and Carl Ablett, loose-forward Grant Millington.
Can you do better? Email your Dream Team (and reasons) to firstname.lastname@example.org
NEXT YEAR’S Magic Weekend is something to look forward to.
Staged over two days at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park, given good weather it could be the best event yet.
It is exactly what Magic Weekend should be about: an opportunity to showcase rugby league away from its traditional heartlands and to give fans a weekend away.
That is what the concept was devised for and holding it in Cardiff and Edinburgh, as the first five Weekends were, fulfilled those criteria.
Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, Magic’s home from 2012-14, was a good venue and day one of this year’s event was the best so far, on and off the field. But holding the event so close to the heartlands made it worthless as a development tool and didn’t have a significant impact in terms of increasing attendances.
Newcastle is what’s known as a “destination city” and the stadium is right in its heart. It’s far enough away to make a weekend of it, but much easier to get to, particularly for Yorkshire fans, than Cardiff or Edinburgh. All the ingredients are there for a big success, but the RFL has to make it happen.
The plan to announce the fixtures earlier than normal is a positive step, but the marketing must begin now.