Carl Ablett: Here’s my Rhinos-free unofficial 2017 Super League ‘Dream Team’

Zak Hardaker and Mike McMeeken.
Zak Hardaker and Mike McMeeken.
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IT will soon be time for the Betfred Super League Dream Team to be announced so I thought this week I would pick my own.

I think there could be a fairer way of choosing the official Dream Team. Voting happens near the end of the season, but is supposed to reflect performances over the course of the year.

Michael Shenton and Luke Gale.

Michael Shenton and Luke Gale.

Memories are short and it’s human nature that the journalists who select the team tend to favour players who have gone well over the past few weeks.

That means players who were good in the early and middle of the year might get forgotten. Maybe it would be fairer to have a vote at the end of every month, with totals being totted up when the season ends. That would reflect consistency over the whole year. Anyway, I don’t actually get a vote, but here’s my 2017 Super League Dream Team.

By the way, I hope some of my team-mates will get in the official version, but I have not selected anyone from Leeds in mine.

Full-back: Zak Hardaker (Castleford Tigers).

Everyone knows his ability, but I think he has progressed since he has been at Cas and he has added to his game with his attack. He is putting on try passes now and has been outstanding all year.

Wingers: Greg Eden (Castleford) and Mahe Fonua (Hull).

Eden has scored 36 tries in Super League/Super-8s and that is a remarkable achievement. I am sure he would be the first to thank his team-mates for that, but he has still got to finish them. He has pace to burn and specialises in spectacular finishes.

What teams want from a winger has changed and it’s not all about scoring tries. They have to be like an extra forward now and Fonua does that job for Hull. He gets them on the front foot and when you play them you know you have to do a job on him. He has been very good.

Centres: Mark Percival (St Helens) and Michael Shenton (Castleford).

If you look at the stats, Percival is up there in tackle busts and clean breaks and, along with Alex Walmsley, has probably been Saints’ best player this year. He is very strong and direct.

Cas’ left-edge is their most potent weapon and Shenton has been a key part of that. He is a big reason why Eden has scored so many tries.

Stand-off: George Williams (Wigan Warriors).

Throughout the year he has been pretty consistent.

He has been in a team who’ve had a lot of injuries, but has been a constant threat. He is a strong ball-carrier, can create tries with kicks and has developed into an all-round half-back.

Scrum-half: Luke Gale (Castleford).

He is the other piece in Cas’ left-edge jigsaw and the stand-out scrum-half in the competition. He picks the right pass and his game-management and all-round control is a big reason why Cas have gone so well.

Props: Alex Walmsley (St Helens) and Liam Watts (Hull).

I really rate Walmsley. He is very much a leader for Saints, he is near the top of the league for carries and metres and he is really difficult to defend against. Watts has had a big year. He’s got some size about him, he carries the ball well and is very powerful. He has also got a pass and he has been a main man for Hull.

Hooker: Paul McShane (Castleford).

He’s someone I know very well. He has really developed his game and deserves his place in the England train-on squad. He plays big minutes for Cas and has all-round skills – he has a pass, he can kick and scores tries as well.

Second-row: Mike McMeeken (Castleford) and Ben Murdoch-Masila (Salford Red Devils).

McMeeken has developed his game since his time at London. He has always been an athlete, but has added some subtleties. He is direct, but can also play with the ball and is an all-round back-rower.

Murdoch-Masila was outstanding in the early and middle part of the season. Salford’s form has dropped off, but when they were good he was one of the main reasons. He scores a lot of tries and is tough to handle.

Loose-forward: Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan).

He’s knocking on a bit now, but still very good and when he doesn’t play, Wigan miss him.

He does the small stuff and a lot of what Wigan do comes off him. He’s one of the few remaining old-school loose-forwards who can play with the ball and he’s also a very strong defender.