IT’S that time of year when people have started thinking who might win the Steve Prescott Man of Steel.
It’s been a weird season so far in that nobody is really head and shoulders the best player in the competition.
Normally, you see a contender who’s really strong early in the year and still doing the business now.
But watching most games there’s different teams having different players playing well at different times so it is a tough thing to call.
At St Helens, Alex Walmsley has definitely been one of their best players.
What he’s done, getting to this level as a Grand Final winner after still playing at Dewsbury Celtic and with Leeds Met Uni until he was 21, is just a great story.
It shows that not all players have to get picked up at 12 or 13 years old.
That was my route and I came through the Academy system the way clubs want you to but there are players out there who are late developers.
Ryan Hall and Jamie Peacock – two of the best players in Super League – didn’t get picked until a later age and Alex Walmsley is another.
Potentially I imagine he could have been wearing the blue and amber of Leeds rather than the red and white of Saints.
He was playing at Headingley with Leeds Met and I imagine their coach Paul Fletcher will have pointed him towards Rhinos at some stage.
We’ve had a few come through from Leeds Met including Jimmy Keinhorst and Josh Walters via Carnegie but Walmsley went to Batley Bulldogs instead and has done brilliantly.
I’m not sure if he was on our radar but he’s definitely one that’s slipped through the net and he deserves a crack with England against the Kiwis this autumn.
We’re already relatively strong there with James Graham, the Burgess boys and Chris Hill and even more so with Cuthbo (Adam Cuthbertson) putting his hand up for selection but Walmsley is certainly one of our best front-rows.
Elsewhere, when it comes to Man of Steel, Ben Currie’s been playing really well at Warrington although I think he’s more chance of winning Young Player of the Year.
George Williams is in the same boat. He’s had a great year but is likely more of a Young Player contender while someone new to Super League – Terry Campese – started really well at Hull KR but unfortunately has now suffered a season-ending injury.
At our club I feel there’s four or five people who have gone great who you could bracket potentially in contention – Cuthbo, Paulie (Aiton), Stevie Ward and Zak (Hardaker).
A lot depends now on who does what in the big games that are coming up in the back end of the season.
There is so much to play for and everyone can see how tight the division is building up towards the Super 8s.
Just finally, on Man of Steel, I think it was a great decision by the RFL last year to name the award after Steve Prescott.
Everyone went on that journey with Steve, and saw the courage and bravery he showed, demonstrating what a true warrior he was.
He emphasised what a real Man of Steel is.
For us, this game against Hull FC on Sunday is really crucial now.
It’s a match we have to win if we have any ambition of claiming top of the table in Super League.
Hull have found some real form and are playing really well.
They probably should have won at Catalans last Saturday and that is no easy place to go and get a result.
It’s going to be a tough 80 minutes for us as our form has been patchy and we’ve not had any consistency over the last four or five weeks so it’s vital we don’t only get a win but a good performance as well.