LEEDS RHINOS received a massive boost ahead of Saturday’s First Utility Super League Grand Final when they scooped three top honours at the competition’s awards night.
Full-back Zak Hardaker was named Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel, Brian McDermott was coach of the year and Rhinos were club of the year.
In addition, skipper Kevin Sinfield was named Top Gun as the competition’s leading goal kicker and he, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai received outstanding service trophies.
Rhinos will be hoping their award success is not a bad omen.
Hardaker is Leeds’ first Man of Steel since Iestyn Harris in 1998, the year they lost in the Grand Final to Saturday’s opponents Wigan Warriors.
Their previous coach of the year was Tony Smith 10 years ago – when Leeds went on to be beaten by Bradford Bulls at Old Trafford.
Hardaker, 23, was shortlisted alongside team-mate Adam Cuthbertson and St Helens forward Alex Walmsley.
The Man of Steel honour completes a remarkable resurgence for Hardaker, who was dropped by Rhinos early in the year, as well as being fined and sent on an anger management course, after being involved in a police investigation into an assault at student accommodation in the city.
Since returning to the team, Hardaker has cemented his reputation as Super League’s best full-back, being selected in the Dream Team for the second successive year.
Every Super League player was asked to vote for the Man of Steel, with the final decision being made by a five-man selection panel.
McDermott, who has steered Rhinos to Challenge Cup success and the league leaders’ shield as well as their first Grand Final appearance in three seasons, was chosen by his fellow team bosses as coach of the year.
The club of the year award recognised Rhinos’ “hard work in ensuring attendances grew at the Headingley Carnegie Stadium, managing player welfare throughout the season from the youth development up to the first team and being the top performers in all competitions”.
Wigan stand-off George Williams picked up the young player award, which was won by Hardaker in 2012.
Sinfield was recognised as Super League’s Top Gun for having the best successful kicking percentage over the course of the season.
Hull FC hooker Danny Houghton made the most tackles in 2015 with 1,359, making him Super League’s Hit Man of the year.
Walmsley was awarded the Metre Maker prize after racking up a total of 4,092 metres for St Helens this year.
The top try scorer accolade went to Huddersfield winger Jermaine McGillvary, who touched down 27 times.
Warrington Wolves were named Super League foundation of the year for the second year running.
Retiring Super League players Garreth Carvell (293 appearances), Ade Gardner (266), Lee Gilmour (407), Wayne Godwin (235), Kylie Leuluai (225), Adrian Morley (316), Jamie Peacock MBE (436), Kevin Sinfield MBE (452), Chev Walker (258) and Paul Wellens (439) were presented with outstanding contribution awards to mark their long service to the competition, having made more than 200 Super League appearances.
The award winners from the 2015 First Utility Super League Man of Steel awards were:
Hit man: Danny Houghton (Hull FC) – 1,359 tackles
Top metre maker: Alex Walmsley (St Helens) – 4,092 metres
Top try-scorer: Jermaine McGillvary (Huddersfield Giants) – 27 tries
Top Gun: Kevin Sinfield (Leeds Rhinos) – 85.37 percent
Outstanding Contribution: Garreth Carvell, Ade Gardnet, Lee Gilmour, Wayne Godwin, Kylie Leuluai, Adrian Morley, Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield, Chev Walker, Paul Wellens.
Foundation of the Year: Warrington Wolves
First Utility Super League Club of the Year: Leeds Rhinos
First Utility Super League Young Player of the Year: George Williams (Wigan Warriors)
First Utility Super League Coach of the Year: Brian McDermott (Leeds Rhinos)
The Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel: Zak Hardaker (Leeds Rhinos).