THE VOTING forms for Man of Steel arrived the other day.
All Super League players get a say, but we can’t vote for anybody from our own club.
You get three votes and my third choice went to Luke Gale, of Castleford.
He’s somebody I know quite well and rate very highly.
We have the same agent and he was in the academy at Leeds before going to Doncaster, London and then Bradford.
He was well thought of when he was at Leeds, but he had me and Rob Burrow ahead of him and he had to move on to get a first-team chance.
He is really showing what a quality talent he is now and he is probably the most improved player in the competition this year.
Galey has always been good at organising and he has an outstanding kicking game, but his attacking play has really come on this season.
He has fitted in at Cas very well, he’s a big threat with ball in hand and I think the best half-back in the competition at the moment.
I think he will be knocking on the door for an England place in this autumn’s Test series against New Zealand.
My second-choice vote was for Huddersfield Giants’ Jermaine McGillvary.
I’d say he has been the best winger in Super League this year.
He has scored some fantastic tries and is top of the charts with 25 touchdowns, which is good going.
He gets Huddersfield on the front foot and when you play against him you have to get your body in front of him, or he’ll roll over you.
But my top pick was the St Helens prop Alex Walmsley.
He has been, in my opinion, the best forward in Super League this year, or at least the best one I was allowed to vote for.
He is the top metre-maker and he gives Saints the same sort of thing we get from Jamie Peacock.
He never takes a backwards step and I have been very impressed with him this year.
He was signed from Batley and he has shown there is some good talent in the lower divisions.
We haven’t had a Man of Steel in my time at Leeds and the last Rhinos player to win it was Iestyn Harris back in 1998.
That is a long time considering the success we’ve had since then, but I would like to think that might change this year.
I think one of the reasons we don’t tend to get awards like that is the vote is split.
We have got a lot of quality players and game-breakers and the man of the match awards get shared around, so it is maybe harder for individuals to stand-out.
I think we have got some good candidates this year though and it would be fantastic to see one of them lift the award.
Zak Hardaker has been very good for the majority of the year, Adam Cuthbertson has had a fantastic season and given us a new dimension and Paul Aiton was brilliant until he broke his arm.
We’ve also got two outstanding back-rowers in Stevie Ward and Carl Ablett, who don’t get the recognition they deserve, in my opinion.
Any of those would be a worthy Man of Steel.
The Super League Dream team will also be named soon, so I thought I’d have a go at picking that.
I am including Rhinos players this time, but I’ve tried not to fill the whole team from Leeds.
Full-back is probably the easiest choice. That has to be Zak Hardaker and my wingers are McGilvary and Adam Swift. Swift has had a very good year and been really consistent for Saints.
The centres are Kallum Watkins, who is the best in the comp and getting better all the time and John Bateman. I know he has also played in the second-row for Wigan, but I like him as a centre and he’s a player who has a very big future.
My stand-off is another Wigan man who could go a long way in the game, George Williams. I have been very impressed with him this year, he has an old head on young shoulders and when he is on his game he really makes Wigan tick.
Luke Gale is the scrum-half and my props are Alex Walmsley and Andy Lynch, of Castleford. Lynch has been around a long time, but he is very consistent and he is a player who gets Castleford on the front foot and gives them their go-forward.
At hooker, I would have picked Paul Aiton, but for his season-ending injury. That has just shaded it for Wigan’s Michael McIlorum.
Second-rows are Stevie Ward, who has been fantastic for us and Catalans’ Zeb Taia and I have gone for Cuthbo at loose-forward.
I think that’s a strong team and it would take some beating.
Honourable mentions go to Joel Moon, who is really under-rated and has been great this year and Ryan Hall.
Hally hasn’t scored as many tries as he normally does this year, but he is great for us every week and he does a lot of good things that probably don’t get noticed.
I also need to mention JP and Carl Ablett, who I would probably have picked if they played for any other team!