THE EMAIL of doom arrived from the RFL this week.
“You are invited to cast your votes as a member of the selection panel for the 2017 Betfred Super League Dream Team,” it said.
It is nice to be asked, but judging by the reaction in previous years the message might as well have been: “You are invited to open yourself up to ridicule from the entire rugby league-speaking world, especially those in Wigan.”
Selectors (members of the rugby league media) are asked to choose three players in each position, with five points for first choice, three for second and one for third.
Voting should be “weighted towards performances in rounds one to 23 of Super League, with an acknowledgement of each player’s performances in the Super-8s”.
Players must have played “a significant majority” of the 2017 season in the position for which they are being considered and those with most points will be named in the Dream Team when it is unveiled on Monday, September 25.
Here are this writer’s votes.
Full-back: Castleford Tigers’ Zak Hardaker has not so much been head and shoulders above anyone else as his entire torso and legs as well. Second-choice – Scott Grix (Wakefield Trinity), third – Jonny Lomax (St Helens).
Wingers: Castleford’s Greg Eden has been in sensational form this year, scoring tries for fun, many of them being spectacular efforts.
Second choice is Wigan’s impressive youngster Liam Marshall and one point to Ben Jones-Bishop, of Wakefield Trinity.
Centres: One reason Greg Eden scores so many tries is the fact he is playing outside Michael Shenton, the Castleford captain, who has had an outstanding year. Three points go to Jake Webster, who has enjoyed a career revival at Castleford and is playing out of his skin. One point to Mark Percival (St Helens).
Stand-off: Hull’s Albert Kelly has scored crucial tries and been a huge influence.
Three points to Wigan Warriors’ George Williams and one for Joel Moon (Leeds Rhinos).
Scrum-half: Luke Gale has been at the heart of Castleford Tigers’ dominance of Super League this term and is comfortably Super League’s best.
Two points to Marc Sneyd, of Hull and one for Liam Finn who has been an unsung hero at Wakefield Trinity.
Prop: Liam Watts has been a huge presence for Hull this year and has come on in leaps and bounds in recent seasons.
He gets five points and three go to Leeds’ Adam Cuthbertson. It’s no coincidence Leeds’ improved form has coincided with Cuthbertson getting back to his best. St Helens’ Alex Walmsley is third choice.
Hooker: Leeds Rhinos were dropped in it when James Segeyaro refused to return for pre-season training last winter, but things worked out pretty well with the late-notice signing of Matt Parcell.
His pace, passing ability and eye for a gap have played a major role in Rhinos’ revival this year. Three points to Paul McShane (Castleford) and Danny Houghton (Hull) gets one.
Second-row: Coach Daryl Powell’s ability to spot potential in a player has contributed hugely to Tigers’ rise up the Super League ranks.
One of his smartest moves was signing Mike McMeeken from London Broncos at the end of their 2014 relegation season.
Tigers’ coaching staff have polished his raw potential and he is continuing to improve.
He gets five points, with the second choice being Salford Red Devils’ Ben Murdoch-Masila.
One point goes to the under-rated Matty Ashurst, who has been consistently good for Wakefield.
Loose-forward: The position is often used to make room for an extra prop now, but Sean O’Loughlin has the ball skills of an old fashioned No13 and is tough as well.
Second choice is Castleford’s Adam Milner, with one point to Tinirau Arona (Wakefield).
So the YEP’s Dream Team 2017 is: Hardaker, Eden, Shenton, Webster, Marshall, Kelly, Gale, Watts, Parcell, Cuthbertson, McMeeken, Murdoch-Masila, O’Loughlin.