PROLIFIC Wakefield Trinity Wildcats winger Tom Johnstone has won the 2016 Super League Young Player of the Year.
The exciting wideman, 21, beat competition from Wigan Warriors forward Ryan Sutton and Widnes Vikings’ Matt Whitley to claim the title and became the first Wakefield player to win it in the award’s 20-year history.
Johnstone scored 20 tries in 25 games this season and continued his progress as one of the competition’s most dynamic players.
Voted for by a panel of national media, he won the award by just one more vote than his rivals.
Castleford Tigers winger Denny Solomona missed out on the main trophy, though, as he was beaten to the Steve Prescott Man of Steel by Hull FC hooker Danny Houghton.
Solomona, whose 42 tries in 29 games for Castleford saw him break the late St John Ellis’ season club record and Super League’s too, has been named in the Samoa squad and will play against Fiji on Saturday.
But it was clearly Houghton’s evening at the awards presentation in Manchester last night as he won by a landslide.
For the first time, players’ votes were made public and it emerged the 28-year-old was a clear winner: Houghton amassed 113 of 288, almost twice as many as second-placed team-mate Gareth Ellis (59), the ex-Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield forward.
Not allowed to vote for team-mates, Houghton chose Warrington captain Chris Hill as his Man of Steel while Hull captain Ellis opted for Warrington’s former Castleford hooker Daryl Clark.
Lee Radford was also named Super League Coach of the Year after guiding his side to Challenge Cup final glory and seeing them lead the top division for most of 2016.
Furthermore, Hull won Club of the Year, too, as recognition of the way they have progressed so much this term and, at last, showcased themselves as genuine title contenders after so many false dawns.
They came within 80 minutes of claiming the League Leaders’ Shield, only missing out due to a final night defeat to Warrington Wolves who duly secured first place.
FC finished third, still their highest finish in 10 years, but fell in Friday’s semi-final defeat at Wigan Warriors, when they were denied a first trip to Old Trafford since 2006. They came top after the regular 23 rounds campaign, however, and last night’s awards will offer some consolation after those setbacks.
Houghton has long been one of Super League’s most consistent performers; indeed, yet again he was named the competition’s top tackler – the fourth time in six years – with his stunning total of 1,289.
And he will forever be etched into Hull folklore following his brilliant tackle to deny Warrington’s Ben Currie a match-winning score in the 78th minute of that final at Wembley.
It was the Hull-born No9’s 52nd such effort of a draining afternoon and one that, at last, saw his hometown team win at the national stadium.