The Steve Prescott Man of Steel award is the most prestigious individual awards a player can win in rugby league. This determines the best player in Super League over a whole year. Here Dave Kuzio takes a look at the leading contenders that should be in the running in 2020.
The Steve Prescott Man of Steel award is given to the most consistent and key player over the whole Super League season. Over the years, players have been allowed to vote for who they think is the best player as long as he didn;t play for their cub. Not everyone took the voting process seriously, a lot of players voted for their mates at other clubs, while some would throw names in of players that only played a handful of matches.
It became farcical, so last season a new format was introduced to keep voting fair. A panel of former players was selected to chose their best three players in every game of the Super League, the player with the most points at the end was declared the winner and handed the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award.
The first winner of the Man of Steel was David Ward of Leeds back in 1977. In the history of the award, there has only been one player who has won it on three separate occasions and that was Ellery Hanley in 1985, 1987 and 1989 while playing for Wigan. Paul Sculthorpe and Andy Farrell have both won it twice.
Jackson Hastings is the current holder of the Man of Steel following his stellar performances for Salford Red Devils in 2019. He has since moved to Wigan and will be looking to become the first player to win it twice with different clubs.
Who will be crowned the best player in Super League in 2020? We highlight the 10 main contenders looking to add their name to the list of winners.
James Maloney – 14/1
James Maloney arrives in Super League at the Catalans Dragons with a massive reputation. He spent 10 years in the NRL with spells at Melbourne Storm, New Zealand Warriors, Sydney Roosters, Cronulla Sharks and Penrith Panthers. He is a two-time NRL Grand Final winner and has represented Australia three times. His kicking game and leadership skills are second-to-none, if he can quickly handle any home sickness he may encounter he will be a quality asset for the Dragons.
Blake Austin – 14/1
Warrington’s Blake Austin was one of the favourites to win Man of Steel in 2019 and he may have scooped the award if he hadn’t picked up an ankle injury late in the campaign. He made a return from injury, but he wasn’t at his fluent best after that. Austin is what we call a general, he guides his team around the park effortlessly. If he can stay fit, then there is no doubt he will be in the mix come the end of the campaign.
Lachlan Coote – 14/1
Lachlan Coote was outstanding for St Helens last season. He was instrumental in everything that was good about the Saints. He was named on the five-man shortlist for the Man of Steel award, but he lost out to Jackson Hastings. Coote chimes into the attack as well as anyone in Super League, plus his ability to score goals allows himto have an impact in every game. In basic terms, if Coote plays well then St Helens win the game.
Jackson Hastings – 14/1
Jackson Hastings is the current holder of the Man of Steel and he is more than capable of winning for the second consecutive year. Since Hastings moved to Super League with Salford in July 2018, he has been nothing but a revelation. His ability to turn matches on their head is incredible. If he can settle in at Wigan like he did at Salford, then there is no reason why he cannot win this award again. If Wigan are up near the top of the table, then it’s safe to say that it’s because Hastings is pulling all the strings.
Luke Gale – 16/1
Luke Gale is another former winner of the Man of Steel. Gale missed the whole of 2019 with an Achilles problem, he has since left Castleford Tigers to join Leeds Rhinos. The 2017 Man of Steel winner will be eager to prove that he is not injury prone and he is still capable of performing at the highest level. It will be interesting to see how his partnership with Robert Lui develops, Leeds could be the dark horses this season and if Gale is fit then he could lead them to glory.
Sonny Bill Williams – 16/1
Sonny Bill Williams is undoubtedly the biggest name ever to play in Super League. The two-time dual code World Cup winner has signed for new boys Toronto Wolfpack on a multi-million pound contract. There is no doubt that all eyes will be on SBW when he make his Super League debut. There are some worries that he won’t play as many games as people are expecting. You have to remember he is coming over from rugby union so he needs to be match fit before getting backout there. He is also expected to miss a few games as he and his partner are expecting another child. This means he needs to be the star man in every game he plays to remain in the running.
James Roby – 20/1
One player who doesn’t really benefit from the new voting system is 2007 Man of Steel winner James Roby. The 34-year-old is still probably the best hooker in the competition, but over the years he has been managed with kid gloves. There is no way at his age he will play every game, so obviously he cannot pick up points every week. Like SBW, he will need to be head and shoulders above everyone in the games he plays if he is to be in with a chance of winning it for a second time.
Gareth Widdop – 20/1
Gareth Widdop is another big signing to come to Super League for the first time in his career. The England and Great Britain international will certainly put bums on seats. The only concern over Widdop is his injuries. He has picked up a lot of knocks in the last few years and he might not be fit until round four of campaign. He is capable of guiding the Wolves around the park with Blake Austin, if Warrington have a good season these two team-mates could be battling it out for the award against each other.
Jonny Lomax – 20/1
Jonny Lomax had his best season yet for St Helens in 2019, yet he still didn’t make the shortlist for the Man of Steel. Hastings even said that Lomax was the best player in Super League. He can play either full-back or in the halves and he is just as dangerous in either position. Saints are once again the team to beat and Lomax is just the man to help them retain their Super League crown.
Zak Hardaker – 20/1
Zak Hardaker is the fourth former Man of Steel winner on this list and once again he is good enough to join Farrell and Sculthorpe as a two-time winner. Wigan coach Adrian Lam has admitted he doesn’t know whether or not to play Hardaker at full-back or centre. Personally, Hardaker is better at full-back, he can chime into the attack with ease. If he is allowed to roam free from the back and Wigan are challenging at the top, then he has to be one of the frontrunners as he is still one of the best full-backs in Super League.