The most competitive First Utility Super League season of all is reflected in the selections of the 2014 Dream Team, the 13 players deemed to be the biggest stars of a year to remember for all Rugby League fans.
The all-English Dream Team is drawn from seven clubs and features eight debutants as well as Jamie Peacock, the Leeds Rhinos prop who makes a record-extending 10th appearance in the form team of the year, having made his debut back in 2000.
The presence of 13 England-born players for the second year running is testament to the commitment shown by Super League clubs to nurturing and developing home-grown talent, and highlights the success of initiatives such as the club-trained player and federation-trained player rules.
For only the third time in its history, the Dream Team sees seven or more different clubs represented, highlighting the wide distribution of talent within the sport’s elite competition.
Wigan Warriors captain Sean O’Loughlin makes his fifth Dream Team appearance in a row – becoming only the fourth player in history to achieve such a feat – whilst Widnes Vikings’ Kevin Brown registers his, and the club’s, first ever Dream Team appearance.
Leeds winger Ryan Hall is included for his fourth appearance since 2009, and joins team-mates Carl Ablett (debutant), Kallum Watkins (debutant), Zak Hardaker (debutant) and Peacock in the team to make the Rhinos the most-represented club.
Matty Smith’s second appearance in successive years takes Wigan’s representative numbers up to two, a feat matched by Castleford Tigers, whose outstanding season is recognised in the shape of captain Michael Shenton and Daryl Clarke both making their Dream Team debuts.
Warrington Wolves forward Chris Hill is included for a second time in his career – his last appearance coming in 2012 – whilst Tommy Makinson (St Helens) and Elliott Whitehead (Catalan Dragons) marked Super League campaigns to remember with their own Dream Team debuts.
The Super League Dream Team is selected by a panel of the sport’s broadcasters and journalists in a secret ballot and represents the form team of the First Utility Super League season.
The 2006 and 2007 Super League Dream Teams are the only other teams to represent seven or more different clubs – the 2007 Dream Team holds the record, when eight different clubs were represented.
The 2014 First Utility Super League Dream Team is as follows:
Full-back: Zak Hardaker (Leeds Rhinos) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2014)
Wing: Ryan Hall (Leeds Rhinos) Dream Team appearances: 4 (2009, 2010, 2012, 2014)
Centre: Michael Shenton (Castleford Tigers) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2014)
Centre: Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2014)
Wing: Tommy Makinson (St Helens) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2014)
Stand-off: Kevin Brown (Widnes Vikings) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2014)
Scrum-half: Matty Smith (Wigan Warriors) Dream Team appearances: 2 (2013, 2014)
Prop: Jamie Peacock (Leeds Rhinos) Dream Team appearances: 10 (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014)
Hooker: Daryl Clark (Castleford Tigers) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2014)
Prop: Chris Hill (Warrington Wolves) Dream Team appearances: 2 (2012, 2014)
Second Row: Elliott Whitehead (Catalan Dragons) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2014)
Second Row: Carl Ablett (Leeds Rhinos) Dream Team appearances: 1 (2014)
Loose forward: Sean O’Loughlin (Wigan Warriors) Dream Team appearances: 5 (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)