Super League fans have been treated to myriad acts of individual brilliance over the course of a gripping season. We are now approaching the business end of the campaign and it is time to shower praise on the players that have stood head and shoulders above their peers thus far:
Barba is the red-hot favourite for this year’s Man of Steel honour after dazzling with his brilliance throughout the season. St Helens lead the league table and they are the clear favourites to win the Grand Final in the sports spread betting at Sporting Index, and that is largely down to Barba’s genius. The Australian full-back leads the league for tries and assists, with 22 of each in just 18 games. He has three tries in two Challenge Cup games, taking his total to 25 for the season, and he has been named man of the match on no fewer than seven occasions. He really has stamped his authority on this Saints side and he looks poised to lead them to glory on all fronts after wrapping up the Shield with three games to spare. His brilliant form has understandably sparked interest from the elite teams Down Under and speculation rages about his future. But St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus says the rumours are false and irresponsible, and he intends to keep his star man at the Totally Wicked Stadium for the foreseeable, which is a terrifying prospect for their rivals.
Tupou was at his brilliant best when scoring a 70-yard solo effort in Wakefield’s 20-20 draw with Leeds Rhinos on Friday. The Tongan international made mincemeat out of five defenders in a phenomenal display of pace, power and poised. He refused to panic and simply charged through everything in front of him before sparking jubilation among Trinity fans. He has been a revelation for the team this year, scoring nine tries and providing five assists. He has the top metre maker in the league, having carried the ball 2,857 yards, leaving him ahead of Ryan Hall, Luke Thompson and Tom Davies. Wakefield must be pleased to have tied him down until 2020, as this versatile and talented back is sure to be in high demand.
Wolves remain very much in the hunt for glory and much of their success this season is down to the ferocity of Clark’s tackling. The 25-year-old hooker has come of age this year and he leads the league with 805 tackles. He pulled off a Herculean effort to inspire The Wire to their first victory of the year, registering a sensational 68 tackles against Widnes Vikings, and he has continued to throw himself into battle ever since. That has set the tone for a really tough Wolves side that could well go on to spring a few surprises before the end of the season. Clark’s work off the ball has been exceptional, but he has also carried the ball for 2,087 yards, scored four tries and provided three assists in an all-round brilliant campaign.
Percival’s stats are astounding this season: 17 tries, 11 assists, 2,090 metres made and an impressive 273 tackles. Were it not for the brilliance of St Helens teammate Barba, he would be a shoo-in for the Man of Steel gong. Percival set the tone for the season by scoring a hat-trick of tries as St Helens brought last season’s grand finalists Castleford down to earth with a bump on the opening weekend, thumping them 46-6, and he has continued to sparkle. He has already made his England debut and he looks as though he could develop into one of the world’s best players, a real testament to the fantastic youth set-up at St Helens.
Another Saints player makes our list, but that is understandable when you consider how dominant Justin Holbrook’s men have been this year, winning 19 of 21 games in style. Half-back Richardson has been electric in his second season, having racked up 13 assists and four tries. His kicking has been immaculate and he has 95 goals, 23 more than nearest rival Sam Tomkins. It is all the more remarkable when you consider that he is only 21 years of age. He has been playing with poise and composure well beyond his years, combined with an infectious youthful zeal.