All posts by ZachHolland

Top 10 standout players of 2019 Super League season

Warrington Wolves utility Blake Austin

As the 2019 Super League reaches its crescendo, we take a look into the top 10 players who have their presence felt over the course of the year.

Blake Austin (Warrington Wolves)

It may not have been ending that Wolves fans would have wanted to their season but the 28-year-old still has proven to be one of the buys of the year.

Fitting in perfectly at the stand off position for Warrington, Austin made his presence felt.

Over the course of the season, we have seen time and time again where the former Canberra man has been able to completely change the entire dynamic of a game.

He tore opposition defences to shreds with his expert game management and playmaking ability.

The elusive halfback had an incredible 18 tries and 11 try assists to his name before the start of the play offs and is one of four candidates for the 2019 Man of Steel.

Jackson Hastings (Salford Red Devils)

Another buy of the year candidate, as Hastings has undoubtedly been the main reason why Salford have been able to secure a playoff spot this year.

The 23-year-old signed a one year deal with the Red Devils before the start of the year and has been the x factor that Ian Watson’s men have so desperately needed.

Salford Devils halfback Jackson Hastings

The former Sydney and Manly halfback has been a truly effective attacking threat for Salford leading the way in try assists and run metres for the entire season.

Liam Watts (Castleford Tigers)

There has been no question that Watts has been a true enforcer for Castleford all season and so much so that he is on the shortlist for the 2019 Man of Steel.

Castleford Tigers prop Liam Watts

The 29-year-old has shown how difficult he is to stop with the ball in his hand and had the most offloads in the regular season with 62 as well as being a constant factor in defence with over 900 tackles to his name. 

Danny Houghton (Hull FC)

The 30-year-old has been the definition of a work horse for Hull FC for some time now.

His toughness at the dummy half position has consistently shown by leading the league in tackles three times out of the last four seasons.

It has been surprising to some that Houghton has not been given his chance at international level.

Hull FC Hooker Danny Houghton

Though at a position that already has strength in depth with Daryl Clark, James Roby and Josh Hodgson all ahead in the pecking order, we just may never see it.

Ultimately, this is a shame for a player who has performed at such a high level for so many years now. 

Tommy Makinson (St Helens)

The 2018 Golden Boot winner has followed on from his England heroics in last year’s test series against New Zealand with another great year on the St. Helens wing.

The 27-year-old possesses a freaky try scoring ability that has seen his name on the scoresheet on several occasions.

St Helens Tommy Makinson

He led the league in tries by the start of the playoffs with 23.

The England international continues to be a force for the Saints out on the edge and that can only mean good things with the upcoming GB tour of Australia just around the corner.

Lachlan Coote (St Helens)

The departure of Ben Barba left a relatively large hole at the Saints fullback spot.

The acquisition of Coote, however, has been somewhat of a masterstroke from Justin Holbrook.

The Scottish international has probably been one of the league leader’s best players throughout the season.

St Helens custodian Lachlan Coote

He recorded 14 tries and 21 try assists to his name, proving to be one of many valuable assets in the Saints backline that features Regan Grace, Ken Naiqama and Mark Percival among others.

The 29-year-old took over goal kicking duties at the start of the year and he has gone from strength to strength, kicking the second most goals in the regular season with 95.

The Red Vee are still one of the firm favourites to take home Super League glory this year.

If Coote continues to pull the strings and be the force we have seen, you would be a brave man to bet against them.

Ash Handley (Leeds Rhinos)

Well, the 2017 Super League champions did not have the best of times this year and even found themselves in a nervy relegation battle with four other teams for the most part, believe it or not.

Leeds Rhinos young gun Ash Handley

However, one of the brighter aspects of their seasons has to be the breakout year for Ash Handley following the departure of Ryan Hall to the NRL.

The 23-year-old has looked sharp and dangerous all year for Leeds and is joint second in tries with 22.

Daryl Clark (Warrington Wolves)

In a position that has held a lot of depth for England and now Great Britain once again, Clark has undoubtedly been one of the prime dummy halves.

This is not just in Super League but in the entire sport of rugby league.

Warrington Wolves hooker Daryl Clark

Although Canberra’s Josh Hodgson may still holds the keys to a potential starting role with GB, Clark is certainly waiting in the wings more than ready to take his chance.

The 2014 Man of Steel earned his place in the 2019 Super League Dream Team with 7 tries and 19 try assists.

Jonny Lomax (St Helens)

There is no doubt that Austin has done absolute wonders for Warrington throughout the course of this season.

The one thing that has probably let him down has to be an injection of consistency from time to time.

However, the same cannot be said for Lomax, who has undoubtedly been the Saints most consistent performer all season.

St Helens Jonny Lomax

So much so that he has been awarded the Albert Goldthorpe Medal for 2019. S

imilar to Austin, Lomax has been one to make things happen for St. Helens offensively.

He showed his ability to score and create opportunities with 16 tries and 21 try assists coming into the playoffs.

George Williams (Wigan Warriors)

The dynamic scrum half may be off to Canberra and the NRL come the end of the season but the 24-year-old has remained as focus as ever and been a true catalyst for Wigan.

Departing Wigan Warriors halfback George Williams

On the back of Williams’ form, Wigan has once again found themselves in the hunt for the Super League crown.

The 2019 Man of Steel nominee may be on his way down under but the is certainly making sure he goes out with a bang.

Notable mentions:

Zak Hardaker (Wigan)

Josh Jones (Salford)

Ken Naiqama (St. Helens)

Konrad Hurrell (Leeds)

The top 10 Australian rugby league grand finals of the last 30 years.

Canberra Raiders legend Mal Meninga

As we get closer and closer to the NRL’s premier event, we take a look at what could be seen as ten of the greatest Grand Finals in Australian rugby league history in the last 30 years.

Canberra Raiders vs Balmain Tigers,1989, 19-14 Raiders.

We start off with undoubtedly one of greatest Grand Finals outside the NRL era.

A game that saw Canberra overcome a 10 point deficit in the second half.

The final itself featured some of the biggest names in the business with Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley and Glenn Lazarus featuring for Canberra.

Then Wayne Pearce, Steve Roach, Ben Elias and Paul Sironen forming one of the most formidable forward packs of the 1980s for Balmain.

A back and forth game saw the Tigers almost wrap up the game on two occasions in the second half but Mal Meninga’s ankle tap tackle and an error from Balmain captain Wayne Pearce kept the score at 12-8.

Balmain Tigers legend Wayne Pearce

A big turning point in the game proved to be the Tigers’ decision to replace Roach with Kevin Hardwick as the former did not take to kindly to it.

So, with that the complexity of the whole game completely changed.

With 90 seconds left, John Ferguson stepped up to the plate with a last ditch try under the posts after a Chris O’Sullivan bomb and a Daley palm back to the Raiders winger.

The Canberra momentum became too much to handle for the Tigers in extra time as a miraculous try from Steve Jackson secured their first ever major premiership. 

Newcastle Knights vs Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles,1997, 22-16 Knights

A bit of a controversial pick as this Final was one of two in 1997 due to the Super League War that made its presence felt on the league throughout the year.

However, that being said, the 1997 ARL Grand Final between Newcastle and Manly-Warringah was the most notable out of the two.

Newcastle Knights legend and NRL Immortal Andrew Johns

The match itself was headlined by the intense rivalry between the Knight’s Paul Harragon and the Sea Eagles’ Mark Carroll.

Within the first minutes of the game, Carroll reacted to a late shot from Harragon on Geoff Toovey.

After trailing 16-8 at half time, the Knights stepped up their game with Andrew Johns showing his magical qualities to stage a remarkable comeback.

Manly Sea Eagles legend Cliff Lyons

A brace of tries from Robbie O’Davies and a last second try from Darren Albert were enough to break the hearts of Sea Eagles fans everywhere and inject euphoria into the hearts of Novocastrians around.

Melbourne Storm vs St. George Illawarra Dragons,1999, 20-18 Storm

In recent history, it has been a very rare occurrence where the Storm have come into any Grand Final and been considered an outsider.

However, in the lead up to 1999 edition, they were just that.

St George Illawarra Dragons legend Nathan Blacklock

For half of the game, it seemed like the Dragons were having it all their own way as they went into half time leading 14-0 but succumbed to a great deal of pressure from Glenn Lazarus and Melbourne.

The Victorian based side were able to conjure a sense of momentum to bring themselves within four points before forcing St. George to a goal line dropout with three minutes to go.

The game clinching moment came after a spout of madness from the Dragons.

In the process of anticipating a Melbourne try, Jamie Ainscough caught Craig Smith with a high shot in a tackle over the try line and in the process knocked the winger unconscious.

Former Melbourne Storm prop Robbie Kearns

A video review, a penalty try and a kick in front of the posts later and the Storm clinched their first premiership and became the quickest expansion team to secure premiership honours. 

Wests Tigers vs North Queensland Cowboys, 2005 34-16 Tigers

A 34-16 scoreline in favour of the Tigers may not hold much in terms of being dubbed one of the best Grand Finals, but it will be a game in which we were able to witness the making and true magic of Benji Marshall.

Wests Tigers club legend Benji Marshall holding the premiership trophy

The game was all square nearing half time but in undoubtedly the best moment of the game, Marshall would showcase a profound level of skill.

A genius flick pass to set up Pat Richards for the go ahead try had everyone with their jaws gaping.

Former North Queensland Cowboys fullback Matt ‘Mango’ Bowen

In the end, it would be more than enough as a trio of tries in the second half saw Tim Sheens’ men claim the win in spectacular fashion.

North Queensland Cowboys vs Brisbane Broncos, 2015 17-16 Cowboys

There is no question that there is a great deal of debate about what could be considered the greatest Grand Final of all time but the 2015 final certainly has a strong case for itself.

A game that was full of twists and turns saw Johnathan Thurston finally claim the big one with the Cowboys after a thrilling golden point win over Brisbane.

North Queensland Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston

The closing minutes saw a try from Kyle Feldt from Michael Morgan’s great run and this looked to be enough to secure the win in normal time.

However, Thurston’s difficult sideline conversion would hit the woodwork and take the game to extras at 16-16.

 Thurston’s missed conversion would not be the biggest moment of the game as during the resulting restart from JT, Broncos halfback Ben Hunt entered his name into NRL Grand Final folklore in the worst kind of way.

Former Brisbane Broncos hooker Ben Hunt

A dropped catch, placing the Cowboys in great field position.

A drop goal from Thurston not long later and an NRL crown was his and North Queensland’s after 10 long years.

Newcastle Knights vs Parramatta Eels,, 2001 30-24 Knights

Now, this game may not have been as memorable as the 1997 version featuring the Knights but it was still a game that was seemingly one for the neutral fans out there.

Former Newcastle Knights player Billy Peden

The Eels came into this game as the league leaders but were on the wrong end of 24-0 scoreline as a brace of tries from Bill Peden and efforts from both Steve Simpson and Ben Kennedy put the Knights up big by half time.

But in the second half, things definitely got interesting as for a short time, Parramatta looked to produce one of the most thrilling comebacks to sport had seen.

Former Parramatta Eels centre Jamie Lyon

After 64 minutes, Newcastle led 28-6 but in a wild 15 minutes the Eels duo of Brett Hodgson and Jamie Lyon scored a pair of tries to set up a grandstand finish.

However, it was not to be, as the Novacastrians secured their first title since 1997.

Cronulla Sharks vs Melbourne Storm, 2016 14-12 Sharks

A fairy-tale ending for the Sharks as for the first time in their 50 year history, they were able to secure NRL honours with a gutsy and gritty display.

After winning 17 consecutive games during the season, Cronulla produced an astounding effort defensively to reign in Melbourne.

Cronulla Sharks legend Paul Gallen

The Sharks led 8-0 at half time and for a while in the second half, the Storm looked like they were going to romp home to another major premiership when they came back to lead 12-8.

However, the hearts of Cronulla players were not to be denied as a barnstorming try from Andrew Fifita under the posts put them up 14-12.

Melbourne Storm prop Jesse Bromwich

In the most nervy of endings, Melbourne found themselves 10 metres away from a last second win but the Cronulla defence stood resolute, sparking huge celebrations.

Penrith Panthers vs Sydney Roosters, 2003 18-6 Penrith

A tough and well organised display from table toppers Penrith was the focal point in this game and will be remembered for a try saving tackle that will live long in the memory. 

The Roosters were the reigning champions but struggled to get any foothold throughout the game.

Former Sydney Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello

In a game dominated by some great defence, the first points were scored by the half hour mark as Luke Priddis sent through Luke Rooney to put Penrith up 6-0.

The Tricolours fought back not long into the second half with a try from Shane Hegarty to make it 6-6.

They then looked to go ahead as Todd Byrne made a break down the line before Scott Sattler pulled off a miraculous covering tackle to stop an almost certain try for Sydney.

The now famous 2005 grand final Scott Sattler tackle

It was a moment that seemingly rejuvenated Penrith as an epic display from Luke Priddis accumulated with a try and another try assist to Rooney to hand the Panthers an 18-6 win.

Penrith Panthers vs Canberra Raiders, 1991 19-12 Penrith

The Canberra/Penrith rivalry was renewed once again as both teams met in the 1991 NSWRL Grand Final.

This came after facing each in the 1990 edition of the Australian rugby league’s showpiece event.

Canberra Raiders legend Laurie Daley

The Raiders may have claimed their second consecutive title that year but the Panthers were able to exact some revenge this time around with a well structured and tense 19-12 win.

The green machine led 12-6 with Penrith struggling for scoring opportunities until the game flipped on its head.

Former Penrith Panthers player Greg Alexander

A Brad Izzard try and Greg Alexander conversion levelled the game before a Alexander drop goal and Royce Simmons gifted the Panthers their first ever premiership.

Sydney Roosters vs Manly Sea Eagles, 2013 26-18 Roosters

There is no question by the time the final whistle blew on this game that it certainly entered the history books as one of the great Grand Finals of the NRL era.

The Roosters and Sea Eagles stand as two of the most formidable sides of the 2000s but the 2013 Grand Final would be the first time the two teams met in Australia’s premier showcase since 1972.

Former Manly Sea Eagles centre Steve Matai

A closely fought first half  saw the Chooks go in with a slight upper hand as they led 8-6 but from then, the shackles would be unleashed by both sides.

The Sea Eagles stepped up a gear with a penalty try and and a Steve Matai try to lead 18-8 with only 30 minutes to go.

Former Sydney Roosters centre Michael Jennings

However, there was more to come from the Roosters, as tries from Aidan Guerra and Shaun Kenny-Dowall put them ahead.

Michael Jennings then showed pure instinct and finishing ability to collect a kick from James Maloney to collect another try and secure another Tricolours title. 

What do you think of our list? Did we miss any out? Let us know your thoughts.