IF his current rich form continues, Jodie Broughton believes Huddersfield Giants colleague Danny Brough could become just the second player to retain the coveted Man of Steel award.
The legendary Ellery Hanley may have held the title, handed to the outstanding player in the domestic game, on three separate occasions for Bradford Northern (1985) and Wigan (1987 and 1989).
However, only fellow ex-Great Britain captain Paul Sculthorpe has earned it in successive seasons since its inception in 1977, the talismanic loose-forward winning in 2001 and 2002 through some sustained brilliance at St Helens.
England Knights winger Broughton argues, though, that dynamic stand-off Brough, whose creative talent helped Huddersfield finish top for the first time in 81 years last season and, in turn, saw him voted Super League’s most influential player, is fully capable of replicating that feat.
The West Yorkshire club, and the Scotland captain, too, initially found life difficult this year dealing with the level of expectancy given their 2013 exploits which, admittedly, ended in ultimate failure to reach Old Trafford.
They won just two of their opening nine games, a dismal sequence which also saw them ejected from the Challenge Cup.
However, a 42-22 victory at today’s opponents Salford Red Devils on April 18 proved a turning point, triggering something in them to emerge from their malaise and they have since embarked on a prolific run which has yielded nine wins from 10 outings.
Brough, 31, has been central to their resurgence, rediscovering so much of his brio and daring to fire their attacking quality again.
Broughton has been reaping the rewards of that down Huddersfield’s left side, often latching onto the World Cup star’s famed long passes, and now has seven tries in 11 games.
“You have to expect one of those at any time,” he told The Yorkshire Post, about a delivery that has become one of Brough’s trademarks.
“It’s a bit nerve-wracking actually. Sometimes you might have a good position off the full-back, but he’ll give you the nod just a split second before and you know it’s coming your way.
“He’s a brilliant player in attack and defence and it’s a privilege to play with someone like that.
“The way he’s playing he really is looking like he could get another Man of Steel award.”
If Brough is to have any chance of retaining the title, which has been renamed the Steve Prescott Man of Steel this year in memory of the late St Helens and Hull full-back, who raised so much money for charity before his death last November, it is imperative they continue their recent revival.
Broughton, 26, feels there is plenty more to come from Paul Anderson’s side given – in an ominous warning to rival sides – many of their wins so far have been scratchy.
“I don’t think we’re far away from a really good performance,” he added. “We’ve won nine out of our last 10, but not won any of them easily. We’ve either let the other side back into a game or we’ve slowed up and there’s certain parts where we’ve not controlled.
“If we are going to start building to the play-offs, we need to start controlling these games and, hopefully, we can keep getting the wins. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how you win as long as you do and it’s the trophies you lift that people look out for. Considering the slow start we had, we are now winning games we’d probably have lost at the beginning of the year. Momentum is building nicely, but it has to continue and we know Salford will be a tough fixture.”
Today’s visitors lost in the final seconds of their game at Castleford a week ago so, conversely to Huddersfield, have won just one of their previous 10 games.
It will be the first time Broughton, Salford’s top try-scorer last season, faces them since leaving after four years last autumn. He has found it difficult to hold a regular place at Huddersfield, but is seeking to make the most of Aaron Murphy’s enforced absence with a broken hand.
“He’s a class player but it’s up to me now to keep him out by performing,” said Broughton. “By all accounts Salford should have won at Cas. They’re starting to click so we have to make sure we deliver.”