LEEDS Rhinos’ winger Ryan Hall admits that even by his own lofty standards 2012 has surpassed all previous achievements.
He completed another memorable campaign with a typically prolific flourish, scoring a record-equalling four tries in England’s 48-4 annihilation of France during Sunday’s autumn international series final.
In another intensive season, that feat took him to 39 tries in 41 games for both club and country, his best return yet.
Furthermore, it was the fourth final in which Hall had played this term when he was also heralded as the world’s finest winger for a second successive season.
“It has got to be my best year so far if you look at the achievements I have had,” he admitted.
“Man-of-the-match in the World Club Challenge and man-of-the-match in this game, too, plus I’ve got to all the major finals with Leeds and got named in the international team of the year.
“I have got some really good accolades so, on paper, it must be my best year yet.
“I played every minute of every game, every weekend so am really pleased with that.
“To score so many tries playing in quality sides is a privilege.
“Fingers crossed, I am forever improving and that is what I base my career upon.
“Hopefully, next year I will continue to improve as well.”
It is a frightening prospect to think there is yet more to come from the powerful wideman but people do often forget he is still only 24, his next birthday arriving not until later this month.
A latecomer to professional sport – Hall was not plucked from Leeds amateur club Oulton Raiders until he was 18 – he made swift progress to establish himself, first in Super League and then on the international scene.
A four-time Grand Final winner with Rhinos, with whom he won his first World Club Challenge against Manly in February, Hall only made his senior debut in 2007 yet his first try on Sunday saw him already remarkably reach 150 in his career.
“It’s nice to get there but I will enjoy counting them all when I retire so let’s not put a number on them just yet,” he added, having become one of nine players to score four in an England game.
“That’s pretty nice but a lot of the credit goes to the big guys in the middle; they brought a lot of punch.
“They made my job easy and I reap the rewards of their good work by exploiting gaps out wide.”
The hope is for similar returns in 2013 in readiness for a tilt at World Cup glory at the end of the year.
Landslide wins over France (twice) and Wales followed a successful 10-day training camp in South Africa. Holding the autumn international series trophy, Hall admitted: “I think we look really strong. Half of the time we spend off the field is great for team bonding. All the time we get together is beneficial.
“It can only help us going forward into next year and, hopefully, this time next year we will be standing on a similar stage with a larger trophy than this.”
Dubbed WBW (World’s Best Winger) by fans and colleagues at Headingley, Hall was the only Super League-based player to be named in the 2012 international team of the year.
“There is a bit of a jokey thing going on but I have my feet firmly planted,” he added.
“I’ve been in the team twice so it’s a real privilege. There is a feelgood factor about it but it doesn’t give you any more confidence.
“Hopefully, we can start putting our authority down, England will have a real good year and we will get recognised on a world stage and get more England players in that world team. That will be better for the English game.”
The 2013 World Cup is certainly when this young, evolving England side will be judged.
They face Australia in the Cardiff opener on October 26 knowing defeat could leave them tackling holders New Zealand in the semis.
Hall – who scored twice against Australia at Wembley last year – said: “We have got some big opposition coming over in the next 12 months with Australia and New Zealand.
“You need to hit the ground running in these competitions because, before you know it, it is over.)
“If I can play my little part in that, brilliant. Since I started (with England) in ’09, it’s all been building towards the World Cup.
“It was a failure in 2008 and a real disappointment so we are re-building towards next year.
“Australia are the No 1 team in the world and we will be gearing up for that game in the last couple of months of 2013.
“If the Aussies and the Kiwis face each other in the semi, so be it. But it’s the final that we need to win. If we lose the first one then maybe we will end up doing the hard route.”
Asked who he believes is the greatest winger the world over, Hall diplomatically answered: “I will leave it to the pundits to judge.
“When you play against a good winger in Super League, like Josh (Charnley) or Tom (Briscoe), they are the ones you aim up for.
“When you play Australia and New Zealand, you get to play similar calibre of opposition and you just raise your game.”