ANDY LYNCH. Kevin Brown. Danny Brough. Joel Monaghan. Just some of the stellar names that might not make this year’s Super League Dream Team.
It seems absurd such quality performers are not in the reckoning, for my mythical XIII at least, given their pedigree this term.
There are others, too, like Lynch’s front-row colleague at Castleford Craig Huby, Warrington Wolves’ exhilarating No 1 Matty Russell, Wigan’s fine second-row Liam Farrell and Catalan Dragons’ own thrilling full-back Morgan Escare.
But, considering the merits of some others, there are simply no places for them. Lynch, a prop who has been the model of consistency throughout his 15-year career, has been superb on his return to Wheldon Road this term and been of great value both on and off the pitch.
Alongside him, Huby has been a thunderous performer, too, setting the platform for the likes of Daryl Clark, Marc Sneyd – my No 6 – and Michael Shenton to run riot.
Yet Warrington’s Chris Hill has been immense, underlining the class which should see him establish himself as one of England’s starting front-rows this autumn, and Jamie Peacock, somehow at the age of 36, has almost replicated his mind-blowing 2013 form.
It is tough on the Castleford duo but you cannot look past Hill and Peacock who are both being tipped for Man of Steel, too.
In between them, though, there cannot be any arguments about one Castleford player getting the nod – the incomparable youngster Clark who has been a revelation at hooker and a joy to watch.
A fee of £185,000 to take him to Warrington on a four-year deal is one of the biggest transfers in rugby league history yet also possibly one of the best pieces of business given the quality and potential of this lightning No 9.
Castleford are well served in the Dream Team I have selected with no fewer than four of their players in there.
Shenton is in career-best form while Sneyd, one of Super League’s top try assisters and the competition’s leading goalkicker, has been an inspired loan signing from Salford Red Devils.
Australian Grant Millington may be a surprise pick but, for me, he has been the most dynamic and influential loose forward around.
Leeds, too, are well served; Zak Hardaker has proved himself to be the best full-back both in attack but, more impressively, in defence as well while Kallum Watkins oozes class at centre.
Ryan Hall has not scored as many tries as usual but for producing it when it matters most in big games, he is peerless.
Danny McGuire, meanwhile, has quietly gone about his business at scrum-half to edge out Wigan’s Matty Smith, Castleford’s Liam Finn and Luke Walsh, the Australian who started well at St Helens but saw injury ruin his campaign.
Second-row Carl Ablett maybe slightly left field but he is another who produces consistently high-class displays if not grabbing the headlines of some others.
Alongside him, with 17 tries, Catalan’s Elliott Whitehead has to be in although his former Bulls colleague John Bateman has made great strides, too, following his switch to Wigan.
Craven’s Dream Team 2014: Hardaker (Leeds); Makinson (St Helens), Watkins (Leeds), Shenton (Castleford), Hall (Leeds); Sneyd (Castleford) McGuire (Leeds); Peacock (Leeds), Clark (Castleford), Hill (Warrington), Whitehead (Catalan), Ablett (Leeds), Millington (Castleford).