ELLERY Hanley says the insight of such a varied and revered group of panelists will be “priceless” in helping decide the worthy winner of this year’s Steve Prescott Man of Steel.
The new 21-man voting panel for the award for Super League’s best player was announced last night by Hanley, who was introduced as the chairman last month.
It includes Hall of Famers such as Castleford icon Malcolm Reilly and Hull FC legend Johnny Whiteley – aged 71 and 88 respectively – familiar faces in former dual-code international Jason Robinson and ex-Great Britain captain Jamie Peacock, as well as lesser names who truly epitomise what the honour is all about.
Andy Lynch, for instance, never won Man of Steel, but the former Bradford Bulls and Castleford Tigers prop, who made nearly 500 appearances before retiring at the end of 2017, earned wide recognition for the way he both played the sport and offered a positive example to others.
Until recently, the award – first won by Leeds hooker David Ward in 1977 – was decided by Super League players who could cast votes for their top three players as long as they were not from their own club.
However, it became clear last season that a minority of them were not taking the privilege seriously and Super League, under new chief executive Robert Elstone, wanted to make it a more rigorous process.
This will certainly be the case; a panellist will be allocated matches to watch from the competition and award points to his three outstanding players: three points for their chosen Man of the Match, two points for the runner-up, and one point for the third-ranked player.
Former Leeds, Wigan and Great Britain captain Hanley – the only three-time winner of the Man of Steel – said: “The panel is an outstanding group of former players from across the generations. They have experience of playing at the very top of the game, with seven of the group being Man of Steel winners and five inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“Their insight is priceless and will shape the worthy winner of the game’s ultimate individual accolade.”
He was joined by Linzi Prescott, wife of Steve, at an event in Leeds last night when the new panel members were revealed including Hall of Famers and previous winners Garry Schofield and Martin Offiah.
There is a large contingent of representatives from Yorkshire circles; former Huddersfield Giants prop Eorl Crabtree, ex-Bradford Bulls star Robbie Paul, Hull FC’s 2005 Challenge Cup hero Paul Cooke and prolific former Leeds and Great Britain centre Keith Senior all have the honour of helping decide the campaign’s finest player.
Like the NRL’s Dally M Medal, fans will be able to follow the season-long narrative when the scores are published each week until Round 22 in mid-July.
After that the leaderboard will be hidden until the Awards Ceremony in October.
Elstone added: “It feels wholly appropriate that the Game’s highest individual award, with over forty years of heritage, be selected by a panel of iconic and multi-decorated former players.
“I would like to thank all (of the panel) for injecting the rigour and authenticity to make the 2019 Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel the ultimate Rugby League accolade.
“It was also really important for us to have the support of Linzi Prescott, wife of our ultimate Man of Steel. We thank Linzi and her family for working with us throughout this process.”
The award was renamed after Prescott – the late former St Helens, Hull, Wakefield, Ireland and England player who raised over £500,000 for charitable causes after being diagnosed with a terminal disease – in 2014.
The Steve Prescott Man of Steel MBE Panel: Ellery Hanley, Denis Betts, Phil Clarke, Paul Cooke, Eorl Crabtree, Jonathan Davies, Jerome Guisset, Robbie Hunter-Paul, Chris Joynt, Andy Lynch, Barrie McDermott, Adrian Morley, Terry O’Connor, Martin Offiah, Jamie Peacock, Mal Reilly, Jason Robinson, Garry Schofield, Paul Sculthorpe, Keith Senior, Johnny Whiteley.