Super League Dream Team: Dave Craven names his picks for 2021 Team of the Season
The Steve Prescott Man of Steel nominations were announced this week so we are edging closer to awards season – meaning it’s also time for my own version of the 2021 Super League Dream Team.
Starting at full-back, the competition is blessed with wonderful No 1s but Sam Tomkins has stood out for Catalans Dragons as they lifted the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time.
Many wondered if he would ever recapture his finest form having moved to France from Wigan but the 32-year-old has instead reached another level.
As well as 10 tries, he has made 20 try assists, but offers so much more and it is no wonder he is the favourite for Man of Steel. Similarly, there have been some fine wingers operating this term, not least the competition’s top try-scorer Ken Sio of Salford Red Devils and Catalans’ Tom Davies who racked up an astonishing 3,332m as well as 14 tries.
However, Ryan Hall has been brilliant for Hull KR on his return from the NRL, proving he still has all that class that made him the world’s best winger in his days with Leeds Rhinos.
On the other side, I’d opt for someone who had never even properly played wing before the start of the season but has adapted brilliantly to operate there this term: Castleford Tigers’ Jordan Turner who also must go down as the signing of 2021.
Jake Mamo – a former Huddersfield team-mate of Turner’s who will join him at Wheldon Road in 2022 – has been a revelation at centre for Warrington Wolves, scoring 16 tries, adding five assists and averaging almost ten metres per carry.
The enigmatic Australian also does a lovely turn in post-match interviews. KR’s Kane Linnett has been immense on Hall’s left edge but watching St Helens youngster Jack Welsby continue to develop has been a delight, whether playing full-back, centre or, more recently, stand-off.
His Saints team-mate Jonny Lomax would be an obvious contender at No 6, although he is pushed close by Gareth Widdop who has rediscovered his best form after a difficult first campaign at Warrington after arriving from the NRL.
Alongside Lomax, Catalans’ unheralded Josh Drinkwater is a perfect foil. Yes, former Kangaroos half James Maloney gets most of the spotlight in Perpignan but his Australian team-mate has been quietly effective in their rise to the top, his kicking in particular proving so effective and providing so many of his competition-best 28 try assists.
Saints prop Alex Walmsley is a given as the only front-row in Super League’s top-10 metre-makers (seventh with 2,663m) while who will ever forget his epic recent display against Leeds?
Wakefield’s David Fifita has had a fine campaign but Huddersfield’s Luke Yates gets the nod for his consistently high level of performance in Ian Watson’s rebuild at John Smith’s Stadium. At hooker, Kruise Leeming has really matured into an integral part of Leeds’s present and future.
Wigan second-row Liam Farrell seems to get better with age and Mike McMeeken has enjoyed a renaissance since switching Castleford for Perpignan.
At loose forward, it is hard to pick between Saints’ Morgan Knowles – surely England’s No 13 at next year’s World Cup? – and Wakefield’s Joe Westerman who has also rediscovered some of his career best form but the Saints man edges it.
Dave Craven’s 2021 Super League Dream Team picks: Tomkins; Turner, Mamo, Welsby, Hall; Lomax, Drinkwater; Walmsley, Leeming, Yates, Farrell, McMeeken, Knowles.