LISTENING to Chris Chester the other night stating how he thinks Bill Tupou has been the best centre in Super League this season, it was hard to argue otherwise.
The big Aucklander was immense for Wakefield Trinity against St Helens, even in defeat, and did to them what he has done to most opponents this term: utterly terrorised them.
With his sheer power and physicality, he gave Saints all sorts of problems but he has elusive footwork and handling ability, too, while he certainly doesn’t lack in defensive prowess.
Summing up, the former New Zealand Warriors star is the full package and, at 28, has certainly found career-best form. Assessing the basic statistics, Tupou is the leading metre-maker in the competition with an astonishing 3,462m, almost 10 per cent more than his nearest rival.
With 21 clean breaks – just outside Super League’s top 10 in that regard – it is perhaps no surprise he is able to make so many metres but allied to his tackle-busting skill it makes for a devastating combination.
Tupou has swatted aside – or more often through – 102 would-be tackles in 2018, a statistic which also sits in Super League’s top five.
Those above him? Interestingly, his fellow Trinity centre Reece Lyne (105), Wakefield prop David Fifita (114) plus St Helens duo Ben Barba (121) and Mark Percival, the England centre who stands alone on 154.
It is, then, no wonder Trinity and Saints boast the best attacks in the competition and Thursday’s game eventually came alive like it did.
Tupou – with a dozen tries and six assists so far – will surely be named in the Super League Dream Team.
The former Tonga international is also top of the pile when it comes to actual carries, taking the ball on 393 times so far in the Super League campaign.
His work-rate is obvious and it is no surprise one of Wakefield’s main priorities last year was tying him down to a long-term deal that secures him with the West Yorkshire club until the end of 2020.
Undoubtedly, if Tupou carries on at this rate, their resolve will be tested with others wanting to try and prize him away; great centres are in short supply.
That said, Trinity have the luxury of having another great centre already in their own ranks.
Lyne has proved that this term, another player who has made significant improvements under the guidance of Chester and his coaching team in recent years.
Lyne is in the competition’s top-five for carries (348) and metres (2979) as well as tackle busts, and has crossed nine times with another five assists.
The former Hull FC player is yet another physical specimen as well. Indeed, people always talk about how big Wakefield’s pack is – think Fifita, Pauli Pauli, Anthony England, Craig Huby and Keegan Hirst – but their centre pairing is huge as well.
Lyne is in the England Knights squad and hopefully will get chance to showcase that power this autumn in arguably one of the most bruising environments possible – Papua New Guinea.
With wingers Tom Johnstone and Ben Jones-Bishop in such rich form, Trinity have so many of the key ingredients.
And Tupou has been the pick of them all in ’18. Certainly, Chester is right to argue he has performed better than the likes of Kallum Watkins, Percival, Michael Shenton and Jake Connor.
He’s not just one of Super League’s best centres but one of its very best and exciting players as well. Long may that continue.