17 May 2020

Ellery Hanley: My Ultimate Team

This is a task that I have found extremely challenging and difficult for a number of reasons. 

In our sport there has been some elite footy players over the last 25 years that have shone beyond being outstanding, courageous, equipped with all the tools for our great sport....

They have also been strong, fast, durable, mentally/ physically tough, athletic and determined to get their job done under any circumstances.

So leaving out players, it has to be recognised that there has been so many equals in all the positions from 1 to 13, therefore there is no ‘slight’ on any player who doesn’t find themselves in “MY” Ultimate Team.

Let me also say the reason for the players I have chosen to represent my 13 is twofold.... they must be destructive with the ball and be armed with a solid defence/tackling ability of the highest order. 

This to me makes a GREAT PLAYER. 

So here we have it, my all-time Super League Ultimate Team….

Fullback

Both Kris Radlinski and Gary Connolly have been awesome for our game, they epitomise everything I like about a footy player, they could both tackle/defend and promote the ball to gain territory when asked to do so and they have both left some wonderful memories for all of us to enjoy at our leisure.

There is no “just shading it” for me with these two stalwarts...as they are both parallel in their ability to capture the number one jersey in my team. I would be extremely confident and comfortable with either of these two greats if I opened my eyes and they had the number one on the back of their shirt...but because I have no option other than to pick one or the other, I will go with Kris in my starting line-up. But everyone please bear in mind everything I have said about these two individuals, I am very comfortable with either of them.  

Centres

Keith Senior will be my first centre; a fearless competitor. Respected by his peers. That alone tells you he is to be feared. He was more than a handful for the defence. His presence alone was a force in itself. A monster of a back line player who was close to being a wrecking ball. 

His pairing would be with Steve Renouf who was close to being the perfect footy player and the perfect foil for Keith Senior. This man was sleek, dynamic, intelligent, had an abundance of speed in his mind and body to react to any opportunities. World class!

Wingers

Jason Robinson is so far beyond any words that could justify his brilliance that I would be doing him a slight disservice in describing this rare commodity of the likes I will never see again in my lifetime.

So many tries have been scored by our varied wingers and because so much time has passed, we forget the efforts of the likes of Lesley Vainikolo whom for me was outrageously brilliant and I would have him in my team all day long.

Tevita Vaikona is another great all-round winger, but Tommy Makinson has to secure one of my other wing spots. What an asset to St Helens, England and anybody else who has had the privilege to have watched this well-deserved Golden Boot winner. More importantly you only have to be in his company for 22 seconds (yes, 22 seconds) to recognise what a first-class human being he is too. 

Halfback 

Now coming to the man who captured footy in his own unique way and style, played the game as if he was out on the training paddock or with his mates at his local park, the “GREAT” Andrew Johns. He simply knew what was going to happen before it happened, a true class act. A natural footy player who had all the tools in his brain for any particular game. A genius.

Stand-off

Henry Paul would be my stand-off. The moment he was born, footy found him.

Another natural instinctive player of the highest order whom terrorised defences in every game he played. The magician you wish was in your team to take on any opposition. So well balanced off both feet. Always played the game with time on his side, seemingly never rushed and played with an abundance of flare. A gifted player who entertained and excited you every time he pulled on his football jersey to perform.

Props

Having physicality and being dominant to lay a platform for your team is essential in helping towards winning any rugby league game. There is an abundance of front rowers who claim this mantle and are equal to the two who I will start the game in my eyes. Jamie Peacock, the man I would want by my side in any situation, knowing he will back you up all day and night is in itself high security. Another A1 human being. 

Luke Thompson a young buck who clearly has an enormous career ahead of him, whom I already identify as “great” and have a huge dollop of respect for.

Along with the enforcer of Kylie Leuluai who you would feel safe with 24 hours a day in any part of the world and what a champion human being he is off the field.

Ultimately I’m going to start my 80 minutes with Adrian Morley with a quiet word in his ear to keep that controlled aggression throughout the whole 80 minutes but not to take away his natural instinct of being the enforcer and aggressor.

I had had the privilege and honour to have played alongside Adrian, albeit it was for only minutes. What makes Adrian special alongside being a tremendous footy player, off the field he is a gentleman who would help anyone. I can’t speak highly enough of him.

His partner in the front row will be Barrie McDermott, whom I admire so much. He simply gets done what he needs to do on the footy park. He would let everyone on the field know, by his actions, he is the top dog of the enforcers - you had to know of Barrie’s whereabouts on the field at all times if you were an opposition player! A clear message and warning to anyone playing against Barrie - do not antagonize this player otherwise you will be facing some rough seas ahead of you! But a truly honourable person who will always remain loyal to you in any crisis. A true trusted friend.

Hooker

The number nine was one of the hardest categories to put forward.

You have the outstanding James Roby who should be in everyone’s side, Daryl Clark who is another diamond, along with the no nonsense James Lowes.

With great difficultly, based on the above, Keiron Cunningham gets the nod for his hard nose physical approach, ruthless defence in his first up contact and his danger close quarter to the try line. 

Second Row  

Sonny Nickle gets the nod for me for a mountain of reasons. He would never take a backwards step to anybody on the field.

When I tell you he was tough, I say this with total conviction. He had a huge engine on him with great athleticism sprinkled in the mix. He could cover all the positions in the engine room for you. You would be looking up each time to see where Sonny was....a player I would want to be on the right side of for 80 minutes.

His partner in the second row would be Ali Lauiti’iti. If you didn’t witness Ali play, you have missed out on seeing a class magician working his magic. Ali was World class, I have nothing but admiration for him. Make no mistake Denis Betts was another outstanding back rower.

Loose Forward

Sean O’ Loughlin and Kevin Sinfield will be forever household names and folklore hero’s...as they have earned those titles with continued consistency throughout the majority of their career and two players I would always, always trust and depend upon. 

The player I want to lock my pack at 13 and be the link to my backs is Paul Sculthorpe, a player I had the great privilege to coach and the ultimate, consummate professional. A great ambassador, leader and foot soldier of our game.

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