27 May 2019

Ellery Hanley: Man of Steel picks

Ellery Hanley MBE explains his Man of Steel picks

There was something magical in the air at Anfield, and it was the 2019 Dacia Magic Weekend with players performing in front of tens of thousands of Super League fans and newcomers to the sport.

The hottest team in Super League right now is St Helens, who travelled the short distance to Anfield and produced a memorable display for all to see, showing why they are the favourites to reach the Super League Grand Final. 

Ellery Hanley MBE was the Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel panellist judging the players and giving them a score of three points for the top player, two points for the second-best player and one point for the third best.

Adjudicating St Helens for all of the Man of Steel panellists has been one of the hardest teams to pick out the ‘best performer’, with such consistency shining throughout the squad and on any given day the majority of the team could be classed as Saints' best player.

However, a decision must be made and Hanley has given an insight into the reasons behind his decision and the tough decisions to not give points to some of Saints’ top performers. 

His 3-points were awarded to Tommy Makinson, last time out at Anfield for England, he scored a hat-trick before winning the Rugby League World Golden Boot Award.

Hanley said: “Very rarely has Tommy fallen below an 8 out of 10 performance this season. His huge value to St Helens is almost hard to measure, as what you see in his yardage gain and putting St Helens on the front foot.

“He causes a destruction in the opposition defence by pulling its shape from pillar to post, causing the openings for St Helens’ attack for their other wrecking ball players. 

“And to add to all of that, his tackling and defence was almost faultless.” 

Lachlan Coote was awarded two points, before Magic Weekend he was in 7th position on 14 points - he now sits in third position on 16 points - and since signing for Saints he's become a fans’ favourite.

“It was another polished all-around game from the unflappable Lachlan Coote. 

“His run in the first six minutes of the second-half to set-up Jack Ashworth’s try was poetry in motion. 

“He also scored himself and had a huge influence on the St Helens side since taking over the full back duties since stepping onto these shores,” admitted Hanley. 

The last of the Man of Steel points was awarded to Saints' centre Kevin Naiqama: “An outstanding and astute signing for St Helens,” said Hanley.

He added: “You probably will have to go a long way in seeing a try scored as good as this in the second-half by this centre.

“His evasive skills were right there for all to see, his explosive power is quite extraordinary along with staying in stride when changing direction, he is deceptively strong and his first-up contact on tackling was awesome.” 

The way Justin Holbrook’s men have been performing it would be hard not to back Saints to get to the Grand Final; and although Hanley chose Makinson, Coote and Naiqama he said: “Jonny Lomax and co. were also brilliant but my eyes and calculation of contribution rest with the three players above.”


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