The race to become this year’s Steve Prescott Man of Steel, awarded to the best player in England’s Rugby League Super League, has kicked off.
With 2018 winner Ben Barba leaving the competition in the off-season to return to the NRL, the field is wide open for fresh faces and past winners to stake a claim.
The Man of Steel was started back in 1977 and was first won by Leeds hooker David Ward. Players from Wigan have won the accolade more than any other, 11 times out of the 42 given out, with Ellery Hanley a three-time winner in 1985, 1987 and 1989.
In 2014 the award was renamed after former England international Steve Prescott.
Last year’s winner was St Helens fullback Barba. This year the award has been given a major revamp with a new judging panel led by Hanley and including former winners. Previously the award was voted only by Super League players.
With several clubs making bold overseas signings, including Warrington, Leeds and Saints, there’s a number of new players who will be in contention for the top gong.
It’s not hard to see why Austin is the front-runner. The marquee Australian is only 27 and is in the peak of his career. After seven years, 122 games and 42 tries in the NRL, he has arrived in Super League at just the perfect time.
Austin is the type of playmaker who can do it all – score tries, create tries for others, direct a team around the field, kick and defend.
On his day he is an excitement machine who can change a game or win a match single-handedly.
At 6 foot 2 inches tall, and weighing in at 14 stone and 11 pounds, he is a rangy halfback who has the size, strength and skill to bamboozle opponents. At Warrington he will play behind a big forward pack, which will help him no end, and has quality finishers out wide such as Josh Charnley and Tom Lineham.
Austin is well-placed to be crowned Man of Steel this year, but the Antipodean does face opposition for the award, including from his compatriots.
St Helens have signed three NRL stars in Lachlan Coote, Kevin Naiqama and Joseph Paulo.
Coote, who has replaced Barba in the number one jersey, is valued much higher at 28/1 with Betway. New teammate Naiqama is seen even higher at 33/1 by William Hill and Unibet, but again Betway have the greatest value at 40/1.
Another Saints star in James Roby is also worth a look. Shortlisted for the award won by Barba last year, hooker Roby has been valued at 14/1 with Unibet. However, William Hill has him even higher at 16/1, which is a very attractive offer.
Also not be overlooked is his Red V and England teammate Luke Thompson. While props rarely win the top award, Thompson enjoyed a breakout season in 2018 and impressed after making his debut for the national team.
The front-rower is a best price of 33/1 with William Hill, and at 23 years old is only going to get better.
Someone who deserves consideration is Zak Hardaker. The Man of Steel in 2015 when at Leeds, Hardaker has recently battled numerous issues off the field, including a drink-driving charge and a cocaine ban, but is out to resurrect his career this season with Wigan.
If Hardaker can keep on the straight and narrow, and that remains an if, he certainly has the talent to win a second Man of Steel honour.
The fullback, along with Austin, is one of the outsiders but is fantastic value at Coral who have him at 25/1. Other rugby league betting sites offer around 14/1, so you see the value in going with Coral.
Completing the top field is Salford and Castleford halfbacks Jackson Hastings and Jake Trueman. Hastings’ is valued at 25/1 by William Hill and Unibet, and Trueman is priced at 16/1 by the same bookmakers, but even higher at 20/1 by Betway.
Both scrum-halves are classy and skillful, and are worth a flutter.Odds are subject to change
Up to €50 Wager Free Bonus
Read Review ||BET NOW||18+ T&C's Apply. New customers only. Begambleaware.org|
50% First Deposit Bonus up to €100 Promo Code: SNW100
Read Review ||BET NOW||18+. T&C Apply|
Bet €10, Get €30 in Free Bets Promo Code: 30fb
Read Review ||BET NOW||18+. T&C Apply|
Be the first to receive the latest welcome offers, free bets, tips and strategy