Talking RL: They got the Man of Steel right... but system still needs changing

Luke Gale deservedly won the Steve Prescott Man of Steel

For what it’s worth, I thought they got all the major awards at the Man of Steel night spot on.

Daryl Powell (Coach of the Year), Oliver Gildart (Young Player...) and Luke Gale (Steve Prescott Man of Steel) fully deserved their accolades.

Louis McCarthy Scarsbrook has cut his hair, for a great cause

The awards are voted for by different means, but they all produced the correct outcomes.

And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

Wrong.

Credit to the Rugby Football League for revealing how all the players voted for the Man of Steel.

But a look through them shows a few flaws.

Firstly, there were only 17 votes cast from Wigan – as opposed to 28 votes from Widnes, 29 from Hull FC, 30 from Castleford, 31 from St Helens and 33 from Huddersfield.

Currently, the clubs get sent the voting forms, and they distribute them to first-team squad players to fill in.

Maybe some Wigan players abstained, forgot, or missed the deadline. And maybe other clubs have 30-man first-team squads.

Fair enough.

But is it right that every member of the squad gets a vote?

Why should the view of a teenager with one game under his belt carry as much weight as that of a senior player?

According to the Super League site, Warrington’s Taylor Prell hasn’t played yet - why does his opinion count as much as those of, say, Chris Hill or Matty Russell?

This isn’t a criticism of the player, but the system: Prell took his responsibility seriously and voted for Gale, James Roby and Greg Eden. No complaints there.

But some players made questionable - no, laughable - choices.

Warrington’s Morgan Smith had, as his third choice on the form, Leeds’ Cameron Smith.

A player who, according to their site, played one game this year.

Hakim Miloudi didn’t play at Hull FC, yet he not only got a vote, he picked fellow Frenchman Tony Gigot. Who didn’t play in 2017 because of a doping ban.

If it’s debatable whether someone who hasn’t even played in Super League should get a say in who wins the most coveted individual award, it’s certainly wrong they’re allowed to take the proverbial.

In fact, the RFL should throw out the votes of anyone who doesn’t take their responsibility seriously.

And I’m not talking about those with eyebrow raising opinions – each to their own – I’m talking about those who have stone-walled seen their vote as a chance for a cheap laugh.

‘Ha, wait until such-a-body sees his name on the list... ha ha ha’.

Hilarious.

Romain Navarrete was on one voting form.

Eamon O’Carroll was on another... even though he played six games for Widnes this year, before retiring through injury.

I applaud the RFL for being transparent and showing us how players voted (the full list is on their website). The only people who look like idiots are those who didn’t take it seriously. But it wouldn’t be a bad thing if they tightened it up.

Scrap the forms from those players who see it as a chance to have a laugh. And limit voting to, say, the 20 players at each club who made the most appearances that year.

The Million Pound Game has again come under fire.

Catalans won the decider to secure their Super League place, and relegate Leigh in the process.

One of the positives of the Super-8s system is that for a team to come up, they must already be good enough to beat sides at the bottom-end of Super League – as Leigh did last year.

Because of that, the Centurions had a decent squad and pulled off wins against Wigan, Warrington and St Helens earlier this season; by contrast, the Leigh side last in Super League – in ‘05 – were whipping boys.

But, of course, the downside – at least, for some – is we now have the high-pressure, farcically-named Million Pound Game.

“You talk a lot about player welfare and mental health but that comes around job security so this is hypocritical of what we stand for,” said Centurions coach Neil Jukes.

I have sympathy for what they are going through. Genuinely, I do.

And while the MPG is a bit too gimmicky for my liking – a bit too X Factor – is it any crueller than if they had been relegated by a different means?

I’m not convinced. Surely they’d face the same issues, however they go down.

Few players irritate Wigan fans more than St Helens’ long-haired prop Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook.

But it was heart-warming to learn he was growing his locks for a charity which provides wigs for children who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment. Take a bow, Louie.

Zak Hardaker won’t play in the Grand Final after he ‘breached club rules’.

I admire Castleford for taking such a firm stance, even though Hardaker is one of their best players.

But then again, I admired Hull KR for doing a similar thing a year ago with Albert Kelly.

And look where that got them.

Wigan St Pat’s has a long history of producing future England internationals.

I’m not sure if Oliver Gildart will become their first Italy international in the World Cup, but I’m guessing they’ve never had a Papua New Guinea international – until now.

Sydney Roosters’ Lachlan Lam started off playing at St Pat’s when his dad Adrian played at the Warriors!

This week, I put four questions to our 18th Man columnists for a piece which I ran on Wednesday (if you missed it, it’s in the ‘Warriors’ section of this site).

For what it’s worth, I’ve answered the same questions.

Who do I want to win the Grand Final?

Castleford. A few Wigan fans wanted Saints to beat them in the semi-final (and what an epic game that was) – either because Cas’ irritated them this year, or to make a mockery of the play-offs system.

The Tigers deserve to be champions, and I want them to win... though I’m tipping Leeds.

Who was Wigan’s best player last season?

Sean O’Loughlin. The Warriors, quite literally, couldn’t win without him. Honourable mentions to Tom Davies, Oliver Gildart and, at the back end, Sam Tomkins.

What’s the biggest issue I want Wigan to address?

Consistency. The quality of the attack, and the desire, swung far too much - not only from week to week, but often within a game. Their purple patches were far too, erm, patchy.

If Wigan signed one player for 2018, what position would I like it to be?

Prop. Easy answer. Sure, I understand calls for a halfback (a goal-kicking one, at that) but had Jake Shorrocks and Morgan Escare not suffered season-ending injuries, Shaun Wane would have had more options in that area.

But up front, none of the props made a big impact (there was mitigation for Tony Clubb, and they sorely missed Ben Flower).

If that sounds harsh, don’t take my word for that - take the word of their Super League peers.

None of the Wigan props (bar a comical pick for Romain Navarrete) registered any votes on the Man of Steel forms.

Yet props from St Helens, Hull (two), Huddersfield, Leeds and Cas’ all registered votes.

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