'Choosing the best line-up of the Super League era'

We asked our 18th Man columnist to choose their greatest line-up from the Super League era... and they found it tough!
Would Gary Connolly be in your line-up?Would Gary Connolly be in your line-up?
Would Gary Connolly be in your line-up?

Darren Wrudd:

Radlinski; Vainikolo, Connolly, Renouf, Richards; McGuire, Leuluai; Morley, Roby, Peacock, Joynt, L Farrell, O’Loughlin

I think this week’s question is a real killer, it made me squirm at times to choose between players as some really don’t deserve to be left out. But here goes, 1 to 13.

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I can only admit that with my Cherry and White spectacles on, I simply could not leave out certain players as I honestly think they have earned their place against the best and yet, I can include players who have been a royal pain in the derriere over the years at club level.

Kris Radlinski, best full-back the modern game has seen – bar none. The rest of the choices have seen many a fantastic player miss out for differing reasons. Unlucky wingers included Tommy Makinson and Brett Dallas, but who could defend against Vainikolo (Brian Carney could not!)? The Volcano was awesome in full flight and must have been a terror to defend. We have seen a long list of high quality candidates at centre, Oliver Gildart, Jamie Lyon, Keith Senior – I could go on. But you simply can’t argue the class of Connolly and Renouf.

Danny McGuire was possibly one of the most difficult to include though, as to be honest I can’t stand him.

But surely that’s one of the biggest compliments you can pay an opposing player. He unpicked defences throughout his career and was a nightmare to defend, popping up just where you did not want him.

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Then Granite-shoulders Leuluai, a great rugby mind and wonderful exponent of the game. Again some close candidates but none could push him out of the list.

Unlucky too was Andy Farrell and Kevin Sinfield. Both excellent players but not as complete as Sean O’Loughlin who has vision and commands the respect of everyone around him.

The game I think is missing front rowers like Morley and Peacock at the moment. Imagine them in our front row and reap the rewards of their go-forward. James Graham narrowly missed out but mainly because of ill-discipline. But when I look at my notes and names like Sam Tomkins, Remi Casty, Zak Hardaker and Gareth Ellis have all missed out, it makes me realise what quality we have here in Super League. I have cold sweats thinking about who I might have missed but choices need to be made.

I simply cannot wait to see our sport begin again and see who cements their names into our lists of the future.

Alex Graham:

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Tomkins; Robinson, Lyon, Senior, Vainikolo; Paul, Long; Fielden, Cunningham, Graham, Morley, Peacock, Farrell

It’s difficult to pick a 13 over a 24-year period as the game continuously changes as does the role of each position. For example, Sam Tomkins is nowhere near the level of Kris Radlinski when it comes to defence, support and catching the high ball but, as professionalism and regimented defence has evolved, those attributes are less required and aren’t as important as Tomkins’ attacking ability.

It’s also worth mentioning the eight out the 13 eventually left Super League to join either the NRL or rugby union. You’d have thought within 24 years the sport would have made progress to prevent this happening. However, the gulf between competitions only seems to have got bigger and the amount of departures has increased. It says a lot about the RFL.

Jeanette Lusher:

Radlinski; Vainokolo, Senior, Carmont,Robinson; McGuire, Long; Graham, Newton, Fielden, Ellis, Peacock, A Farrell

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I have to say this was tough beyond belief! I cannot believe some of the players I’ve had to leave out! Sean O’Loughlin! Pat Richards! James Lowes! Ben Westwood and many more!

Running through those I picked, Kris deserves this accolade if only for his brave performance at Murrayfield in 2002. On the wing, Lesley made 152 appearances for Bradford and scored 149 tries - enough said! Jason's nickname says it all "Billy Whizz"! What an exciting player to watch.

Keith Senior was probably one of the best signings Leeds made in the Super League era. A barnstorming and unforgiving centre who could read the game well and could unload the ball to put the deft pass to his winger. George Carmont was fearless in both attack and defence and followed up the play brilliantly.

At halfback, it pains me to say it but Sean Long was highly talented of that there is no doubt. It was a pity he blotted his copy book at Wigan because I feel he would have been an even better player had his entire career seen him wearing the famous cherry and white. Danny McGuire had an illustrious career at Leeds with trophies and accolades in abundance. Very clever with ball in hand and a wonderful support player. He was an excellent wind up merchant and very competitive and tenacious.

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Terry Newton is my hooker, he was the quiet achiever! He went about his business on the field in a very determined manner and followed the game plan to the letter. A very imposing, unrelenting player. James Graham and Stuart Fielden were my picks at prop, James never gave an inch to the opposition either in the tackle or in the argument! He wore his heart on his sleeve and only knew one way to go - forward. Stuart at the peak of his career was a very aggressive prop and had a good turn of pace.

Gareth Ellis and Jamie Peacock make up the second-row. Gareth has the rugby brain, the attributes, the determination and dedication. His success in the NRL is testament to all of this. Jamie was physically a naturally strong second rower. He played the game really hard with no quarter given.

And Andy Farrell on the pitch just had it all - need I say more? Desire, hunger, determination and he was a born leader. He was an incredibly talented player and had an amazing technical rugby brain!

Jess Foxley:

Radlinski; Vainikolo, Lyon, Senior, Robinson: S Tomkins, Long; Graham, Roby, Fielden, L Farrell, Ellis, A Farrell

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed this but, for me personally, going off people I have seen play (and trying not to be biased) this is my all-time Super League XIII.

Radlinski was my first name on the team sheet, you can’t not have him in this team.

Jamie Lyon may have only played in Super League for a short time but, my word, what a player and what a goalkicker. Alongside him on the wing I have gone for the absolute machine that is Vainikolo, fast, strong and a big bloke, enough to strike fear into anyone. On the other side I’ve gone for the strength and consistency of Senior and the pure speed and brilliance of Robinson (another obvious choice for me).

In the halves, it’s Sean Long and Sam Tomkins. These two positions have given me the most headache, so many spectacular players to pick from (McGuire, Burrow, Barrett, Henry Paul, Briers, Deacon to name a few) but going off who I have actually seen play, these are my two. I know Sam has played most of his career at full-back, but having Radlinski in the team means I cant put him there, so he is in the halves as I just cant leave out a player of his calibre.

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James Graham is another obvious one for me, a very consistent, passionate player (no matter who he plays for). Choosing a hooker was another one that gave me a headache (Cunningham and Newton both crossed my mind) but I can’t leave Roby out, he’s probably one of the most dangerous, consistent players I have ever seen in my time watching the beautiful game. Fielden, again another very consistent and strong player, someone who is very passionate about the game and an absolute machine with the ball.

In the second row, I’ve gone for our very own Ginger Pearl and Gareth Ellis. As many people who read this column have probably guessed, Liam Farrell is one of my favourite Wigan players, extremely underrated on so many levels, but is consistent week in week out.

He does so much in defence and is always around in attack, he is always backing up when a break is made and is tough as nails.

Ellis made my team simply because he is the ultimate workhorse, coming out of retirement to play for Hull when they where injury hit is the kind of attitude I’d want in my team.

And at loose forward we have Andy Farrell.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I don’t love Lockers, and yes if I could have picked them both I would have, but I can’t! What a player.

Jon Lyon:

Radlinski; Robinson, Lyon, Connolly, Vainikolo; Paul, Long; Peacock, Roby, Graham, Morley, A Farrell, O’Loughlin

I’ve left out players such as Andrew Johns and Alfie Langer, who only played a handful of games.

Full-back was the easiest choice for me. One on one defence, under the high ball, chiming into attack, Radlinski is the perfect full-back. Closest challenger was probably Wellens, but everything he can do Rads can do as well or better and has the extra pace too.

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Jason Robinson was my first choice winger, due to his speed off the mark and elusive running, creating many of his tries for himself from nothing. Tom Johnstone finishes as well as anyone, and Dallas, Richards and Hall were considerations, but Lesley Vainikolo was almost unstoppable for a few years and 149 tries in 152 games is some record.

Jamie Lyon was a certainty at centre as he came over and carved through teams like a hot knife through butter. Senior, Gidley, Renouf, Gleeson and Hape were other options, but Gary Connolly was outstanding in both defence and attack, keeping Newlove quiet more often than not in derby games and scoring plenty of tries himself.

Danny McGuire’s trophy haul is impressive, but I always felt until the very end of his career he was more a support player than organiser.

Iestyn Harris, Trent Barrett and Tommy Martyn were all class acts but, for Wigan and then Bradford, Henry Paul was a beautifully balanced runner who could create and score with ease.

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Burrow, Deacon, Dobson and Lam were all strong contenders at scrum half, but Sean Long has destroyed and annoyed defences his whole career. Such a shame he left Wigan early.

Plenty of strong options at prop but Jamie Peacock and James Graham have both played so consistently at such a high level their whole careers. Both play long minutes and are tough as teak.

Hooker was a shoot-out between Cunningham, Newton and Roby, with Roby edging Newton in the end. Ultra consistent his whole career, Roby maybe has that, shall we say, calmness in the heat of battle that just gives him the nod.

A vast array of quality second rowers to choose from but, with loose forward also in mind I’ve gone for Andy Farrell as one, having played there on many occasion and who has to be in the team somewhere. Adrian Morley is my other choice ahead of the likes of Ellis, Bateman, Hoffman, Gilmour and Steve Menzies. Morley is one of the hardest-running second rowers I’ve seen, and anyone who survives Mick Cassidy’s elbow will take some stopping.

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Sean O’Loughlin is my choice at loose forward, with Paul Sculthorpe unlucky not to make the team somewhere. Sinfield was a good club captain and great kicker but nowhere near the level of player of these two. Lockers has all the skills a rugby player needs to play in pretty much any position and can’t not be included.

Just don’t ask me to decide who would be captain!

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