The Super League season has reached the halfway point and we’re poised for an enthralling few months. St Helens have been the best side in the competition, so far, of that there is no doubt, but the likes of Catalans Dragons, Wigan Warriors and Huddersfield Giants aren’t too far behind them.
There’s been some outstanding performers, but some players may have caught fans off-guard with their displays, too. Here, Rugby League Live takes a look at some of the surprise packages of the year so far.
Lolohea has found a new lease of life in Super League since making the move to Huddersfield Giants over the off-season. The Tonga international has always been capable of producing moments of magic, but he struggled for consistency at times in a Salford Red Devils shirt.
However, since being handed the full-back reins at the John Smith’s Stadium by Ian Watson, Lolohea has undoubtedly been one of the best players in the competition. The Tonga international has set up 17 tries this season, a total only bettered by Jake Connor, and with 47 tackle busts to his name, he’s been one of the strongest runners of the ball.
He’ll have the chance to get his hands on some silverware this weekend, too, as he competes in the Challenge Cup final against Wigan Warriors.
Few, if any, Super League fans knew of Joe Lovodua before Hull FC announced his signing back in October. The hooker had been playing on a part-time basis for South Sydney Rabbitohs’ NSW Cup side, but he was handed a one-year deal by the Black and Whites and challenged to prove himself in the Northern Hemisphere.
Prove himself he has, as Lovodua is regarded as a key member of Brett Hodgson’s side and one of the signings of the year. The Fijian has made 15 appearances this year in all competitions, scoring five tries and having showcased his versatility, those tries have come from a number of positions.
Thewlis was no stranger to the Warrington Wolves first-team before this season, having made 14 appearances in 2021. However, the 20-year-old looks capable of making Daryl Powell’ full-back spot his own, having grasped his chance to shine with both hands.
He missed last week’s clash with St Helens due to a knee injury, but after starting the club’s previous seven games at full-back, it’s clear that he has an important role to play at the Halliwell Jones Stadium moving forward. Thewlis has shown an eye for a try, too, scoring six for the Wolves this season in all competitions.
Like he is with Lolohea, Watson seems to be getting the best out of Russell, who has nailed down a spot in the Giants’ halves. He has missed just one Super League game this season and his creativity and kicking game has been hugely important for Huddersfield, who are currently knocking on the door of Super League’s top three.
Russell has plenty of competition for a spot in the halves with Will Pryce, Theo Fages and Jack Cogger at the club, too, but he’s holding his own and making a name for himself this year.
Super League fans had lofty expectations of Field when he first arrived in England, but injury ensured his first year in the competition was one to forget. As such, as the new season approached, Field seemed to go under the radar in discussions regarding ones to watch and the Man of Steel race.
However, at the halfway stage, he is seven points clear at the top of the Man of Steel leaderboard having scored 14 tries and dug Wigan Warriors out of numerous holes. He’s third in the metres made charts, second when it comes to tackle busts and no one has come close to matching his 20 clean breaks.
He’s been the star of the season so far, of that there is no doubt.
Senior was out of the picture at Huddersfield last year and was subsequently spent the season on loan at Wakefield Trinity where he scored six tries in 16 games. However, the 22-year-old has been a key man under Watson this time around, appearing in all but one Super League game and helping the Giants to the cup final.
Senior, who finds himself competing for a spot in the Giants side with his twin Louis, has scored seven this year, with his brace proving decisive last time out against Toulouse Olympique. He was overlooked by Knights coach Paul Anderson earlier this month, much to the annoyance of Watson, but if he continues on his current trajectory he’ll almost certainly catch the eye of those selectors.
To say Halton has seamlessly stepped into the top flight would be an understatement. The back-rower has been on of Hull KR’s most impressive performers this year as he continues to rise rapidly through the rugby league ranks.
Halton was playing for Leigh Miners Rangers just four years ago, but having caught the eye with Swinton Lions and Featherstone Rovers, he is now doing it at the top level. The 25-year-old has missed a month or so of the season with an ankle injury, but he’s back now and he’ll be keen to turn the Robins’ fortunes around with his performances in the pack.
Cross is another who has motored through the rugby league levels in recent years, progressing from Rochdale Hornets to Salford Red Devils, taking in stops at Barrow and Widnes Vikings along the way. The centre arrived at the AJ Bell Stadium after scoring 17 tries for the Vikings last year and he’s managed to get himself over for four this year in Super League, with his latest coming in the win over Castleford Tigers.
He only signed a one-year deal under Paul Rowley, but the club have moved swiftly to tie him down until the end of next season and at present it seems they have unearthed a real gem.