Club legend Johnny Whiteley has spoke of his pride of being included in the Steve Prescott Man of Steel panel for 2019.
Whiteley, who was inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame in 2018, is one of 21 legends of the sport from across the generations who will play their part in choosing Super League’s top player for this season.
The full panel was unveiled at a ceremony in Leeds last night, with fellow Hull FC Hall of Fame member Garry Schofield also included. Black & White representation also comes from 2005 Challenge Cup winner Paul Cooke.
Speaking after the launch, Whiteley said: “I feel very honoured to have been chosen to sit on this panel - when you get to my stage of life, you think all this sort of stuff is behind you. But to be introduced into that panel alongside some top company is really special for me.
“Ellery Hanley is the chair of the group, and to be rubbing shoulders with him and the 20 other blokes is still a really special experience. I was talking to Garry Schofield at last night’s launch and we were talking about the team we could create from the guys in attendance - we’d be one of the best touring sides ever seen!”
The new format sees members of the panel attend Super League games, and choose their top three players on the pitch to receive one, two and three points. These points are then added to a league table and the player with the most points at the end of the season is crowned the Steve Prescott Man of Steel.
And Whiteley praised the new format, while claiming that the potential winners in 2019 could come from any club!
“It’s a chance for players to remember they’re not just playing for their clubs, but for themselves too. Because if you claim that award and look back at it in years to come, its very special - you don’t really realise it until you retire.
“I was chatting to Dennis Betts and Keith Senior about who we thought could be up there at the top end of the table come the back end of the season, but its hard to tell at the moment with a lot of new players coming into the Super League from the NRL in 2019.
“It’s still early days so there is a long way to go yet so a lot of players still need to settle into their new environment.”
Johnny also added who he thinks from Hull FC could be in with a chance of featuring at the upper end of the table during the season, while also naming who he thinks could have been the Man of Steel should the ward have existed during his playing days.
“Back in my day you had the likes of Eric Ashton, Alex Murphy, Billy Boston, Lewis Jones, Brian Bevan - superstars back in their day who are still household names to this day after over 50 years.
“Jamie Shaul is obviously the first Black & White name to make his mark on the table after picking up three points from the Castleford, but I think the lad has a chance of being right up there for the full season.
“To look so sharp and fit at this stage of the season is brilliant; he’s got a yard of pace and I think he’ll go very well this season.”
Whiteley added: “He’s a brave player too. As a full-back you’ve got to have the bit of courage to take them high balls, and he does that with ease.
“And I think Jake Connor is also a player who could be featuring towards the top end of the table - he is a real talent.”
The Man of Steel voting panel in full:
Ellery Hanley (panel chairman)