Top 5: Half-backs

After yesterday’s look at the competition’s premier centres, today’s top five looks at the best half-backs in Super League 2018 and there were certainly plenty to choose from…

Jake Connor – Hull FC
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Ever since moving to Hull FC from Huddersfield, Jake Connor has been the player most fans love to hate. Nevertheless, there is no doubting the player’s quality – or versatility. Capable of being a top quality centre as showcased in England’s post-season tests against New Zealand, the 24-year-old has also played on occasion at full-back. However, 2018 saw him take advantage of injuries within the FC squad to establish himself in the halves and his talent shone through. A threat with ball in hand and close to the line, it was initially feared that Connor wouldn’t have the composure and calmness to control games after Mark Sneyd was ruled out. That was dispelled, though, and he turned into a player who was suggested in the media as being a Man of Steel contender. Prior to his own injury, he was in the form of his life and he was a bright spot in what, ultimately, was a disappointing season for the Humberside club. 2019 looks set to be a bright one for the Siddal junior.

Danny Richardson – St Helens
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One of the real breakthroughs of 2018, St Helens’ dynamic half Danny Richardson certainly repaid Justin Holbrook’s faith in his quality. After being picked at the start of the season ahead of the hugely experienced Matty Smith, the man with over a decade of Super League experience barely saw Super League action such was the quality of Richardson’s play. Such was his impact en route to being the top points scorer, most prolific goalkicker and Dream Team inclusion, there were calls for him to be involved in the England elite setup and, were it not for injury at the end of the season, he would have been involved against New Zealand. Nevertheless, 22-year-old Richardson has plenty of time and will no doubt be an international half-back in the not-too-distant future. Boasting a strong tactical kicking game as well as a Sean Long-esque burst of pace and eye for a gap, 2019 should see Richardson build on an impressive maiden campaign as first choice for the Saints.

Jonny Lomax – St Helens
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Another St Helens star in this list – one who also joined Richardson in the Dream Team – is Jonny Lomax. After Ben Barba arrived at the club, some suggested that the academy graduate may miss out on first team selection. However, those suggestions were made to look silly as the 28-year-old shone in the Saints’ run to winning the League Leaders’ Shield, his experience and guile being key to the team’s impressive campaign. Seventeen tries and sixteen Super League assists put him third behind Barba and Percival in providing or scoring tries for Saints, Lomax forming yet another potent part of the ‘Red Vee’s’ impressive back division. Celebrating his testimonial year in 2019, Lomax has again been handed the number one jersey for the club – but expect to see him line up in the halves once more.

Jacob Miller – Wakefield Trinity
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The league’s most potent provider of tries, Jacob Miller’s 28 Super League assists saw him provide almost 20% of Wakefield’s four-pointers and the Australian had yet another impressive campaign and was key in helping Trinity to a second consecutive fifth place finish. After leaving Hull FC, Miller was looking like falling out of elite level rugby league but he has established himself as one of the best halves in Super League under Chris Chester’s stewardship. While six tries isn’t the greatest return, it seems to be the anomaly in a Wakefield career where he has, on average, scored at a rate of better than one in three. However, Trinity fans will forgive him for his ability to provide and perform on a consistent basis for the Belle Vue club.

Jake Trueman – Castleford Tigers

Super League’s Young Player of the Year, Castleford’s Jake Trueman – like Richardson – experienced a coming of age in 2018. After the Tigers’ season was hit by injuries to experienced halves Luke Gale, Ben Roberts and Jamie Ellis, the main playmaking duties fell to 19-year-old Trueman who belied his tender years and impressed with his composure. While at his best in the halves, the former Bradford junior slotted in at full-back as Daryl Powell searched for a solution to Zak Hardaker’s departure. Once he got the run of games in the halves, however, Trueman truly shone. Seventeen assists and eight tries was an impressive return for the youngster and, even if Powell has his full complement of pivots available for the Tigers’ season opener against Catalans in February, the Tigers starlet could start as first choice.

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