Top 5: Props

After looking at the very best backs in Super League last week, Get ’em Onside starts this one crediting the premier front-rowers in the competition from 2018 as many previously unheralded players shone brightly…

Luke Thompson – St Helens
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A red haired, strong running forward wearing the ‘Red Vee’. The similarities between James Graham and Luke Thompson are clear but, while the older of the two has established himself as one of the best props in the world, Saints’ 23-year-old Thompson is just getting started. With over a century of appearances to his name, 2018 was the year in which Thompson truly emerged as a real force and his impressive, consistent showings earned a well deserved place in Super League’s Dream Team – and international recognition. After being named – but not used – in England’s squad for the mid-season Denver test against New Zealand, Thompson went on to be a key player for his country in the three-match series against the same opposition this winter. His strong-running, committed approach to the game didn’t look out of place on the international scene and, after gaining experience at the highest level and starring for the League Leaders’ Shield winners – finishing third in the table of Super League’s top metre makers – 2019 promises to be huge for Thompson.

David Fifita – Wakefield Trinity
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A juggernaut of a forward, Wakefield’s David Fifita was a key player in their second consecutive fifth-placed finish in Super League. One of the competition’s best offloading forwards, his ball-handling skills mean that he is always a tricky customer and his sheer size and power make him a challenge to put down. Throw in his ability to punch holes – Wakefield’s third most prolific in this area – and it’s clear that Fifita would be a central figure for any Super League team. A hugely popular figure both among the Trinity fans and within the squad, the 29-year-old is a dominant forward who is always key to gaining his team the upper hand.

Remi Casty – Catalans Dragons
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Another player  in the Super League Dream Team this season, Catalans’ hugely experienced captain Remi Casty also led the club to their historic Challenge Cup victory. His second inclusion in the team came in the season where the Dragons turned around their campaign and, after staying up in 2017 only via the Million Pound Game, their poor first half of the season was followed by a superb second as Steve McNamara’s men, with Casty leading the line, showed their true potential. The twenty-time French international came to symbolise the true spirit of the Dragons and his inspirational leadership was encapsulated by the team’s celebrations at winning the Challenge Cup. With over 250 appearances for the Perpignan club to his name, 33-year-old Casty is almost synonymous with Catalans and, while 2019 may be his last season due to his advancing years, he will certainly be keen to help the club take that next step and compete at the top end of the table. After an impressive second half to 2018, that could well be a wise bet.

Chris Hill – Warrington Wolves
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Warrington Wolves’ England international Chris Hill has impressed throughout 2018 and, love him or loathe him, he is a leader for Steve Price’s men. A player who divides opinion, Hill is a complete workhorse and is a player who can always be relied upon to give 100% to the cause. With almost 900 tackles and over 400 carries to his name, the 31-year-old was key to The Wire’s run to both showpiece finals in Price’s first year at the helm and Hill will have been key to turning around the club’s form after a disappointing 2017. The front-rower played in every match for the Wolves and, given the effort he expends in each appearance, the fact he was also able to produce on England duty is a testament to his professionalism.Next season, as a result of the consistency shown through 2018, promises to be another good one for Warrington.

Robbie Mulhern – Hull Kingston Rovers
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After experiencing relegation with Hull KR in his first full season with the club in 2016, Robbie Mulhern’s impact on The Robins’ return to the top flight this year saw him emerge as one of the breakthroughs of the season as his performances earned an England debut against France and a place on the England Knights’ plane to Papua New Guinea. One of a plethora of former Leeds Rhinos players in East Hull, the first-team experience Tim Sheens and Co. has provided for Mulhern has done the player a world of good. His form and potential led to the club extending the 24-year-old’s deal which now runs to 2021. In that time, the former Rhinos is well set to earn further international recognition and Sheens will be hoping that the forward can help KR climb the Super League table and re-establish themselves in the top flight.

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