Top 5: Back Rowers

After looking at each of the other positions in recent weeks, Get ’em Onside’s final top five showcases the very best back-rowers in Super League through 2018…

Ben Garcia – Catalans Dragons
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A player who often goes under the radar, Catalans never-say-die Ben Garcia is, in my opinion, one of the very best and most underrated players in Super League. The French international was a key figure in the Dragons recovery from a shocking start to the year and his workhorse nature saw him rack up big numbers in the tackle statistics. In fact, his importance to the team is constantly shown by his leadership as one of the more experienced Dragons and the fact he scores a fair share of tries – including in the Challenge Cup semi-final victory over St Helens – highlight how vital he is to Steve McNamara’s team. After signing a new deal with the club in June, 25-year-old Garcia is set to be a central part of the French team going forward.

John Bateman – Wigan Warriors
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Simply put, this man was the best second rower in Super League last season. His consistent performances were vital to Wigan’s Grand Final success and he more than earned his NRL chance. A constant threat with ball in hand, the former Bradford youngster is perhaps better known for his fearless defence and putting his body on the line. While not one of the biggest forwards in the competition, Bateman would have been one of the first names on Shaun Wane’s teamsheet and the departure of the 25-year-old England international certainly leaves a hole for new interim coach Adrian Lam to fill. One of the best forwards in world rugby, Bateman will certainly be a miss for Wigan next year.

Zeb Taia – St Helens
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At 34-years-old, many would expect Zeb Taia to be a player on his way out with performance levels dipping. However, in 2018, the former NRL forward was one of Justin Holbrook’s key men as St Helens raced to the League Leaders’ Shield. A hugely reliable player, the Australian-born forward is one of the coach’s most trusted players and he guarantees a huge work rate. Taia was one of the Saints’ main ball carriers through the season while also throwing his body on the line for more than his fair share of tackles. Throw in the fact he either scored or provided fourteen tries in his Super League campaign mean that, whenever Taia does call it a day, the Saints will have a void to fill.

Jack Hughes – Warrington Wolves

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Hughes in action against Leeds. Image from http://www.warringtonguardian.co.uk

Named the England Knights’ captain for their post-season tour to Papua New Guinea, Warrington’s Jack Hughes is underestimated for his importance. While others may get the headlines, the former Wigan man gets through a lot of work in Wolves colours and boasts huge numbers for both tackles and carries. The 26-year-old was key for Steve Price’s men in his first year in charge as The Wire reached – and lost – both showpiece finals and his leadership qualities were recognised by Paul Anderson where he was named captain of the Knights.

 

Kenny Edwards – Catalans Dragons
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A divisive figure, Kenny Edwards came to Super League this summer with a bad reputation from his time in the NRL. Indeed, it was only due to off field misdemeanours that he moved to the South of France and the Dragons. Nevertheless, his impact shouldn’t be underestimated. What is clear from watching the former Parramatta man is his quality – while being a fierce defender, he is equally adept with the ball in hand as well as being a serious threat with ball in hand. Boasting eight tries from sixteen appearances for McNamara’s men, he is a player every team would love to line up for them – despite being one we opposition fans love to hate. With a full pre-season under McNamara and the Dragons coaching team, Edwards and the Dragons will no doubt improve again in 2019.

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