Ben Barba: St Helens full-back wins 2018 Steve Prescott Man of Steel award
St Helens full-back Ben Barba has won the 2018 Steve Prescott Man of Steel award ahead of team-mate James Roby and Wigan back-rower John Bateman.
Barba, 29, scored 28 tries in 23 Super League games this term as Saints won the League Leaders’ Shield before a semi-final defeat by Warrington.
He will join National Rugby League side North Queensland Cowboys next season.
Castleford’s Georgia Roche, 17, claimed the Rugby Football League’s first-ever Woman of Steel award.
She helped them reach the Challenge Cup final and semi-finals of the Women’s Super League, losing to Leeds Rhinos on both occasions.
Former England, Hull FC, Wakefield and St Helens full-back Steve Prescott, who died of stomach cancer in 2013, had his name added to the award in 2014.
Shaun Wane – who will join Scottish Rugby as high performance coach later this year – was named coach of the year for the first time after guiding Wigan to their fifth Grand Final since taking charge in 2011.
Castleford Tigers half-back Jake Trueman, 19, took home the young player of the year award, little more than 12 months after making his Super League debut.
Australian Barba becomes St Helens’ ninth Man of Steel winner since it was inaugurated in 1977, and is only the second player to win the player of the year award in both Super League and the NRL.
His team finished 10 points clear at the top of the regular-season table but finish without either of the two main trophies after also suffering defeat in the last four of the Challenge Cup by eventual winners Catalans Dragons.
Saints captain Roby, 32, was bidding to become the fourth player to become Man of Steel for the second time – having taken the award in 2007. England international Bateman, 24, is the only one of the three nominees with a chance of playing in Saturday’s Grand Final on Saturday, with his Wigan side up against Warrington.
Analysis – ‘Barba overcame adversity to become sensational figure’
BBC Radio 5 live commentator Matt Newsum
While all three candidates would have been worthy winners of the Steve Prescott Man of Steel, it is fair to say that 2018 has been Ben Barba’s year.
Economics dictate that the circumstances in which Super League is gifted players of the calibre of Barba come in adversity – in this case a drugs ban – but the full-back, won won the Dally M Medal as the NRL’s player of the year in 2012, has overcome that to become a sensational figure.
If you want stats? How about 31 tries in all competitions? What about a string of assists and line breaks?
Still not convinced? Well his captain and fellow nominee James Roby described him as “box-office”, and John Bateman voted for him too.
Bateman and Roby were a massive part of the narrative in 2018 but when it comes down to history – this season will be remembered for Barba’s brilliance and for that fact, the Aussie deserves his accolade.
He, like Steve Prescott, is an outstanding full-back and that is probably the best compliment I could pay Ben before he heads off to North Queensland Cowboys.
Full list of awards
Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel: Ben Barba (St Helens)
Woman of Steel: Georgia Roche (Castleford Tigers)
Super League Young Player of the Year: Jake Trueman (Castleford Tigers)
Super League Coach of the Year: Shaun Wane (Wigan Warriors)
Hit man: Paul McShane (Castleford Tigers – 1,160 tackles)
Top metre maker: Bill Tupou (Wakefield Trinity – 4,114 metres made)
Top try-scorer: Ben Barba (St Helens – 28 tries)
Top gun: Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers – 87% conversion rate)
Outstanding Contribution: Louis Anderson (Catalans Dragons)
Super League Club of the Year: Warrington Wolves
Foundation of the Year: Leeds Rhinos