This week St Helens were crowned Super League Champions for 2021. Here’s our look back at the past seven days
St Helens crowned Super League champions
St Helens retained their Super League crown in what was one of the most dramatic endings in Grand Final history.
After the hooter sounded, teenager Jack Welsby touched down after Tommy Makinson’s drop goal rebounded off the upright.
This came minutes after Zak Hardaker missed the chance to win it for Wigan, when his penalty two minutes from full-time landed just wide.
James Graham’s bowed out a winner in his final game before retirement, but it was not the ending Wigan skipper Sean O’Loughlin deserved as he too hung up his boots.
In a fiercely contested affair, the deadlock was broken on the half-time siren when Lachlan Coote slotted over a penalty to give St Helens a 2-0 lead.
Both sides kept up the defensive pressure with both sides denied tries, before Jake Bibby slid over in the 65th minute. Hardaker’s conversion hit the crossbar.
Coote then levelled the scores at 4-4 with another penalty as it appeared golden point would be played for the first time in Grand Final history, before Welsby’s match winner.
Man of Steel Awards announced
On Monday the 2020 Man of Steel Award winner was revealed with Castleford Tigers hooker Paul McShane winning the trophy for the first time.
The 31-year-old was visibly emotional upon the announcement, saying: “It hasn’t really sunk in yet and seems surreal, I am honoured that legends of our game think I’m worthy of this award.
“If it wasn’t for my team-mates I wouldn’t have been near. At the end of the day I go out and play rugby for them, I want to do my best for them and for those guys wanting me to do well it means a lot.”
It was the fifth Man of Steel winner for the Tigers after Adrian Vowles (1999), Rangi Chase (2011), Daryl Clark (2014) and Luke Gale (2017) previously were crowned the games best. Only Wigan (11) and St Helens (six) having more winners.
The other awards were:
Coach of the Year: Adrian Lam
Young Player of the Year: Harry Newman
Top tryscorer: Ash Handley
Top tackler: Michael Lawrence
Spirit of Super League: Mose Masoe & Rob Burrow
Gareth Ellis announces retirement
Gareth Ellis announced his retirement on Monday, marking the end of an outstanding 21-year career which saw him star both in Super League and the NRL.
The 39-year-old, who walked onto the field with the Super League trophy at the Grand Final on Friday, will stay on at Hull FC as an assistant coach next season.
After starting his career with Wakefield, his career he won two Super League titles with Leeds Rhinos, before a stint with Wests Tigers from 2009 where he was named Player of the Year for three consecutive seasons.
He then spent the remainder of his career with the Black and Whites, leading them to successive Challenge Cup victories in 2016 and 2017.
Brett Hodgson named as Hull FC coach
Former Huddersfield and Warrington full-back Brett Hodgson has been named the new Hull FC coach.
The 42-year-old leaves his assistant coach role at NRL side Wests Tigers to replace interim Andy Last at the KCOM Stadium.
Last led the Airlie Birds to the semi-finals this season and has been offered an alternate position.
Hodgson, who will be joined by assistants Kieron Purtill and Gareth Ellis, was a NRL Grand Final winner with Wests Tigers. In Super League he was named Man of Steel in 2009 at Huddersfield, before winning the Challenge Cup in 2012 with Warrington.
“I’m very excited – I spent nine years over in England playing in Super League and then moving into coaching, with one of those years as a consultant at Hull FC so I know some of the people at the club already,” Hodgson told the club website.
“It is a fantastic club with real pedigree and ambition, so I’m excited to be heading back and hopefully helping such a prestigious club to achieve some success.
“To come back to Super League where I spent a large chunk of my career and join a high-profile side was too good to turn down – I really enjoy the style of football over there.
“Hull demands success, and that’s what I’m about. With the staff and players we have, and the support of the great fans there, I’m really excited about what we can achieve together over the next couple of years.”
NRL draw and Super League dates announced
The NRL fixtures were announced on Thursday with the 2021 season to begin on March 11, with premiers Melbourne hosting South Sydney.
As like 2019 and proposed in 2020 before COVID, there will be a Magic Round in Round 10 (14-16 May). The Indigenous Round will be held later that month in Round 12 with matches to be played Sydney, Townsville, Brisbane, Perth, Newcastle and Coffs Harbour (27-30 May).
There will be three matches on ANZAC Day in Round Seven (April 25), while State of Origin will revert to it’s usual mid-season slot with matches on Wednesday 9 June, Sunday 27 June and Wednesday 14 July. The women’s State of Origin takes place Friday July 12.
Super League announced next season’s format will kick-off on March 11, with the Grand Final on October 9.
Each team will play twenty-seven matches, including thirteen home matches. The Magic Weekend will be played in Newcastle (May 29-30), before a six-team play-off format used this season.
Super League fixtures for the 2021 campaign will be released in January.