29th March 2016, 18:57 | super_league
It’s fair to say there has been a plethora of great players that have graced the field of Super League over the past 20 years, here’s a look at 5 of the greatest…
Andy Farrell - Wigan Warriors
After making his debut for Wigan at the age of 16 back in 1991, the loose-forward became the youngest player to win a Challenge Cup final as the Warriors beat Widnes Vikings in 1993, at the age of 17years 11months.
In 1996, he was appointed as captain at Wigan and won the Super League Man of Steel Award, when he was just 21. Two years later, he captained Wigan to glory in the very first Super League Grand Final, as they beat Leeds 10-4.
In 2001, his 388 points in a Super League season set a new record, a record that still stands today despite being equalled by Pat Richards in 2010. Farrell switched codes in 2005, with his final Super League record standing at 368 appearances, 3135 points and 77 tries.
Jamie Peacock – Bradford Bulls and Leeds Rhinos
After making his debut with the Bradford Bulls in 1999, Peacock’s first Super League honour came in 2001 as the Bulls downed Wigan in the Grand Final. His most successful season at Odsal came in 2003, as he won a second Super League title with the Bulls as well as being selected as the Man of Steel.
After captaining Bradford in his final season at the club, the prop moved onto home-town side Leeds Rhinos where he would go onto be one of the most iconic players to have played for the Headingley club.
He won six Super League titles with the Rhinos, including three on the spin between 2007 and 2009, before finishing an illustrious career in 2015 in style, as Leeds won the Treble.
Kevin Sinfield – Leeds Rhinos
When Sinfield took to the field against Sheffield Eagles in 1997, few would have predicted the glorious career he would have with Leeds Rhinos. After making his breakthrough into the first team squad in 1999, Sinfield won his first Super League title with the Rhinos in 2004 after a win over local rivals Bradford.
Playing at stand-off, ‘Sir Kev’ as he became to be known, kicked points in consecutive Grand Finals as Leeds won three Super League titles in a row between 2007 and 2009.
In 2012, Sinfield would become Leeds’ all time points scorer, going onto finish his career with a total of 3,204 when he retired in 2015, which is also a Super League record. Sinfield also holds the record for most Super League appearances, 454.
A brilliant career came to a close last year, with eight Super League titles to his name, as well as becoming only the fourth Englishman to win the Golden Boot back in 2013.
Paul Sculthorpe – Warrington Wolves and St Helens
Sculthorpe’s talent was on show right from the very start of his career – in his debut season for Warrington in 1996, he was named in Super League’s Dream team.
He quickly attracted the attentions of St Helens who he moved to in the following season, and won his first Super League crown in 1999, when they clinched the Grand Final with a 8-6 win over Bradford.
Further Super League honours would follow in 2000 and 2002, before he was handed the captaincy at Knowsley Road in 2004. He surpassed the 1,000 points landmark for the Saints in 2005, but injury brought an end to his memorable career in 2008.
Leslie Vainikolo – Bradford Bulls
After making his name in the NRL with Canberra Raiders, Vainikolo arrived in Super League with Bradford in 2002 and the following season showed his class in becoming one of the best wingers the league has ever seen.
After scoring 28 tries in the 2003 campaign, the Tongan lifted his first Super League title later that year with a Grand Final triumph over Wigan. The following season was Vainikolo’s most memorable, as he scored a phenomenal 36 tries in just 26 games, a record that still stands today for most tries in a season.
A second Super League title was added in 2005 as he scored a try in the Bulls’ Grand Final win over local rivals Leeds. He made his final bow for Bradford against Leeds in 2007, finishing his spell at Odsal with an incredible record of 149 tries in 152 games.
Debate can rage for days about who was the best ever player in Super League, but I think you'll agree there has been some pretty special athletes that have played in the last 20 years!