Written by Rugby Football League
Photo by RFL
Individual awards are special in sport – and they have a great tradition in Rugby League.
The Man of Steel Award, first won by the Leeds hooker David Ward in 1977, has been enhanced since 2014 by the association with the late, great Steve Prescott MBE.
The Harry Sunderland Trophy has been awarded to the man of the match in the Super League Grand Final, and before that the Championship and Premiership Finals, since 1965, in memory of a pioneering Australian administrator and journalist.
And the name of Lance Todd, a New Zealander who had given outstanding service to the British game as a player and especially as a coach, manager and radio commentator, has become indelibly linked with the Challenge Cup Final and Wembley since the man of the match award was named in his honour in 1946, after his death in the Second World War.
So the introduction of a new competition in 2019 with a new Wembley final – the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup – presents a rare opportunity to recognise a significant figure from the game’s past.
And rather than making the decision behind closed doors, the Rugby Football League is inviting more than 113,000 Our League members to get involved.
We think it’s a tricky decision, having come up with three nominations, each of whom would surely be recognised as worthy of joining Lance Todd on the Wembley role of honour.
But now it’s over to you, the Our League members – and whereas the winners of the Lance Todd Trophy and the Harry Sunderland Trophy have traditionally been determined by the media, and the Steve Prescott Man of Steel is now to be awarded according to the votes of a collection of outstanding former players, the player of the match at the first AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final in August will also be determined by Our League votes on the day.
Here are the contenders:
One of the game’s most-loved characters, Ray was a dual code international in his playing days, but is better-known now for his work as a broadcaster. In that role, he commentated for BBC Television on 27 Challenge Cup Finals, the majority at Wembley, meaning his voice will always be attached to great moments such as the brilliant tries scored by Martin Offiah for Wigan in 1994, and Robbie Paul for Bradford two years later. Ray was also a Wembley winner in 1966, playing second-row in St Helens’ 21-2 win against Wigan – and has given so much to the game, for which he has already been recognised with the Mike Gregory Spirit of Rugby League Award, and in 2011 the MBE.
The introduction of the 1895 Cup has provided an additional opportunity to play at Wembley for many of the clubs who contributed to Rugby League’s rich history at the stadium in the distant past. Barrow are a classic example of that – and the name of Willie Horne will always be remembered in association with their three Challenge Cup Final appearances in the 1950s. Horne was a local lad who came through the ranks to lead his team, making 461 appearances for the Shipbuilders in a 16-year career. Those appearances included the 1951 Cup Final defeat by Wigan, and another narrow defeat by Leeds six years later. But in between those disappointments, in 1955, Horne led Barrow to a 21-12 victory over Workington Town in the competition’s only all-Cumbrian final, kicking five goals and a drop goal. He also won eight Great Britain caps, and was captain in a 2-1 Ashes success against the touring Kangaroos in 1952. In 2014 he was inducted into the Rugby League Hall of Fame.
A living legend in Hull, where he served the black and whites in a long and distinguished playing career and has coached both of the city’s professional clubs. His nickname, Gentleman John, is a reflection of the respect in which he is held well beyond his home city. Wembley was not so kind to him, as he was twice a Challenge Cup Final loser having led Hull FC to their first two appearances at the stadium. But he won Championship Finals in 1956 and 1958, and was an Ashes winner with Great Britain at home and abroad – a member of the last GB team to win a series against Australia on home soil, exactly 60 years ago. He was then coach of the last Lions to win a series in Australia, in 1970. He was added to the RFL Roll of Honour in November 2004 having been nominated by both Hull and Hull Kingston Rovers, and was made an MBE for services to Rugby League and the community in the 2005 New Year honours list.
*See more related news at rugby-league.com