NEW Zealander Rangi Chase was today still coming to terms with the shock of being named Super League Man of Steel, just hours after stunning the rugby league world by electing to play for England.
The 25-year-old Castleford stand-off (pictured) beat off competition from Wigan full-back Sam Tomkins and St Helens hooker James Roby to lift the sport’s most coveted individual honour at a gala dinner in Manchester.
He emerged victorious from the closest poll yet of Super League players, who have determined the destination of the Man of Steel award for the last four years.
“I was shocked,” Chase said. “I wasn’t expecting it, the way Sam Tomkins and James Roby had played this year. It’s unbelievable for me.
“I was overwhelmed to get into the last three. I said ‘that will do for me. If I do win, it would be an absolute bonus’. I’m over the moon.
“It’s been a good year for me. I’m certainly getting better. I’m more mature as a player. This year was being about being consistent, that was my goal and I think I did it. Next year I’ve got to set new targets.
“Hopefully my best is yet to come. I’ll keep pushing myself and challenging myself to be a better player.”
Chase is now set to line up alongside Tomkins and Roby in the Four Nations Series which starts later this month after qualifying for England on the three-year residency rule.
Chase, born in Wanganui, is a former Junior Kiwi who has twice played against England in the last 12 months but he says he long since gave up hope of representing New Zealand.
“This is what I call home so I’m privileged to be in the squad,” said Chase, who played for New Zealand Maori 12 months ago and was man of the match for the Exiles in the June international against England.
“I didn’t have to think too hard about it. I came over here knowing that I’ll never get picked for New Zealand. So that dream had gone.
“I thought I’d wait five years and then I found out it was three so I got in touch with Steve McNamara straightaway and told him my feelings about it.
“This is home for me now, I’ve settled down here now. By the time my contract is up I will have been here nearly 10 years. I can’t see myself going anywhere else in a hurry.”
Chase, who was still giving interviews after midnight, was due to join up with England’s train-on squad at 10 o’clock this morning as preparations continue for the warm-up game against France in Avignon on Friday, October 21, and the opening Four Nations game against Wales a week later.
Chase is only the second New Zealander to be named Man of Steel and the first since Wigan centre Dean Bell was judged to have made the biggest impact on the 1992 season.
St Helens scrum-half Jonny Lomax, 21, was named young player of the year while Catalan Dragons had double cause for celebration after they were named club of the year and Trent Robinson picked up the coach-of-the-year award.