Players currently in first and second place in the Man Of Steel voting are set to go head to head in one of the fascinating battles as Castleford Tigers host St Helens tonight.
St Helens hooker James Roby leads the way after a flying start to the 2019 season, but Castleford’s own ultra consistent number nine, Paul McShane, stands in second place in the new system of voting and can join his rival in top spot if he can come up another man of the match display at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
Who comes out on top in the battle of the brilliant nines may have a big bearing on who takes home the two points between teams who have only lost one game between them so far this season.
Tigers boss Daryl Powell praised both hookers this week and is looking forward to seeing the match-up.
He told the Express: “Both James Roby and Paul McShane are going well. Those two and Daryl Clark are playing outstanding rugby league at the moment.
“Paul McShane has been really consistent for us and he and Liam Watts have been our two most consistent players so far.
“It’s going to be a good challenge for him against St Helens. Roby’s playing well and he’s certainly been outstanding this season, as he usually is. So you’ve got to nullify the threat he poses and to do that you’ve got to deal with their pack, which is very good.
“They are big, mobile and very athletic and physically we’re really going to need to step up this week.”
McShane unusually lost his cool when he was sin-binned for his reaction to his tackle on teammate Peter Mata’utia in last Sunday’s game against Salford, but returned to the field to produce a big second half display that impressed his head coach.
Powell said: “In the second half Paul McShane ran really effectively and it was a well balanced game from him.
“We’ve seen he’s really important to us. He created a try, his running game was excellent and defensively he consistently works hard.
“It was a big game from him. But obviously you don’t want players getting sin-binned.”
Powell reckons McShane is getting better and can count himself unlucky not have played international rugby league with England after proving himself top drawer in the last two seasons.
He added: “There’s a lot of real high quality hookers.
“Roby’s been high quality for years and years and he just seems to be going on forever.
“We obviously had Daryl Clark here and we know all about him. He’s also playing well. But Paul McShane is as good as any of them and better in some areas.
“There are some areas of his game that are absolutely world class and he’s still looking to improve and get a little bit better in some of the other areas.
“I thought his running game last week reflected one of the areas he’s looking to improve, which is great to see.”