There was something magical in the air at Anfield, and it was the 2019 Dacia Magic Weekend with players performing in front of tens of thousands of Super League fans and newcomers to the sport.
The hottest team in Super League right now is St Helens, who travelled the 11 miles down the East Lancashire Road to Anfield and produced a memorable display, showing why they are the favourites to reach the Super League Grand Final.
Ellery Hanley MBE was the Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel panellist judging the players and giving them a score of three points for the top player, two points for the second-best player and one point for the third best.
Adjudicating St Helens for all of the Man of Steel panellists has been one of the hardest teams to pick out the ‘best performer’, with such consistency shining throughout the squad and on any given day the majority of the team could be classed as Saints' best player.
However, a verdict must be made and Hanley has given an insight into the reasons behind his decision. some of which were tough on his own admission.
His three points were awarded to Tommy Makinson, last time out at Anfield for England, he scored a hat-trick before winning the Rugby League World Golden Boot Award.
Hanley said: “Very rarely has Tommy fallen below an 8/10 performance this season. His huge value to St Helens is almost hard to measure, as what you see in his yardage gain and putting his club on the front foot.
“He causes a destruction in the opposition defence by pulling its shape from pillar to post, causing the openings for St Helens’ attack for their other wrecking ball players.
“And to add to all of that, his tackling and defence was almost faultless.”
Lachlan Coote was awarded two points. Ahead of the Magic Weekend, he was in seventh spot on 14 points - he now sits in third position on 16 points - and since signing for Saints he's become a fans’ favourite.
“It was another polished all-around game from the unflappable Lachlan Coote,'' said the former Wigan legend.
''His run in the first six minutes of the second-half to set-up Jack Ashworth’s try was poetry in motion.
“He also scored himself and had a huge influence on the St Helens side since taking over the full back duties since stepping onto these shores,” admitted Hanley.
The last of the Man of Steel points was awarded to Saints' centre Kevin Naiqama.
“An outstanding and astute signing for St Helens,” said Hanley, who added: “You probably will have to go a long way to see a try scored as good as this in the second-half by a centre.
“His evasive skills were right there for all to see, his explosive power is quite extraordinary along with staying in stride when changing direction, he is deceptively strong and his first-up contact on tackling was awesome.”
The way Justin Holbrook’s men have been performing it would be hard not to back Saints to get to the Grand Final, and although Hanley chose Makinson, Coote and Naiqama, he said: “Jonny Lomax and co. were also brilliant but my eyes and calculation of contribution rest with the three players above.”
All the points from the Dacia Magic Weekend:
3 Points: Tony Gigot, Darnell McIntosh, Dec Patton, Mose Masoe, Harry Newman and Tommy Makinson
2 Points: Kyle Wood, Jermaine McGillvary, Daryl Clark, Josh Jones, Jordan Abdull and Lachlan Coote
1 Point: Matty Smith, Michael Lawrence, Blake Austin, Craig Hall, Trent Merrin and Kevin Naiqama