Five Leigh players named in Super League Dream Team

Five Leigh players named in Super League Dream Team

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John Asiata and Edwin Ipape were part of Leigh's Wembley-winning line-up
John Asiata (right) and Edwin Ipape were part of Leigh’s Wembley-winning line-up

Challenge Cup winners Leigh Leopards have been rewarded for a memorable season on their return to the top flight by having five players chosen in the 2023 Super League Dream Team.

Winger Josh Charnley, half-back Lachlan Lam – son of boss Adrian Lam – and forwards Tom Amone, John Asiata and Edwin Ipape were all picked.

Wigan had three men selected in Jake Wardle, Liam Farrell and Bevan French.

Warrington Wolves prop Paul Vaughan was chosen for the first time.

The other four places went to Catalans Dragons winger Tom Johnstone, featuring for the second time, St Helens full-back Jack Welsby, in for the third time, experienced Salford loose forward Kallum Watkins and Hull KR centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

Watkins, 32, was at centre when he previously earned inclusion with Leeds Rhinos in 2014 and 2015, while Kenny-Dowall, the oldest on the team at 35 and set to retire after the play-offs, retains his place from last year.

Having captained Wigan to a seventh League Leaders’ Shield on Friday, England back-row forward Farrell is included for a sixth time, the last five of them in a row to equal former Warriors team-mate Sam Tomkins’ record of five straight selections from 2009 to 2013.

Wigan stand-off French is included for a third time, with each of his selections having come in different positions having previously been at full-back (2020) and wing (2022).

Of the six picked for the first time, four were from Leigh: scrum-half Lam and half of their pack in Amone, Asiata, Ipape. Those choices came in recognition of the club’s first Wembley win in 52 years and their first time in the Super League play-offs.

Panel chairman Ellery Hanley said: “Every year the Dream Team asks as many questions as it answers. We could have picked a second Dream Team to rival this one.

“Ultimately, every one of these 13 players deserves recognition. These are the players who have entertained us, eaten up the metres, provided the assists, defended like Trojans and scored some unbelievable tries.

“The Dream Team announcement gets people talking about the players – and that’s how it should be. Who’s in, who’s not. The arguments will continue until the early hours, but supporters talking about how good players are can only be a good thing, even if we can’t all agree on the final 13.”

Betfred Super League Dream Team 2023

Full-back: Jack Welsby (St Helens)

Backs: Josh Charnley (Leigh), Jake Wardle (Wigan), Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Hull KR), Tom Johnstone (Catalans)

Half-backs: Bevan French (Wigan), Lachlan Lam (Leigh)

Pack: Paul Vaughan (Warrington), Edwin Ipape (Leigh), Tom Amone (Leigh), Kallum Watkins (Salford), Liam Farrell (Wigan), John Asiata (Leigh)

Charnley & Watkins’ road to Super League redemption

Analysis – BBC Rugby League correspondent Dave Woods

Two tales of redemption catch the eye in this year’s Dream Team selections.

Josh Charnley and Kallum Watkins have both had their careers written off.

Charnley admits he even came close to retiring in 2022. So, for the Leigh winger to get back amongst the elected elite for the first time in 10 years and Watkins, reinvented as a back-rower, selected for the first time in eight years, shows that doubts are temporary, class is permanent.

Leigh winger Josh Charnley celebrates one of his side's 26 tries in 2023
Josh Charnley’s 26 tries in 2023 have lifted him to 229, within reach of Super League top two Danny McGuire (247) and Ryan Hall (238)

A famous five Dream Team selections for Leigh underlines the astonishing year they have had and how well they were prepared ahead of promotion.

All five Leigh nominees – Charnley, Amone, Ipape, Asiata and Lam – were already at the club before they had confirmed their Super League place.

There are some notable absentees. There always will be. Only five of the 13 come from the top three clubs in the Super League table. But this is a fair representation of the impact these individuals have had throughout the year.

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