LEGENDARY Ellery Hanley has described being named as the chair of the new Steve Prescott Man of Steel panel as a “wonderful honour.”
Since it was introduced more than 40 years ago, the former Leeds, Wigan and Great Britain captain is the only man to have won the award as the domestic game’s best player on three separate occasions – in 1985, 1987 and 1989.
Rated one of the finest players of all time, Hall of Famer Hanley will lead a group of rugby league greats in the radical revamp of the voting system to determine Super League’s most prestigious individual honour.
In recent years, Super League players have voted for the top performer but in 2019 the panel - which consists of 21 former players and coaches including past winners of Man of Steel - will drive the process.
A panel member will watch each Betfred Super League game in 2019 and award points to the three outstanding players: three points for their chosen man of the match, two for the runner-up, and one for the third-ranked player.
The scores will be made public every week from the first round of the season – which begins with the St Helens v Wigan derby next Thursday night - until Round 22 in mid-July.
After that, the poll will be hidden until the Awards Ceremony in October.
The award was renamed in 2014 in honour of Steve Prescott, the former St Helens, Hull FC and Wakefield Trinity full-back who fought such an inspirational battle after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
Speaking at today’s Super League launch at Old Trafford, Leeds-born Hanley, 57, said: “It’s a wonderful honour and I have to thank Super League for this opportunity.
“For me, the Man of Steel is probably the most prestigious individual award you can win becasue it tests you through the course of the season in consistency and being on your game every single week.
“I think, probably for me, it’s the most spectacular award of all of them during the course of the year.
“Seven of the ex-players have won the Man of Steel themselves so they have some great knowledge and experience.
“You couldn’t have a better choice and the new format - the three, two, one system - that’s brought in is spectacular as it gives transparency completely.”
All the panel members share the common distinction of having made more than 200 career appearances.
Super League chief executive Robert Elstone said: “We’re delighted to able to announce a new, refreshed voting system for the Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel award.
“Rugby League was a pioneer in introducing the Man of Steel title more than 40 years ago, recognising the importance of celebrating the players who give so much to make the sport special.
“Who better, in that regard, to chair our new panel than Ellery Hanley MBE?
“A true great of the game, whose name still resonates well beyond it, and who is held in complete respect by the modern generation of players.
“Ellery will lead a panel with outstanding credentials. Its unrivalled and extensive knowledge and experience will underpin the award’s credibility and by sharing the votes after each round, we will create interest and talkability all the way through to awards night.
“We’d like to thank all of those involved in the new process and look forward to seeing the battle for the game’s ultimate individual award unfold over the course of the 2019 Betfred Super League season.”