Rugby League review 2013

James Pearson talks you through what has been an incredible year of rugby league in 2013.

Last Updated: 23/12/13 10:41am

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Sky Sports takes a look at the highs, lows and key moments that have been making the headlines in an unforgettable year of rugby league.

Wigan Warriors were the big winners in 2013, claiming a Challenge Cup and Super League double, while Australia were once again the cream of the crop on the international stage, reclaiming the Rugby League World Cup.

Danny Brough

Man of the year

The Huddersfield Giants enjoyed a year to remember, claiming the League Leaders' Shield for the first time in 81 years.

Paul Anderson's men were a model of consistency, with Brough their star turn behind a powerful pack. The former Hull FC, Castleford and Wakefield play-maker was outstanding, not only with ball in hand, but also with the boot.

Along with scooping the coveted Man of Steel award his stellar season also earned him the Albert Goldthorpe Medal for the second time, while he also scooped the Rugby League Writers' Association player of the year gong.

The 30-year-old broke Ben Gronow's 93-year-old club record of 147 goals in a season and also surpassed Pat Devery's record for points in a season, set back in 1953.

However, Brough's season did not end there as he was selected by Scotland for their Rugby League World Cup campaign. They defied the odds to reach the quarter-finals and Brough's performances for his country helped him to be shortlisted for the 2013 Golden Boot.

Wigan Warriors

Team of the year

What a difference 12 months makes. In 2012 Wigan were the nearly men of Super League. A year later and they were the team to beat.

Having lost two semi-finals to Leeds and won the League Leaders' Shield a year ago, Shaun Wane's men had a point to prove.

They were back at Wembley for the first time since 2011 following an emphatic semi-final success over the London Broncos and after Hull FC stunned Warrington in the other semi, it was Wigan who claimed the spoils at a wet Wembley, running out 16-0 winners.

Not content with just one piece of silverware, the Cherry and Whites proceeded to stamp their authority on Super League in the closing weeks of the campaign.

They finished fourth at the end of the regular season, but gave their hopes of playing in Manchester a massive boost by beating leaders Huddersfield on home soil in the play-offs.

They then exacted revenge on Leeds at the semi-final stage at the DW Stadium before overturning a 16-2 deficit to see off the Warrington Wolves 30-16.

Adam Swift bagged a doube in Saints' 22-16 victory over Wigan

St Helens 22-16 Wigan

Super League Match of the year

Few gave St Helens a chance of upsetting great rivals Wigan when the pair met at Langtree Park in July, even though the Warriors left out the likes of Sam Tomkins, Sean O'Loughlin and Harrison Hansen ahead of their Challenge Cup semi-final against the London Broncos.

Saints led 12-0 after 17 minutes thanks to two tries from Adam Swift, who had been recalled from dual registration club Whitehaven for his first start in three months, but the visitors responded to move 14-12 ahead early in the second half thanks to three tries, the first coming from Pat Richards before the prolific Josh Charnley bagged a brace.

Two penalties for Saints compared with a pair of Wigan drop goals, including an incredible long-range effort from out wide by Richards, left the game level at 16-16 heading into the closing stages.

Wigan half-back Blake Green was then sin-binned for the latest in a long line of infringements by his side, and with the game firmly in the balance substitute prop Joe Greenwood, who had dropped the ball when a try looked certain just after half-time, crossed in the 77th minute to clinch the result.

Salford Takeover

Saga of the Year

At the start of the year Salford's future looked bleak. A £1.5m rescue package had been rejected by councillors in December, with Reds supporters staging a number of fundraising events and bucket collections before home games.

Neighbours Swinton Lions donated a large percentage of their share of the gate receipts from the pre-season friendly meeting between the two clubs on January 6 to aid the City Reds' survival bid.

Then, in mid-January, Salford were given another four weeks to settle their debts after long-serving chairman John Wilkinson revealed talks with a potential new investor - who at that stage was unnamed - were at an advanced stage.

The news the club's long-suffering fans were longing to hear finally arrived on January 31 after it was revealed millionaire racehorse owner Marwan Koukash had completed his takeover, bringing to an end months of uncertainty over Salford's future.

Koukash was not a man who would be happy with the club simply existing following an excellent track record in other sports. He immediately set about laying the foundations to help make his latest purchase a success in Super League.

He has brought charisma to the game. He is outspoken and forthright in his views. He wanted the salary cap increasing in order to bring more high-profile players to Super League, although he failed in attempts to lure Sam Tomkins and Sonny Bill Williams to the City Reds.

Brian Noble was brought in to help the existing core of players and while the club may not have lit the touch paper in 2013, next season promises to deliver much more.

Salford have recruited well, bringing in a number of seasoned campaigners to add experience to Noble's squad, while they have made players such as Rangi Chase and Harrison Hansen their marquee captures.

Super League seems a better place with Koukash and Salford in the mix. But can the now Red Devils as they are known challenge for honours in the coming years?

Ben Crooks

Young player of the Year

When you think of the name Crooks you think of rugby league. However, now it might be Ben that springs to mind and not his famous father, Lee.

The 20-year-old centre enjoyed a season to remember with an impressive 19 tries in 18 Super League appearances for the East Yorkshire club.

The youngster excelled mid-season, scoring four times against Castleford Tigers before then bagging a hat-trick of tries against the Wakefield Wildcats.

Crooks missed out on silverware after the Black and Whites were beaten at Wembley by Wigan in August, but that did not prevent him from landing the Super League Young Player of the Year award.

One of the centre's finest moments was a superb breakaway try in the first-half of Hull's 18-6 victory over then champions Leeds Rhinos in May.

2013 Rugby League World Cup

Success of the Year

The critics were sharpening their knives even before a ball was kicked in this year's tournament in England and Wales (as well as France and Ireland).

There were fears some of the game's unfamiliar venues would struggle to attract the crowds and that there would be a lop-sided scores with a number of international minnows involved.

However, as it transpired the tournament proved to be one of the most successful ever - in terms of both quality on the pitch, attendances and revenue for the game going forward.

England gave Australia a fright in their group opener while there were a number of eye-catching attendances at the likes of Rochdale, Bristol and Workington in games involving Fiji, USA and Scotland respectively.

Fiji would tackle the Kangaroos at Wembley while Steve McCormack's Scotland did superbly well to makes the quarter-finals against the Kiwis.

However, it was always going to be between the game's big three and England, New Zealand and Australia all reached the semi-finals of the competition.

Just over 67,500 fans attended the semi-final double header while Old Trafford was sold out for the final between New Zealand and Australia, a new record crowd for an international rugby league match. In the end, the Kangaroos simply proved too good for their trans-Tasman rivals, gaining revenge for their loss against the same opponents in the last final five years ago.

In 2008 Billy Slater made a mistake that helped New Zealand to victory in Brisbane, but he atoned in Manchester with two tries as Australia ran out deserved 34-2 winners.

Steve Prescott MBE (26 December 1973 - 9 November 2013)

Steve Prescott MBE

Gone, but not forgotten

The year saw rugby league lose one of its real ambassadors. In November Prescott lost his battle with cancer.

Prescott achieved a great deal on the pitch, but it was his efforts off the field that will leave a lasting legacy.

The full-back played for St Helens before sandwiching a spell with Wakefield between two stints for hometown club Hull FC.

In September 2006, Prescott was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei, a rare form of cancer, and given months to live.

A year later he set up the Steve Prescott Foundation. The charity raised almost £500,000 with a series of fund-raising activities.

Prescott was awarded the MBE in the 2010 New Year Honours for services to rugby league and charity.

Lee Briers and Steve Menzies

Calling it a day

Fewer names are more synonymous with rugby league than Lee Briers and Steve Menzies.

Warrington stalwart Briers was forced to call time on his career in November following advice from a neck specialist.

The half-back joined Warrington as an 18-year-old from St Helens in 1997 and made 425 appearances for the Primrose and Blue, including becoming the leading points scorer in their history with 2586 points.

Briers was the type of guy who could inspire his team to victory. Deadly with the boot he was also adept at reading the play of the opposition, which brought about more than his fair share of intercept tries.

Never one to accept a decision lightly, Briers would always be in the match officials' ears ensuring his team were treated - in his view - 'fairly'.

In Menzies you have the consummate professional. Many rugby league players call time on their careers in their early 30s. For Menzies, he eventually hung up his boots aged 39, having spent an incredible 21 years in the game's top flights.

By no means was Menzies on his way out either, with the former Australia international a key member of the Catalan Dragons squad in his final season.

Menzies spent the vast majority of his career with Manly in Australia before trying his hand in the Super League with the Bradford Bulls and later Catalan. He won 13 caps for his country while he played for New South Wales 20 times in State of Origin.

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