Head coach Rick Stone is tipping Huddersfield Giants pack star Sebastine Ikahihifo to be in the running for a place in Super League’s 2017 Dream Team.
The 26-year-old New Zealander has been producing stand-out displays throughout the season and his performance in the Giants 24-16 Super 8s defeat at home to League
Leaders Shield winners Castleford earned plenty of praise from Tigers head coach Daryl Powell.
Stone said that the Auckland-born forward, who made his name at New Zealand Warriors but signed for the Giants midway through last season from NRL outfit St George Illawarra Dragons where he failed to make an appearance, was one of the finds of the year.
“I think Seb should be considered for the Dream Team,” said Stone.
“He has been tremendous from day one for us, from the first game against Widnes he hasn’t let up at all.
“It is particularly the way he carries the ball, and he is far and away the best player for tackle busts in the competition.
“He has made 140-odd busts in the season so far and he is at least 30-odd better than anyone else.”
And Stone has been pleased with the way Ikahihifo put his NRL disappointment at the Dragons behind him to make the most of his fresh start with the Giants in Super League.
“Seb has been one of the best performers in the competition this season without doubt,” added Stone.
“Every time he plays he is tough for the opposition to handle and he has been a big feature for us.
“I think he must have played in nearly every game this season, so he has been really durable as well.
“Considering he didn’t have a big profile coming over from the NRL, he has certainly earned himself a big profile here in Super League.
“There have been plenty of times this season he has got us out of jail, and he has even carried us when we have been a losing team.
“He is definitely playing his best footy over here!”
The next test for Ikahihifo, Stone and the Giants squad is to try and keep their receding hopes of earning a top-four place alive.
Only a win will do for the Giants in their next game away to Salford Red Devils on Saturday (1.30pm) and Stone said: “We’ve been pretty competitive for a while now having got into the eight and then given ourselves a chance of the top four.
“However, it is hard to keep putting in the best performance every week, but we still have plenty to play for going into the game.”
Former Huddersfield Giants hooker Shaun Lunt has been shortlisted for the Kingstone Press Championship player-of-the-year award.
The Hull KR captain, who also featured for Leeds Rhinos, has led his team to the brink of promotion after being in the Robins team relegated from Super League at the end of last season.
He is facing competition from teammate Chris Atkin, who played most of the season with Swinton, and Mark Kheirallah, of Toulouse.
Tim Sheens (Hull KR) is shortlisted for coach of the year, along with Richard Marshall (Halifax) and Andrew Henderson (London Broncos), while Paul Crarey (Barrow), James Ford (York) and Carl Forster (Whitehaven) are vying for the League One award.
Toronto Wolfpack coach Paul Rowley, also a former Giants hooker, has been ignored but the Canadian newcomers have captain Craig Hall and hooker Bob Beswick nominated as League One player of the year along with Barrow prop Joe Bullock.
The winners will be announced at the 2017 Kingstone Press Championship and League One annual dinner in Manchester on Monday, September 18.