The return of Super League is now less than 3 weeks away, and the back of its most successful and memorable season to date, there’s no denying fans are expecting even bigger and better things from what 2016 has to offer. Will Leeds repeat their extraordinary achievements without their talisman Kevin Sinfield? Will Leigh beat the Super 8s hurdle that crushed their dreams in dramatic fashion? Here’s what us at ‘The 18th Man’ think fans can expect from the next 9 months:
Grand Final Winner
Ryan- Wigan / George- Wigan / Dan- Wigan / Lewis- Wigan / Ben- Leeds
Leeds crowned their incredible year with a dramatic 2-point victory over the Warriors in October. However, it’s the 2015 runners-up who are the favourites for the majority of our writers in 2015. With the return of poster boy Sam Tomkins, and arguably the best academy system in Super League, it’s clear why the bookies put Wigan at just 3/1 to reclaim the title for the first time since 2013. Only one of our writers could see a repeat of last season with Leeds winning the Grand Final for an 8th time. George Clarke says “Wigan will be smarting from two successive Grand Final defeats. It will have hurt Shaun Wane, and victory at Old Trafford in October with his young but battle-hardened outfit, is surely top priority. The return of Tomkins and a fit again Dan Sarginson promises plenty for the Warriors whilst fellow outside back; Josh Charnley, has a point to prove.”
Challenge Cup Winner
Ryan- Hull FC / George- Castleford / Dan- Warrington / Lewis- Warrington / Ben- St Helens
Unlike the FA Cup, Rugby League’s domestic knockout competition still holds the glory it always has done. A much harder competition to predict than Super League, but The Challenge Cup holds a special place in the heart of all Rugby League fans. With Wigan at 11/4 and holders Leeds at 7/1, it’s Warrington who leads the way with our writer’s predictions. It always seems to be Warrington’s year in January, but with the addition of Tom Lineham, Joe Westerman, Kurt Gidley and Jack Hughes just to name a few, Warrington have as good a chance as any of the other ‘big’ clubs of claiming glory at Wembley. However, with Hull FC’s aspirations for 2016 and big money spending in the closed season, don’t be surprised if they make a return to Wembley and put to bed their hoodoo.
Ryan- Wigan / George- Warrington / Dan- Wigan / Lewis- Wigan / Ben- Wigan
Going on these predictions, it’s going to be double delight for Wigan in 2016. 4 of our writers have Shaun Wane’s men to claim the League Leaders Shield after the Super 8s come to a close. Whether or not it’s in similar dramatic circumstances to the way they lost the title in 2015, we’ll wait and see…
Man of Steel
Ryan – Alex Walmsley / George – Todd Carney / Dan – Frank Pritchard / Lewis – Alex Walmsley / Ben – Sam Tomkins
With Alex Walmsley making the final 3 in 2015, the Saint’s prop is likely to be up there again this time around. The 25-year-old was left out of the England squad for November’s series only due to injury, however come the Four Nations this Autumn, Walmsley is likely to be a key member of the setup. However, with Sam Tomkins returning from the NRL, he’s the bookie’s favourite for the accolade at 8/1. On the back of a disappointing first season in Super League, Todd Carney is second at 10/1. NRL legend Frank Pritchard could be worth putting money on as an outsider with odds of 33/1.
Young Player of the Year
Ryan – Liam Sutcliffe / George – Oliver Gildart / Dan – Ben Currie / Lewis – Jack Logan / Ben – Jack Logan
With George Williams claiming the honour in 2015, his Wigan teammate Oliver Gildart could well claim the title in 2016. The 19-year-old only made 7 appearances for the Warriors, however with a Grand Final experience under his belt, he is sure to make strides this season. However, with Liam Sutcliffe stepping into the shoes of Kevin Sinfield, the Leeds youngster will also be a contender. The favourite amongst our writers is the Hull FC centre Jack Logan. After being granted the number 4 shirt, he will establish himself as a crucial first team player. 2016 will be his 3rd season playing professional at the KC, and it could well be his most impressive.
Ryan – No / George – No / Dan – No / Lewis – Leigh for Widnes / Ben – Leigh for Widnes
While our 3 editors think there will be no teams promoted/relegated once again in 2016, me and Ben think otherwise. When you look at the Vikings’ squad on paper, it doesn’t look good enough to compete with the rest of Super League. Hull KR reporter Ben Towse says “In my opinion, Widnes’ squad isn’t good enough to keep them in Super League for 2017, and with Leigh’s amazing pack it’s hard to see them being unable to beat the Vikings when the middle 8’s come around.” With Leigh adding Rangi Chase to their roster, it’s unlikely we’ll see a repeat of their Middle 8s woes again this time around.
What are your predictions for 2016? Send them to @The18thManUK and we’ll retweet them!