As the new Super League season hurtles towards us quicker than Denny Solomona’s retirement decision, we take a light hearted look at the upcoming campaign and what it could hold for the twelve clubs in the division. Can Leeds and Huddersfield bounce back from a disastrous 2016? How will Leigh fare in their return to the top flight? Can Hull back up their successful season last year? Will Salford’s average attendance break a new record and pass the 158 mark? All these questions will be answered over the next nine months.
The Tigers have come on leaps and bounds under Daryl Powell and ever the optimists, their supporters believe 2017 could be the year they have some real glory to celebrate. It’s been tough in the modern era for the Castleford fans, and I don’t just mean because of where they live. Their 1999 playoff victory over Leeds is still a public holiday in the town and many believe it’s time the club had a real achievement to celebrate. They recruited Greg Eden to replace the retiring Luke Dorn, and then recruited Zak Hardaker to replace Greg Eden who was replacing Luke Dorn, but they have recruited strongly to add to a very good squad already, so don’t be surprised if the open top bus in Cas you hear about in the news over the coming months isn’t a stolen burnt out Arriva.
A tactical masterstroke (A rarity for the Dragons boss) by Laurent Frayssinous ahead of the 2017 season has seen the Catalans club swap their very good squad for an average one. This way, after their inevitable slump to finish in 7th or 8th, Frayssinous won’t look as terrible a coach. With strong rumours that some key Australian members of the squad enjoyed the South of France lifestyle a little too much, the club decided to get shot, instead of handing them the keys to the local orchard in the hope they could stumble their way to success. With two more foreign clubs almost ready to compete for the number 1 spot on the expansion league table, the Dragons need a big season this year.
In a scene resembling an African safari, Huddersfield have lurked in the shadows like a pack of hyenas to pick at the bones of crisis club Bradford Bulls. As well as recruiting a handful of players from the club who finished 5th in the championship in 2016, the Giants have also signed a player from the club who picked up the wooden spoon in the NRL and one from a club who compete in the NSW cup. With Jake Connor, Joe Wardle and Scott Grix amongst the players leaving the club, the 23 season ticket holders can’t hold out much hope for 2017.
We don’t know who Hull council have bribed, but the city has somehow been awarded the capital of culture title for 2017, which could help the country wipe out some of it’s debts. Images of Hull on European news would surely see a flood of donations and offers of aid head to the UK. On the rugby field, the hope for the rest of Super League is that Lee Radford, or hokey cokey (in, out, in, out) as he’s known by some, has used his cup winning bonus to treat himself to some new front pegs. The black and whites faded out towards the back end of 2016 after a fantastic cup win, but they have recruited shrewdly in the hope of competing on both fronts again this time around. If you see a Hull fan, do mention the 2016 challenge cup final, DO NOT mention the man of steel awards, they’re still a tad bitter over that.
If Rhinos fans had hoped Santa Claus had brought boss Brian McDermott a copy ‘How To Use Your Wingers: Volume 2’ or ‘Attacking Structure For Dummies’ for Christmas, then their dismal showing in the boxing day friendly against Wakefield swiftly put paid to that. The Rhinos, who at times over the past ten years have played some scintillating rugby, look to have adopted a barge your way through approach this time around. The only problem is, the Leeds pack only have three good knees between them. McDermott’s tactics are that negative, that Ryan Hall and Tom Briscoe have decided to share the role of match announcer, as it’s the only involvement they’ll get down the North Stand touchline during the eighty minutes.
Returning to Super League (with the road sign to prove it!) in 2017 are Leigh, who looked impressive during last season’s middle 8’s campaign. As the Centurions fans celebrate, the rest of Super League’s supporters must feel like they’ve won the worst lottery going. As far as new clubs in divisions go, League 1 get Toronto, the Championship get Toulouse and Super League fans get another trip to the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan. Nice. Winning the most hated club in the championship competition hands down, it will be interesting to see if they can challenge local neighbours the Warriors for the most hated Super League crown.