That big day has finally arrived for all Rugby League fans as the Super League season finally gets underway tonight as St Helens take on Leeds. Naturally, Black & White fans have high hopes of another successful season but there will be plenty of competition from their rivals. I take a look at the runners and riders for 2017:
COACH: Shaun Wane
LAST YEAR: 2nd, Grand Final winners
2016 was a difficult year in terms of injuries for the Warriors but it didn’t stop them in their quest for glory as they toppled Warrington in the Grand Final. Key transfers include the returning Joe Burgess, Thomas Leuluai as well as the exciting Morgan Escare, who will comfortably offset the loss of Josh Charnley and Dan Sarginson. I expect them to claim the League Leader’s Shield but just fall short in the Grand Final.
NEW SIGNINGS: Joe Burgess (Sydney Roosters), Morgan Escare, Romain Navarrete (both Catalans), Liam Forsyth (Bath RUFC), Thomas Leuluai (New Zealand Warriors)
PREDICTION: 1st (League Leader’s Shield)
COACH: Lee Radford
LAST YEAR: 3rd
Last year was a seminal one for the Airlie Birds as they conquered the Wembley hoodoo with a Challenge Cup triumph. Lee Radford has recruited astutely in Josh Griffin, Albert Kelly and Jake Connor so expect lots of tries. I expect an emphasis to be placed on the Grand Final after narrowly missing out on an appearance in 2016. I might have Black & White spectacles on but I sense they have the quality to win it this time around.
NEW SIGNINGS: Jake Connor (Huddersfield), Josh Griffin (Salford), Albert Kelly (Hull KR), Nick Rawsthorne (Halifax), Cameron Scott (Bradford)
PREDICTION: 2nd (Grand Final Winners)
COACH: Tony Smith
LAST YEAR: 1st
The Wolves were so close yet so far in both domestic finals last year and Coach Tony Smith has added a sprinkling of talent to his ranks. Out goes street-fighting man Chris Sandow and in comes Kevin Brown at half-back. Time will tell whether Brown offers the flare of his predecessor but watch out for Declan Patton if he does have a dip in form. Dom Crosby and Andre Savelio are canny signings and will offer strength and power. However, I still feel it’ll be another year of playing the proverbial bridesmaids for Warrington.
NEW SIGNINGS: Matty Blythe (Bradford), Kevin Brown (Widnes), Mike Cooper (St George), Dom Crosby (Wigan), Andre Savelio (St Helens)
COACH: Daryl Powell
LAST YEAR: 5th
Castleford have all the potential on paper to cause opposition problems in 2017. They’ve recruited some attacking personnel in Zak Hardaker and Greg Eden and considering they already have Ben Roberts, Rangi Chase and Luke Gale in their armory, some expansive play will be on show. We can expect them to make inroads in the League but I sense a cup run is more likely and so I’m backing them to win the Challenge Cup this season.
NEW SIGNINGS: Greg Eden (Brisbane), Tuoyo Egodo (London, loaned to Oldham), Zak Hardaker (Leeds loan), Daniel Igbinedion (Oxford), Larne Patrick (Huddersfield), Jesse Sene-Lefao (Cronulla), Jake Trueman (Bradford)
PREDICTION: 4th (Challenge Cup Winners)
COACH: Keiron Cunningham
LAST YEAR: 4th
Saints managed to rediscover some form after an indifferent start to 2016. While quality can still be seen within the squad through the likes of James Roby and Jonny Lomax, this certainly isn’t the St Helens’ class of a decade ago. Luke Douglas and Ryan Morgan offer more grunt in an already strong pack but frankly the signings of Matty Smith and Tommy Lee are hardly likely to set pulses racing. Neverthless, they will remain a threat as always and expect them to beat a few sides.
NEW SIGNINGS: Luke Douglas (Gold Coast), Tommy Lee (Salford), Ryan Morgan (Melbourne), Matty Smith (Wigan), Adam Walker (Hull KR)
COACH: Brian McDermott
LAST YEAR: 1st Qualifiers
2016 was a disaster for the Rhinos as the post Sinfield/Peacock era began with a series of defeats. Brian McDermott has said previously: Good teams don’t become bad overnight and I expect the Rhinos to improve in 2017 with a more consistent campaign. Losing Jamie Segeyaro is a blow to both Leeds and the Super League but watch out for his replacement: Matt Parcell at hooker.
NEW SIGNINGS: Cory Aston (Sheffield), Jack Ormondroyd (Featherstone), Matt Parcell (Manly)
COACH: Laurent Frayssinous
LAST YEAR: 6th
A huge turnover of players has occurred after a poor campaign last season for the Dragons. Big names such as Dave Taylor and Glenn Stewart have been replaced with the likes of Sam Moa and Luke Walsh who may offer more consistency, something the Dragons definitely need in terms of their form too. Watch out for the returning Krisnan Inu at centre in a year which will be one of consolidation for the Dragons.
NEW SIGNINGS: Greg Bird (Gold Coast), Luke Burgess, Brayden Williame (both Manly), Sam Moa (Sydney Roosters), Mickael Simon (Wakefield), Iain Thornley (Hull KR), Luke Walsh (St Helens)
COACH: Chris Chester
LAST YEAR: 8th
Wakefield’s impressive rise up into the Super 8s was a great feelgood story last year. Chris Chester teams up with John Kear in 2017 and that could prove a masterstroke. Added to that is the signing of Sam Williams, who will look to form a lethal partnership with FC oldboy: Jacob Miller. I think they’ll sneak a place into the Super 8s once again.
NEW SIGNINGS: Mitch Allgood (Hull KR), Mason Caton-Brown (Salford), Scott Grix, Craig Huby, Kyle Wood (all Huddersfield), Keegan Hirst (Batley), Sam Williams (Canberra)
COACH: Neil Jukes
LAST YEAR: 2nd Qualifiers
Super League’s new boys will be looking to improve on their last campaign in the top flight way back in 2005. I’m pretty certain they will with some great signings on top of a squad with good chemistry. Lead by local stalwart Mickey Higham, as an unknown quantity they will undoubtedly shock a few sides this season. Survival is the minimum goal and I expect they will achieve this.
NEW SIGNINGS: Ben Crooks (Castleford, loan), James Green (Hull KR), Ryan Hampshire (Wigan), Eloi Pelissier, Glenn Stewart (both Catalans), Dave Thompson (Warrington), Atelea Vea (St Helens), Lachlan Burr (Bradford), Curtis Naughton (Hull, loan)
COACH: Ian Watson
LAST YEAR: 5th Qualifiers
Can we mention Salford’s exploits from October again? I expect the ‘Good Doctor’ Koukash will be more than happy to embrace a year of consistency after the roller-coaster of 2016. The Red Devils have placed an emphasis on signing team players; Lama Tasi and Lee Mossop certainly embody that but time will tell regarding Todd Carney. Nevertheless, I don’t expect another Million Pound Game appearance this season.
NEW SIGNINGS: Kris Brining (York), Lee Mossop (Wigan), Daniel Murray (Warrington), Lama Tasi (St Helens), Todd Carney (Catalans), Kris Welham (Bradford)
COACH: Denis Betts
LAST YEAR: 7th
Make no mistake about it, for all of Denis Betts’ optimism, losing Kevin Brown to local rivals Warrington is a bitter blow and could really compromise their fortunes. Losing Joe Mellor to injury only showcases the squad’s lack of depth. I expect the Viking’s recruitment is far from complete and they may need to add numbers if they’re going to beat the drop. In the meantime, youth talent such as Tom Gilmore and Danny Craven will be expected to step up to the plate.
NEW SIGNINGS: Tom Armstrong (Leigh), Tom Olbison (Bradford)
COACH: Rick Stone
LAST YEAR: 3rd Qualifiers
In all honesty, there is a distinct lack of quality among the Giants’ recruits for the new season. I’m not convinced the Bradford quartet offer the quality to compete in Super League, nor do I think Rick Stone has the depth in his squad to deal with the inevitable injuries that will occur. It could be a difficult season and players such as ex-FC player Danny Brough will be expected to lead the line.
NEW SIGNINGS: Paul Clough, Dale Ferguson, Lee Gaskell , Adam O’Brien, (all Bradford), Jake Mamo (Newcastle Knights), Shannon Wakeman (Illawarra Cutters)