After the highs of the Rugby League World Cup towards the back end of 2022, we are back to domestic action in 2023 with the Super League which returns for a new season this week as 12 teams once again embark on a journey they hope will end at Old Trafford.
That campaign finished there for St Helens last term when they landed the crown for a fourth time in succession. They will attempt to win it for a fifth time but a number of teams will feel they have strengthened well enough to trouble them.
2022 – St Helens
2021 – St Helens
2020 – St Helens
2019 – St Helens
2018 – Wigan Warriors
2017 – Leeds Rhinos
2016 – Wigan Warriors
2015 – Leeds Rhinos
2014 – St Helens
2013 – Wigan Warriors
We continue with a normal 27 round season this year, one of which comes at the Magic Weekend. 12 teams are in the competition and we are largely back to the same rules which the competition had prior to the pandemic. The playoff format remains the same as last season with six teams progressing to the postseason. Third hosts sixth and fourth host fifth in straight knockout in the first week of the play-offs with the winners progressing to the semi-finals to travel to one of the top two. The leaders play the lowest remaining side. The two semi-final winners meet in the Grand Final at Old Trafford on October 14. The team that finishes bottom of the table will be relegated to the Championship.
St Helens are the 2/1 favourites to keep hold of the crown at Old Trafford at the end of the season. There hasn’t been a huge turnover of players with just Tee Ritson and Wesley Bruines coming in while Regan Grace, Josh Simm and Kyle Amor have departed the Totally Wicked Stadium. The big change at St Helens has been in the coaching department with Kristian Wolff having departed the scene. Paul Wellens is his replacement and he is under pressure to continue the good work. St Helens will be playing catch up early in the season with them competing in the World Club Challenge but they look worthy favourites.
Wigan Warriors looked like they would be the team who would pit their wits against St Helens in the Grand Final last season but that didn’t materialise after they went down in the semi-final. They are 3/1 to put that right and take the title down here. It hasn’t been a massive turnover in players at the DW Stadium either. Centres Jake Wardle and Toby King have come in with Ryan Hampshire also recruited while Jake Bibby, John Bateman, Ollie Partington and Tommy Leuluai have departed. There’s nothing to suggest that the Warriors can’t be there or thereabouts if they get some luck with injuries.
The Leeds Rhinos were beaten in the Grand Final last season after an excellent second half of the campaign and if they start on better terms with the rest of the competition this term it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them deep in the mix when the play-offs come around. They will have to settle quickly though because a number of players have come and gone with the likes of Zak Hardaker, Brad Dwyer, Liam Sutcliffe, Matt Prior and Tom Briscoe all leaving and Justin Sangare and Derrell Olpherts with Super League experience coming in along with Sam Lisone from the NRL. It is tough to see four teams better than them so 8/1 feels a big price.
The Warrington Wolves are the same price to go from second bottom to a first Super League title. That feels unlikely just because of the margin of improvement that is needed before we even worry about whether they are actually good enough. Daryl Powell certainly moved to beef up his forward pack with the arrival of Sam Kasiano, Gil Dudson and Josh McGuire, although the latter has copped himself with a seven-match ban to start the season. Josh Drinkwater comes in too while there is a return for Matty Russell. As you would expect after a hugely disappointing season a number of players have left with Gareth Widdop, Toby King, Oliver Holmes and Jack Hughes all among them. They’re not for me.
You can get 10/1 on the Catalans Dragons going from fourth back to Old Trafford where their campaign the season before last ended. They were beaten by St Helens on that occasion and you sense that was their big chance. On paper at least they don’t look nearly as strong this term with some big players in Kasiano, Dudson, Drinkwater, Dean Whare, Joe Chan and Samisoni Langi all having left. Tom Johnstone, Manu Ma’u and Siosiua Taukeiaho are appealing signings but unless the French depth players have come on sufficiently a top six spot might be the best Catalans can hope for.
Huddersfield Giants finished third in the regular season last year but couldn’t get the better of the Salford Red Devils in the first round of the play-offs and they should be motivated by that to go better and justify 14/1 quotes on them for the Grand Final. The Giants reached the Challenge Cup final last season so more than announced themselves as one of the best teams in the competition and look a great deal stronger with huge signings such as Jake Connor, Esan Masters and Kevin Naiqama. With the exception of Danny Levi, they don’t look to have lost anyone they would have wanted to keep so the Giants should go very well.
It was a disappointing campaign for Hull FC last season and that cost Brett Hodgson his job. The Black and Whites have call on Tony Smith to come to the other side of the city and the club fixer will look to stabilise and improve. The likes of Jake Trueman, Brad Dwyer and Liam Sutcliffe should help with that much Jake Connor, Luke Gale and Manu Ma’u look big shoes to fill. Hull have underachieved for too long and don’t look sufficiently stronger to reel me in here.
You can get 20/1 with the sponsors for the Castleford Tigers to win the Super League this season. They were the last team out of the play-offs last term and will want to at least improve on that and finish in the top six this time around. Gareth Widdop looks a more than capable replacement for Jake Trueman should he arrive with his NRL and England form rather than his Warrington one and his half-back pairing with Jacob Miller could be particularly fruitful. Lee Radford tasted the big time as assistant coach with Samoa in the World Cup and will look to utilise what he learnt there with his Tigers side. They could be the sleepers of the field.
Salford Red Devils were 80 minutes away from Old Trafford last season but the layers clearly think that was a freak season which won’t be repeated as they are 33/1 for glory this time around. It hasn’t been a huge turnover in terms of key players coming and going from the AJ Bell Stadium though and with a year of work under Paul Rowley, the Red Devils shouldn’t be underestimated. The exciting back line has remained intact for Salford and with a competitive set of forwards I wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Devils have another good campaign. Whether it is good enough to reach Old Trafford I’m not so sure though.
The Leigh Leopards are back in the Super League after dominating the Championship last season and Adrian Lam has added plenty of Super League experience and quality to give his side the best chance of staying up. Ricky Leutele, Tom Briscoe, Zak Hardaker and Gareth O’Brien provide quality to the backs while Oliver Holmes, Robbie Mulhern and Jack Hughes are workhorses in the forward pack. I don’t see Leigh challenging for the title but I don’t see them going down either.
Two seasons ago Hull KR were 80 minutes from Old Trafford and now they are 50/1 to win the title, the second biggest price of any team in the league. You would have to say the level of player that has been allowed to leave Craven Park is sufficiently higher than those who have been brought in but they played much of last term without Mikey Lewis and if he can stay fit and have an impact then the KR season should be good enough to stave off the threat of relegation but perhaps not quite enough for the top six.
Wakefield Trinity are the 100/1 outsiders for the title this season and rather than worry about that you would think that Mark Applegarth is going to have to perform something of a miracle to keep them in Super League because in Tom Johnstone, Jacob Miller, David Fifita and Tinirau Arona some big players have left and not a huge amount has come in to replace them. You’ll always get effort and commitment from any Wakefield side but this squad looks a good way below the rest in quality. You have to fear for them this term.
OPEN AN ACCOUNT WITH 888SPORT AND BET £10 TO GET £30 IN FREE BETS PLUS A £10 CASINO BONUS! PERFECT OFFER TO USE ON THE SUPER LEAGUE! CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO JOIN. USE CODE 30F. NEW ACCOUNTS ONLY. 18+ T&Cs apply (See image for significant terms). Gamble Aware.
I think the top two in the market are fair enough but we saw last season that just because they finished in the top two in the table it doesn’t mean that will face off at Old Trafford. I still expect both St Helens and Wigan Warriors to be in the mix this season and I expect good things from the Leeds Rhinos too but behind them there are four or five teams who will fancy their chances of going well. One team I can’t ignore though is the Huddersfield Giants.
Ian Watson got them to the Challenge Cup final a year ago and third in the Super League table. His team played a percentage game, which they were often criticised for, but it worked. He now has the mercurial Jake Connor on board to open teams up and with the likes of Kevin Naiqama and Jake Bibby in scoring areas and Esan Marsters and Nathan Peats bolstering the squad Huddersfield look very strong. I still expect Huddersfield to be strong defensively but with ball carriers and skilful players to open defences up they should be more dynamic in attack and are the main dangers to the front two in the betting in my eyes.
Top Six Finish
Those four sides I mentioned above are almost sure to fill four of the top six spots barring something quite extraordinary but there are still two places up for grabs and with the Catalans Dragons looking sufficiently weaker to me I do think both are wide open. Castleford Tigers will fancy their half-back pairing of Jacob Miller and Gareth Widdop will open the door to them hitting one of those places and I wouldn’t disagree but I see no reason why Salford Red Devils can’t at least emulate what they achieved last season.
They started the campaign slowly, as you would expect with Paul Rowley needing a bit of time to gel some new signings and implement his risk and reward approach on his new side but when things clicked not many were better than Salford over the second part of the season. One of the reasons for that was the form of Brodie Croft and people around Salford still believe if the Man of Steel was available for the semi-final they would have been going to Old Trafford. If he stays fit I fully expect Salford to establish themselves in the top six once again and maybe this time reach Old Trafford.
I would usually call this relegation but with everything up in the air about what will definitively happen at the end of the season I’ll call it finish bottom. It isn’t a market I’m often hugely desperate to get involved in because generally what comes up tends to go down. That was the case with Toulouse Olympique last season, a side who were miles better than the Championship but never really good enough for Super League. I don’t see that being the case with the Leigh Leopards though. They look to have recruited strongly enough to stay off the bottom.
That means fears have to be in place for Wakefield Trinity. They have seen far too much quality leave at the end of last season and nothing like a sufficient amount of talent coming in to compensate for that. While one or two young stars have the potential to improve into something special, as a collective it has to be said that Wakefield look a distinct margin behind the rest, as shown in a pre-season 56-0 thumping by Hull FC who I don’t see as being a top six side this season. I would be very surprised if Wakefield don’t prop the rest up this season.
Bevan French was the top tryscorer in the competition last season and it is probably no surprise that he is the favourite to top the charts this time around but there are some decent wingers in Super League and there is always too much noise about French leaving for me to plough hard earned into him. Ken Sio had a brilliant season for Salford last year and should go well again while Joe Burgess on the other flank is pretty potent. Tommy Makinson, Ash Handley, David Fusitu’a and Greg Eden should all be considered but I’ll keep it in Wigan.
While French was scoring 31 tries last term, over on the other flank Liam Marshall was helping himself to 22 and if you consider there was one match against Hull FC where he scored seven tries, had the attacks come down the other flank for even half of those tries there would have been nothing between the two wingers. There is no John Bateman at Wigan this season so attacks might go the other side this term with Liam Farrell combining potentially with Toby King for Marshall to go over so at four times the price I’ll go with the Wigan left winger over the right one.
Man of Steel
One of the more popular Super League markets ahead of a new season is the Man of Steel one. Brodie Croft came from nowhere to win this a year ago but half-backs have now won this in four of the last six seasons if you include Paul McShane in that position as well as hooker. The other two winners in that span were full-backs so history would suggest we can count out the forwards and with the NRL style point system in operation I think that is more the case here.
There might be an exceptional forward who goes well but over the course of 27 matches I think we’re looking at the backs to accumulate the most points and as long as Jake Connor can stay clean of injuries and suspensions I expect him to be very hard to stop. Whether he plays full-back or stand-off for the Huddersfield Giants, he is such a livewire that I don’t expect there to be many matches where he doesn’t score points and I’d imagine there will be a large number where he collects two or three in a side I expect to go very well. He’s way too big in this market at 20/1.
Back Huddersfield Giants to win Super League XVIII (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 with Bet365 (1/3 1-2)
Back Salford Red Devils Top 6 Finish for a 2/10 stake at 3.75 with Sky Bet
Back Wakefield Trinity to finish bottom for a 3/10 stake at 2.88 with Bet365
Back L.Marshall Top Tryscorer (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 17.00 with Sky Bet (1/4 1-4)
Back J.Connor Man of Steel for a 1/10 stake at 21.00 with Betfred
Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2023