Leeds face tough Super League defence with Wigan and Saints to compete
Matt Haynes | February 2, 2016
With the new Super League season set to get underway, there is a keen sense of anticipation with many fans excited about who will win the major trophies.
Having charged their way to unparalleled success last season, winning every competition they entered, Leeds Rhinos start their campaign at home to Warrington, with Coral pricing them as odds-on 4/7 favourites for the win.
The West Yorkshire club have made considerable changes in the off-season, not least with long-standing skipper Kevin Sinfield retiring along with fellow stalwarts Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai.
Making Danny McGuire captain, along with the recruitment of Brett Ferres, Keith Galloway, Anthony Mullally and Beau Falloon, makes for a very interesting campaign, especially with the World Club Challenge imminent.
Will Wigan finally get some luck?
Arguably, one of the best teams in Super League, consistently over the past two seasons has been Wigan Warriors, with the club twice being the losing side in the Grand Final in consecutive campaigns.
At 5/2 to finally accomplish it this season, Wigan are the favourites and begin at home to Catalans Dragons, who they are heavily odds-on at 2/7 to beat.
It is hard to make a case for a more methodical coach in the competition in the form of Shaun Wane who has admitted to be completely oblivious to any external expectations.
“I don’t feel any outside pressure, if I’m perfectly honest,” said Wane. “I put a huge amount of pressure on myself because I’m in this job to win things.”
“If I didn’t think they were capable of winning a competition, it wouldn’t bother me, not winning a trophy,” he continued.
“But when I know what they are capable of and we don’t win anything, it annoys me. I know what this team is capable of.”
The Cherry and Whites also welcome back Sam Tomkins this season, who is considered by many to be the best player in the world, following a stint in the NRL where he has considerably honed his skillset.
Tomkins, 8/1 favourite to win the Man of Steel award, also admits that he doesn’t feel there is any pressure on him. “There is no point to prove,” he said.
“I will hopefully come back and carry on where I left off. I do not feel there is any pressure on me.
“There is pressure when you are a kid or when you move to New Zealand but being back here is definitely not a pressure situation for me.”
Can the Saints march?
Perhaps shock Grand Final winners in 2014, St Helens were also there or thereabouts last season and, as such are odds-on at 4/9 to beat Huddersfield Giants.
And, coach Keiron Cunningham is confident that his side are ready for the season ahead after some good preparation in anticipation.
“We have had a good pre-season and brought in players to give us some depth,” Cunningham said.
“The new boys have settled in, have a good work ethic and have trained hard. They understand the culture here and how we want to play.
“If they do the right things, train hard and put their bodies on the line then the players will be happy with them. We’re in good shape and excited about the challenge. Long term we will be a tough team to beat.”