Four Super League teams that will be challenging this season
With the new Super League season getting ever closer, Coral preview who the contenders could be when the business end draws close, after an interesting pre-season.
Shaun Wane’s team are always going to be there or thereabouts in October, though are 3/1 favourites to lift the Grand Final trophy.
Despite losing 28-12 to St Helens in a friendly earlier this month, Wane is confident that the team will improve. The coach has made the brave move not to replace stand off Blake Green, who left at the end of last season, to return to the NRL with Melbourne Storm.
Instead he will put his faith in 20-year-old Wigan-born George Williams, who he says will have “all the time he needs” to secure his position.
This could well be an indicator to how Wigan approach this season. There seems to have been a shift of late in the way top clubs in Super League conduct their recruitment policy, often preferring to copy the NRL method and promote from within, placing an emphasis on youth.
Another club who will be desperate to win a trophy in 2015, after not even reaching a final last season. At 7/2 to win league leaders shield, they are expected to really mount a challenge, and coach Tony Smith is looking forward to what lies ahead with a number of new faces drafted in.
“It’s been as good as any pre-season while I’ve been in this country; very positive and very enthusiastic,” Smith said. “We’ve got a really good bunch of players who are just enjoying what they do, enjoying their training and enjoying preparing for a big season. I think a few changes both on and off the field with coaching staff has freshened us up.
“I think everything we’ve done in the past has been good but sometimes bringing in some fresh faces and making some changes does give a little bit of bounce in everybody’s step when they’re preparing for a new and tough season.
“It’s been a new challenge for a lot of players and there are some really good young players who have come through and brought some enthusiasm into the squad as well as the senior players who are looking forward to their biggest year so far.”
There is no reason why Saints can’t go all the way to a Grand Final win this season as well, though their first big test will come against South Sydney Rabbitohs in the World Club Championship. They are 80/1 to record a clean sweep of trophies this season.
Loose forward Jon Wilkin is keen for St Helens to pick up where they left off against Wigan in the Grand Final, and no doubt will play a key part in the club’s season.
“The key word is intensity. When we played Brisbane back in 2007, what stood out to me was the intensity level, it was beyond anything I had ever experienced before and I expect the same again,” Wilkin said. “It’s a huge start to the new era, it’s exciting and a great way to get the momentum started for the new season.”
It is a brave decision from coach Brian McDermott not to bring in more than just Australian prop Adam Cuthbertson and, despite a failed attempt to recruit Wigan’s Lee Mossop, he is confident that youngsters can help fill the holes left by Ben Jones-Bishop, Ian Kirke, Ryan Bailey and Chris Clarkson.
With elder statesmen Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire, once regarded as the golden generation in this Leeds team set to hang up their boots soon, McDermott accepts there is a responsibility to blood new talent. This could be evident this season, with the West Yorkshire club 9/2 to retain the Challenge Cup.
“I’d be hesitant to bring in someone in front of Brad Singleton, Josh Walters or Liam Sutcliffe and then you start looking at the lads below those like Ash Handley, Robbie Ward and Elliott Minchella, that’s where the future is for us,” McDermott said. “If you look at what the squad will look like in five or six years’ time, some of these fellas will have to be seasoned professionals by then.”