Editor James Gordon and reporter Zack Wilson run down the 12 Super League clubs and how they’ll fare in 2015.
Don’t forget to check out our full Club-by-Club Super League Preview here.
Zack: “This is an interesting season for Cas. They have one of the best coaches in the game in Daryl Powell, but there have been some big players leaving the club in the close season. The loss of Daryl Clark would hit any team hard. What the Tigers do have, though, is a great spirit of professionalism and togetherness, as well as intelligent and committed players like Michael Shenton and Liam Finn. How Luke Gale and Ben Roberts fit in will be crucial. The Tigers played some great stuff last season, and fans will hope that 2014 was the first step on a ladder of progression, rather than a flash in the pan.” Prediction: 7th
James: “Daryl Powell is worth a fair few points on his own, and I’m sure there are a few other clubs in Super League who would rather have him than who they’ve got. Clark is a big loss and a lot will depend on how Scott Moore goes. While it will be hard for the Tigers to repeat last season’s heroics, they’re a sure contender for the top eight.” Prediction: 8th
Zack: “It is impossible to look at Catalans without considering one player: Todd Carney. The often troubled Australian half-back could turn out to be Super League’s most influential signing this season, though. The Dragons have a big, aggressive pack, as ever, and with Carney adding a touch of magic, they could really be strong in 2015. The returning Remi Casty and the exciting Morgan Escare will be key to their hopes, but I predict a big season for them.” Prediction: 3rd
James: “Catalans could have the stand-out player in the league in Todd Carney, and with Morgan Escare, they already have one of the most exciting players around. They got off to a very slow start last season, and ensuring that doesn’t happen again must be their first priority. The biggest ask for the Dragons is picking up points away from home – they don’t tend to do that very often against the big boys, and are prone to slip ups against Super League’s lesser lights.” Prediction: 5th
Zack: “Scotland skipper Danny Brough will remain Huddersfield’s lynchpin, but some of the pressure on the tough little half-back may well be relieved by the acquisition of Jamie Ellis from Cas. The Giants have an astute coach in the shape of Paul Anderson, a man who demands high standards from his players. Craig Huby adds footballing quality as well as aggression in the front row. The Giants will not struggle to make the top eight, and could go close to major honours this season.” Prediction: 5th
James: “Huddersfield are battle hardened having been mixing it with the big boys over the past few years, and picking up the league leaders shield in that time. The intensity will step up a notch this year, and it will be a big test of their credentials as to whether they can do that week in week out. The Giants will make the eight, and their main challenge is ensuring they’re within touching distance of the top four come round 23.” Prediction: 7th
Zack: “The signings of Leon Pryce and Marc Snyed, as well as veteran Italian-Australian forward Mark Minichiello are a real sign of intent from the Airlie Birds. As has been usual for the past few seasons, though, expectations are massive in East Yorkshire, and whether this squad can match them remains moot. Serious questions remain about coach Lee Radford, and, ultimately, the uncertainty surrounding his suitability for the post may undo their hopes of reaching the top eight.” Prediction: 11th
James: “Both Hull clubs are so difficult to predict, and I’ll no doubt get a bit of grief whichever way I go with my predictions as both sides could go either way. Hull need to get their act together, as they should be a top eight side based on the infrastructure they have. Pryce and Sneyd are key signings, but a bad start and there’ll be a lot of pressure on Lee Radford – and with the new structure, once you’re unsure a coach isn’t the right man for the job, you’ll have to act quickly.” Prediction: 9th
Zack: “Rovers have 13 new signings to bed in, with a hugely different squad in place than last season. New skipper Terry Campese promises much, but there remain question marks about his fitness. Keiran Dixon, Kenny Sio, Darrell Goulding and Josh Mantellato all add quality and, crucially, some real pace to the backline. Albert Kelly and Maurice Blair have skills, but some in Australia have questioned as to whether their temperament is right for Super League. Rookie coach Chris Chester also remains something of a doubt. Nevertheless, the quality players they have signed should see them scrape the top eight.” Prediction: 8th
James: “Rovers are one of those teams that could quite as easily finish 6th as 11th. They’ve got a lot of new players, and it’s only on the basis of them needing time to gel that I’ve gone for them to finish lower down the table. If the likes of Dixon, Campese and Kelly do click, then the Rovers will be tough to beat, especially at home. Like their cross-city rivals, they have an inexperienced coach, and that could be their undoing.” Prediction: 11th.
Zack: “Leeds are a squad which evolves rather then changes dramatically from year to year, and there have been few changes at Headingley. While this would perhaps have worked to their advanatage in the past, the core of this Rhinos team is getting old together, and an over-reliance on names like Burrow, McGuire, Sinfield and Peacock could be their downfall. They are no mugs, though, and will certainly make the eight, but I can’t see them winning silverware this time around. They will be keen to disprove that assertion, however.” Prediction: 6th
James: “Leeds can’t just turn it on for the back end of the season like they have traditionally done, but the new format might just suit them and their experienced players. There’s no doubting that they can match the intensity of anyone week in week out, and the week off they’ll enjoy early in the season while their main rivals battle it out in the World Club Series could prove invaluable when it comes to making a good start.” Prediction: 4th
Salford Red Devils
Zack: “Predictably, Salford have recruited extensively in the close-season, giving coach Iestyn Harris a job in integrating new talent into his squad. Michael Dobson could be just the kind of foil that Rangi Chase needs to find some magical form. Ben Jones-Bishop could be a really exciting signing, but I predict lots of fizz and fire at times, but overall progress being hampered by inconsistency. Failure to deliver this time around could see Harris pay a price, perhaps quicker than expected.” Prediction: 10th
James: “Salford must deliver for their owner this season, and they have a 1-6-7 combination that will be the envy of most of the league. I still think that stability is one of the key elements to progression in Super League, but talking to Iestyn Harris in pre-season has convinced me that Salford seem to have that about them within the squad. They have the benefit of a lot of home games early doors, and that could give them the crucial good start all clubs need.” Prediction: 6th
Zack: “Saints are the champions, and will be looking for a repeat performance this time around. Their season could depend on two key issues: how Keiron Cunningham settles into his role as head coach, and how well Travis Burns fits in. Rumours of indiscipline dogged Burns at Hull KR, and Cunningham will want to make sure his new stand-off gets on with the job in hand. Cunningham has all the attributes to be a top coach, along with some valuable experience and a great handle on Saints’ heritage and culture. They will be there or thereabouts when it comes to tropies being handed out.” Prediction: 1st
James: “Saints will be up there for all honours again this season, and they’ll want to bring home the World Club Challenge in front of a sell out crowd. They will want to make sure that doesn’t cause them to drop points early in the season, as they don’t want to be playing catch up. The addition of Burns and Vea adds to a team that won the league last year – though I’m sure they’ll find it tougher going this year.” Prediction: 2nd.
Zack: “This season will be a battle for James Webster and his Wildcats, and it seems likely that they will end up playing the middle eight when the league splits. Taulima Tautai’s departure to Wigan leaves a big hole in the pack. Craig Hall is an underrated player, however, and his acquisition from Hull KR gives them quality and versatility. A good Challenge Cup is perhaps the best they can look forward to in 2015, though.” Prediction: 12th
James: “They’ve been written off, Wakefield, and that will suit them down to the ground. They’re being discussed as sure fire write-offs for the qualifiers after the split, but there’s a reason they’ve managed to stay in Super League for so long. They know how to. They won’t finish in the top eight, but I still expect them to be dining at Super League’s top table come 2016.” Prediction: 12th
Zack: “Warrington are looking very good, after their close-season recruitment saw them add Ashton Sims and Daryl Clark to an already fearsome pack. Clark’s ability out of dummy half will add a real edge to the Wolves’ attack, while fans can expect fireworks from Sims. They also have one of Super League’s most astute coaches in Tony Smith. A tendency to lose the games where trophies are on the line seems to be still in place, though, and they will hope that the new signings add a steelier will-to-win to their ranks. A good performance in the World Club Challenge might well be the spark that their season needs.” Prediction: 2nd
James: “The addition of Sims and Clark will provide the added X Factor that Warrington have been needing. They finished top of the tree a few seasons ago but chasing that made Tony Smith realise it took too much out of his side. This year, finishing top carries extra importance for the play-offs, and so expect them to take finishing first just as seriously as they did in 2011.” Prediction: 1st
Zack: “Widnes can always entertain, but their defence has been poor in recent seasons, and they need to improve dramatically in that area in order to improve their league position. Kevin Brown is one of Super League’s top halves, a man who can control a game well, and who deserves greater international recognition. The Vikings will be targeting a top eight spot, and have the ability to do it. Whether they are defensively and mentally resilient enough to do it, though, remains a big question.” Prediction: 9th
James: “Widnes have improved year-on-year and they should do that again this year. It’s just a case for them of how much others around them have improved. They started like a house on fire last season, and they’ll need to do that again. The mid-season blip they suffered last year must not be repeated, otherwise they’ll have no chance of reaching the top eight.” Prediction: 10th
Zack: “Shaun Wane’s men do not have quite the same air of indomitability about them that they have had in recent seasons. The Grand Final loss last season, when Welsh prop Ben Flower’s mind imploded in such dramatic fashion, has left them angry and hungry. But questions remain about using George Williams as a first-choice stand-off. They certainly have a fearsome pack, however, with the addition of Larne Patrick and Taulima Tautai adding some size and aggression. They will make the play-offs, but whether they can go all the way remains to be seen.” Prediction: 4th
James: “There are some question marks about Shaun Wane’s squad, but there have been questions about Wigan’s credentials in quite a few of the recent seasons, and they always come up with the right answers. Matty Smith is pivotal this year in holding their side together, especially alongside the youngster George Williams, and Wigan will be challenging for honours once again. Prediction: 3rd