The wait is over – Super League is back with a bang tonight as Widnes host Wakefield and Leeds take on Hull KR.
But what does the rest of the season have in store?
The minor premiership is likely to be between Warrington, Wigan and St Helens. Wigan are under a new coach in Shaun Wane, and I think they may struggle to keep pace with the Wolves and Saints, who have a host of exciting youngsters with another year under their belt.
Huddersfield have been there or thereabouts in recent years, and Nathan Brown will be keen to go out on a high, but it all depends on their luck with injuries – the loss of Danny Brough mid-season last term damaged any hopes they had of topping the table.
My dark horses are Hull, who enter a new era under new chairmanship, new coach and a host of new players. If Peter Gentle can get them to gel quickly, and they start to put in some consistent performances, they could pose some problems to the top sides.
Hull’s progress could put Leeds and Catalan’s top six berths under threat. The Rhinos picked it up when it mattered last season, but they have the distraction of the World Club Challenge early on, and if they start the season like they did last year, they may find themselves falling further down the league ladder.
Catalan have Leon Pryce, and will no doubt be looking to improve their away form, but they won’t be an unknown quantity this term, to the extent they were in 2011.
Another man who won’t be as much of an unknown quantity is Castleford’s Rangi Chase, who will possibly be the most man marked player in Super League this season. It will be between the Tigers and Hull KR for that final play-off place, although I expect those two to be closer to the bottom five, rather than the top seven.
For me, the bottom 5 – Bradford, London, Salford, Wakefield and Widnes – could all finish in any of the bottom 5 positions, depending on luck with injuries, and which of the other teams they can pick points up against. Both Wakefield and Widnes have seen huge player turnover and it could take a while for them to get together, but they should go better than most people are predicting.
A lot of London’s expectations depend on how well Craig Gower plays, particularly with Michael Witt. For Bradford, they have two new half backs in Luke Gale and Jarrod Sammut, but if they suffer a few bad results early doors, then the fans could soon be on the back of coach Mick Potter after a few disappointing seasons and a fall from grace. Not much has been said of Salford, with most people left red-faced by the City Reds last term when predicting a top eight spot that never materialised.
Here are my predictions:
1. St Helens
9. Hull KR
A few of our contributors have put together their 1-14 predictions – what do you think?
9. Hull KR
3. St Helens
6. Hull KR
10. Hull FC
2. St Helens
7. Hull FC
8. Hull KR
Leave your 1-14 in the comments box, and we may revisit them during the season to see who is the most accurate!