This week sees the start of another fantastic season of rugby league. The 2019/20 Super League kicks off on Thursday night when Warrington Wolves face the dubious prospect of having to entertain last year’s Super League champions, St Helens.
St Helens dominated last season and ended up topping the Super League 12 points ahead of their nearest rivals. But does Justin Holbrook’s team have what it takes to pick up their 14th league title?
Whilst the team will still be missing the likes of Ben Barba, their strong squad still have all of the elements necessary to launch another successful campaign. With the likes of Jonny Lomax and Lachlan Coote, they have plenty of coverage in the full-back areas, and with James Roby and Danny Richardson still around, St Helens fans will get another dose of thrilling rugby.
All in all, the St Helens team have quality in all areas and from the Golden Boot winner Tom Makinson, to the recently returned Alex Walmsley, it’s easy to see why this team have the shortest price in the rugby league betting odds at all respected bookmakers.
However, anything can happen in rugby league, and there are a number of contenders who won’t be making it easy for St Helens. In particular it’s Warrington Wolves who will once again be leading the chase.
Steve Price’s team have recently hit the headlines by signing the scrum-half Matty Smith on loan from Catalan Dragons. He joins the likes of Blake Austin and Jason Clark who have just arrived in a bid to finally make it a successful year for Warrington Wolves.
It will undoubtedly be a period of transition for the team with so many new arrivals, but their squad is looking well balanced and isn’t short of experience. All of which could point to Warrington Wolves picking up their first league title since 1955.
Wigan Warriors will be hoping for a better season this time around. New coach, Adrian Lam’s team will be grateful that their captain Sean O’Loughlin won’t need surgery after his nasty pectoral injury.
But with a two-point deduction as the result of a salary cap technicality, it won’t be easy for this legendary rugby league side. It’s going to be fascinating to see how the fiery Zak Hardaker will fit into the new-look Wigan team, and the arrival of Jarrod Sammut could also help to boost the side’s attacking qualities. But whether they can catch up to St Helens remains to be seen.
Hull FC were on course to being real contenders last season. However, the team suffered a string of injuries that took their Super League campaign off the rails. Hull have made a couple of low-key signings such as Matty Dawson-Jones from Leigh, but it will still be the likes of Bureta Faraimo and Fetuli Talanoa who will keep things interesting.
Lee Radford’s team looked positive in their pre-season friendlies, and you can never discount any team who has the likes of Albert Kelly and Jake Connor in their ranks. But it’s looking like Hull FC’s inconsistency could mean that they will have to fight twice as hard to equal their third-placed finish in the Super League last season.
Although Catalans Dragons only have a 2018 Challenge Cup victory to their name, they could present St Helens with some difficulties this season. Steve McNamara’s team are facing plenty of off-field issues, but they will hope for an improved Super League campaign this time around.
This is because the Dragons have been bolstered by the arrival of new players like Sam Tomkins in attack and they can rely on Remi Casty to once again provide an excellent example of captaincy. However it’s important to remember that the Dragons have an ageing squad, and so this could easily be the team’s best chance to claim the Super League title for the foreseeable future.
In terms of the other contenders, Castleford Tigers will have to make do without Luke Gale, and the team have failed to add many new players to their squad. Salford Red Devils are still troubled by many financial issues that have limited their recruitment, and they can’t afford to keep relying on Jackson Hastings in every game.
Although St Helens are still the favourites to win back-to-back Super League titles, there remains a lot of rugby to be played and it’s going to be fascinating to see what happens.