The wait is almost over, this Thursday Saints and Leeds kick off the new Super League season in front of the Sky Cameras at Langtree Park.
With recruitment now all done it’s time to have a look at where the value lies in the Ante Post markets.
We’ve already looked at the handicap lists and picked out Wakefield on that market so there’s one team we expect to go well this year – I certainly think Trinity can make the top eight and 2/1 for that rates as good value to me.
Anyway, time to get down to the big boys, you may be getting tired of me saying this but I can’t stress how important it is to check bookmaker rules before placing your bet, some bets will only count the 23-game regular season whilst some will include the seven games in the Super 8s.
For our preview we’re going to use Super League sponsors Betfred’s market to finish top after 23 games. Most outright markets will settle after 23 games, with the exception of a top four finish and top try scorer, but please check first.
Super League Champions Wigan are worthy favourites at 5/2 with Betfred to top the regular season table, they’ve recruited very well over the winter and should have big names Sam Tomkins and Michael McIlorum back by Easter.
Dom Manfredi will be a big miss but readers of my top try scorer will know how highly I regard Joe Burgess; Lewis Tierney also filled in admirably at the Grand Final and scored tries for Scotland in the Four Nations. Add to this the acquisition of speedster Morgan Escare from Catalans and the Warriors have plenty strength in depth. Their pack will be a match for anyone’s in Super League, particularly when Micky Mac returns, and they are spoilt for choice in the second row.
In the centres Anthony Gelling has grown in to one of the stand-out players in the competition and it all points to a good year for Shaun Wane, surely the England job will call after the World Cup.
Two words of caution, Wigan are notoriously slow starters and tend to save gas for the business end of the season. No team that has won the Grand Final has finished top the season after this decade. This trend has to finish soon and I think it could be Wigan that go into the Super 8s as number one seeds. The World Club Challenge can cause massive disruption early in the season though.
Second in the betting are Tony Smith’s Warrington. They probably should have lost their ‘nearly man’ tag last season at Old Trafford but the wait goes on. For all the Wolves won the hubcap last year, it was Hull FC who most bookies paid out on for finishing top after 23 games. The Wire again look strong and Dom Crosby will add more beef to their pack. Expect Kurt Gidley to pull the strings in the backs but whilst they are a live danger, the 3/1 quote isn’t for me.
No juicy odds on Hull FC this year, 5/1 for them to top the table and whilst they should again make the top four, I think they peaked in 2016 (I am here to be proved wrong though).
Splitting last year’s Challenge Cup finalists are St Helens at 9/2. I have to admit I’m unsure about St Helens this season and feel they could be pipped to the top four by Castleford. Losing Matty Smith before the season has even started is a massive blow, say what you want about Smith and he’ll show you his two Grand Final rings. Smith played in the Grand Final every year he was at the DW Stadium and Saints would benefit massively from his experience. If he can get fully fit for the Summer he could have a big say.
2015 Treble winners Leeds get a massive 9/1 quote to finish top and will miss James Segeyaro. They should make the top eight this year but they are a club in transition. Rhinos fans can get 2/1 for them to make the play-off semi-finals, but not for me.
Off-season talking horses have been Castleford. They have been all the rage in the handicap betting and get a 10/1 quote to top the table. Let us not forget that in 2014 the Tigers were one win away from winning the shield when they lost at Catalans, so this is nothing new to the Fords. Zak Hardaker will be a great asset but they will miss Denny Solomona’s tries. They’ll especially be a threat if they can keep their key players fit, but for all they can go to Leeds and score 50, they always have a shocker in their locker too and are just too inconsistent. Tigers fans can get 2/1 that they make the play-off semi-finals and 11/2 to reach Old Trafford.
There will be a great battle in West Yorkshire with rivals Wakefield as the good times could be back for both clubs.
One team that could struggle are French outfit Catalans. I haven’t been impressed with their recruitment and whilst home form may keep them safe from the bottom four, the 33/1 to finish top isn’t for me. I feel the same about Huddersfield too who were lucky to escape relegation last season. They finished bottom last year and I see no real improvement, making the 5/1 good value for them to finish their again. It’s 11/10 that they finish in the bottom four.
Salford would have made the eight last year but for the points deduction and you can get 13/8 for them to finish 8th or above this time around. Dreamers can get 150/1 for the Red Devils topping the table but I have them battling it out with Catalans and Widnes for the final two spots in the Super 8s.
Widnes will miss Kevin Brown but go well at home, it’ll be hit and miss where they finish and you can get 9/4 on them making the top eight. Losing Brown may just confine them to 10th spot but it’ll be close.
Finally come Super League new boys Leigh Centurions. It’s great to see a new club in our premier competition but it’ll be tough for what is an ageing Leigh squad. Players like Gareth Hock, Mickey Higham and Harrison Hansen are seasoned pros but certainly aren’t getting any younger. They have made some great signings in the likes of Glenn Stewart and Ryan Hampshire but I think the Centurions could be back battling in the middle eight come August.
Leigh fans can get 7/4 for their side to make the top eight but this will be a real baptism of fire in a very strong competition. One player to watch at the Leigh Sports Village though is Dane Weston and the prop could be worth a look if you can see any prices to make the Dream Team.
So my finishing prediction is:
I’d love to hear yours. Anyway we’ll be back on Thursday for our first betting review of the season as Leeds visit Saints. Click here to go to the Betfred website and look at all their 2017 season markets.
Strap yourself in for the ride, it’s nearly here! As always please gamble responsibly.