This week marked exactly five weeks to go until the start of the 2023 Super League season.
But the Championship campaign is even closer than that as teams prepare to make the bid to join Super League in 2024 on the eve of IMG’s big changes and re-imagining of the sport.
So, as teams prepare for a big 2023 campaign, there is a host of friendlies pencilled in for January as you’d expect and the action gets underway this weekend.
There is one today where the Championship’s newest side Keighley Cougars journey down to take on Newcastle Thunder.
The Cougars are already outside contenders for the play-offs after some major signings including former Man of Steel Luke Gale.
However, the former Leeds Rhinos star will have to wait till he takes on former club Castleford Tigers in Jake Webster’s testimonial for his debut after leaving Hull FC.
However, new arrivals from Leigh Leopards, Hull KR and Wakefield Trinity could all feature in the shape of Mark Ioane, Ben Crooks and Sadiq Adebiyi.
Then on Sunday, at Belle Vue Wakefield Trinity take on Halifax Panthers in former Hull FC man Reece Lyne’s testimonial.
Wakefield have been tipped by many to go down in 2023 but have made some underrated signings such as Morgan Smith from Featherstone Rovers, Samisoni Langi from Catalans Dragons and two NRL signings in Renouf Atoni and Kevin Proctor.
They beat Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day and have an exciting new coach in the shape of Mark Applegarth.
It will be interesting to get a look at this Wakefield team again as the new season draws closer and whether they can shock a few in 2023.
Likewise, Halifax Panthers are gunning for a place in the top two of the Championship in 2023 after consecutive third place finishes.
It will be interesting to see them tested against Super League opposition especially with new signings like Will Maher of Hull KR and World Cup star Jake Maizen at the club.
Equally, it will be interesting to see Bradford Bulls for the first time in 2023.
They have made some major signings such as Leeds duo Jack Walker and Bodene Thompson as well as Michael Lawrence from Huddersfield Giants.
They take on Dewsbury Rams this weekend, who will want promotion to the Championship in 2023, so it will be an interesting first look at Mark Dunning’s Super League hopefuls.
Elsewhere, Barrow Raiders take on North Wales Crusaders, Swinton Lions play Midlands Hurricanes, Widnes Vikings host Rochdale Hornets, Whitehaven take on Workington and Doncaster and York meet.