We’re now one month out from the Super League opener with Warrington Wolves set to host Leeds Rhinos on February 16th in the Thursday evening opening clash.
Even with the World Cup occupying a lot of the off-season and the festive pre-season friendlies having quelled the thirst for rugby league a tad, nothing will compare to that opening night when the whistle blows and the season kicks off.
With that in mind and the weeks steaming by we’re taking a look at how the bookmakers expect round one to go as we analyse all five of round one’s fixtures.
*St Helens will have their round one fixture against Huddersfield Giants re-arranged with the reigning Champions facing off against Penrith Panthers in the World Club Challenge in Australia during opening weekend.*
Warrington Wolves vs Leeds Rhinos: 16/02/23 on Sky
The Wire are desperate to forget about their 2022 campaign and with only two pre-season friendlies scheduled, Ben Currie’s testimonial against Leigh Leopards on February 4th and North Wales Crusaders only six days prior to this season opener, they’ll want to start with a bang.
Meanwhile Leeds have already played one pre-season game with their Boxing Day defeat to Wakefield but Rohan Smith will have his first full pre-season with the side that he managed to salvage from 11th to make the Grand Final in 2022.
It was eventually Warrington who finished 11th in the table however they start this game as 8/11 favourites with presumably their home advantage counting for much of that favouritism.
The Wire have arguably recruited better than Leeds with Catalans trio Josh Drinkwater, Gil Dudson and Sam Kasiano all set to improve their squad. Dudson’s last game for the French side saw him see red against the Rhinos, but the Welshman served his ban during the World Cup and therefore he’ll be free to appear in this season opener.
Bookies Prediction: Warrington to win – 8/11
Wakefield Trinity vs Catalans Dragons: 17/02/23 – no TV coverage
Wakefield will head into the season with the bookmakers already doubting their credentials as Trinity are rank outsiders for the title and favourites for relegation but they could catch Catalans unprepared given the documented injury crisis at the French side.
Head coach Steve McNamara made comments earlier this off-season about the lack of pre-season friendlies that his side would be able to play and that only four players were available at the start of their pre-season.
Those problems have since worsened with a failure to sign former Super League talent Ben Murdoch-Masilla and last week’s injury revelation that all three of Sam Tomkins, Mike McMeeken and Fouad Yaha have either undergone surgery or are set to potentially go under the knife following knee, arm and shoulder injuries respectively.
Meanwhile the youthful Trinity already have two wins under their belt in pre-season with the Boxing Day victory and another win in Reece Lyne’s testimonial yesterday. That pre-season sharpness hasn’t equated to much with the bookies though as the still favour the French side on their travels to Belle Vue.
Bookies Prediction: Catalans to Win – 8/11
Leigh Leopards vs Salford Red Devils: 17/02/23 on Sky
Super League’s new boys and the freshly rebranded Leigh Leopards get their first run-out in the competition since 2021 and they’re set to feature on Sky’s Friday night television slot as they host Salford.
The Leopards have added plenty to their squad and the retention of Edwin Ipape, who is now favourite to earn the Man of Steel award, is huge for their chances at survival.
They head into week one slated to face the 2022 Man of Steel winner Brodie Croft and a Salford side that will be intent on making the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Despite their dominance in the Championship the bookies don’t fancy Leigh much this year and that’s reflected in Salford heading into this game as favourites to win at Leigh Sports Village with both Sam Stone and Adam Sidlow returning to their former club.
Bookies Prediction: Salford to Win – 8/11
Hull Kingston Rovers vs Wigan Warriors: 18/02/23 on Channel 4
New head coach Willie Peters will face a tough test in his opening game at Craven Park as the 2022 Challenge Cup winners and league runners-up Wigan Warriors come to town.
KR have added well including the addition of NRL trio Rhys Kennedy, Tom Opacic and Sauaso Sue helping to replace the likes of Albert Vete, Ben Crooks and Brad Takairangi.
As for Wigan they’re one of the clubs who have recruited minimally with just the two signings, both in the centres with Jake Wardle and Toby King (loan) arriving at the DW, but the big loss of John Bateman over the festive period could have freed up some cash for more additions.
This game is set to kick off Channel 4’s coverage of Super League for their second consecutive season and is reported to be the second game of a double-header with the St Helens vs Penrith Panthers game preceding this 1pm kick-off that sees Wigan as heavy favourites.
Bookies Prediction: Wigan to Win – 2/5
Hull FC vs Castleford Tigers: 19/02/23 – no TV coverage
In the final game of the opening round of Super League two teams that have both missed the playoffs for the past two years face off against each other as Castleford head to the KCOM to play Tony Smith’s Hull FC.
The addition of Tony Smith as head coach for FC is huge, as if the transformation in the playmaking positions with a completely new presumed first choice full-back and half-back pairing as Tex Hoy, Jake Trueman and Jake Clifford.
As for the Tigers they’ve replaced Trueman by creating their own new half-back pairing with the additions of former Wakefield and Warrington men, Jacob Miller and Gareth Widdop.
In a game where both teams will feature predominantly new spins this could be incredibly sloppy and a good spectacle to watch but the bookmakers make FC relatively comfortable favourites despite their lower league finish in 2022.
Bookies Prediction: Hull FC to win – 3/4
Across the course of the opening round the bookmakers have selected three 2022 playoff teams to win, one to lose and in the game contested between last season’s seventh and ninth placed team they’re favouring the latter.
Those five favourites equate to a bet of just over 10/1 whilst taking the outsiders in every game would land you over £60 from just a £1 bet. Prior to these games we’ll learn plenty more during pre-season but on initial glances both of the teams to appear on Boxing Day seem to be overlooked in their round one matchup.
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