It’s that time for predictions as pre-season for the majority of Super League sides gets into full flow.
For some, it’s a case of trying to assess what went wrong in 2021, but for others it’s a time of trying to build on the good times that occurred.
St Helens ran out eventual champions in the showpiece Grand Final event at Old Trafford, overcoming a stubborn Catalans Dragons side, 12-10.
That was Saints’ third Grand Final victory in a row, but can the Dragons and the rest of Super League stop them in 2022?
Here is how Serious About Rugby League predicts the Super League table will look at the end of next season.
1. St Helens
They missed out on top spot to Catalans in 2021, but Kristian Woolf’s men are well-placed for another tilt at Super League in 2022. The club have gone about their transfer business well, bringing in the likes of Will Hopoate, Curtis Sironen and Joey Lussick from abroad as well as James Bell from Leigh and Konrad Hurrell from Leeds. This is probably the strongest a club has ever been in the Super League era since its conception back in 1996, so don’t be surprised to see Saints in the Grand Final once more in 2022.
2. Warrington Wolves
Daryl Powell’s greatest ability as a coach is forge the consistency necessary to be there or thereabouts near the top of the table. It worked at Featherstone Rovers and it worked at Castleford Tigers, although the last two seasons there were disappointing to say the least. However, in his first full season at the Tigers in 2014, Powell propelled the club to the Challenge Cup Final and was one game away from winning the League Leaders’ Shield. With the likes of George Williams, Gareth Widdop and Daryl Clark at his disposal, watch Powell turn around Warrington in such a quick fashion.
3. Catalans Dragons
After the highs of 2021, Catalans Dragons could be up against it to hit the same heights. However, Steve McNamara will still have enough firepower in his ranks to reach the play-offs with ease. James Maloney has left the club, but Mitchell Pearce is equally as destructive, and, if Tyrone May and Dylan Napa are expected to follow from Australia, then the Dragons will arguably be more imposing in 2022 than in 2021. However, those signings are not yet confirmed so the French side will linger outside the top two.
4. Wigan Warriors
They finished fourth in 2021, too. However, that year proved a terrible one for the Wigan Warriors as head coach Adrian Lam came under fire for some dismal attacking performances. In fact, Wigan’s points per game average was the worst in Super League – even worse than the relegated Leigh Centurions’. Now, though, a new quartet of Matty Peet, Sean O’Loughlin, Lee Briers and Shaun Wane look set to reinvigorate the DW Stadium and bring that good-feel back to the Warriors. Alongside a brand-new coaching staff is an updated roster with NRL star Cade Cust joining alongside Patrick Mago, Kaide Ellis, Abbas Miski and Iain Thornley.
5. Castleford Tigers
There seems to be a new, confident air about the West Yorkshire club heading into the 2022 Super League season. Former Hull FC head coach Lee Radford has taken the reins after eight-and-a-half years of Daryl Powell at the Jungle and he has already made his mark on the squad by bringing in eight new signings including livewire outside back Jake Mamo and enigmatic second-rower Kenny Edwards. Above all, though, Radford brings a trophy-winning pedigree, having guided Hull to back-to-back Challenge Cup successes and the Castleford faithful appear to have bought into the new era in their droves.
6. Leeds Rhinos
This all depends on what happens with the coaching situation at Headingley. With Richard Agar reportedly set to take a more backroom role, names such as Ryan Carr, James Webster and Tony Smith have been banded about as possible replacements. Whoever does take the job, though, has a wonderful squad at their disposal with new halfback partnership Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin and a conglomerate of superb youngsters waiting for their opportunity. And, with rookie fullback Jack Walker once more fighting fit, Leeds could be set for a better season than sixth – if they get the right man.
7. Wakefield Trinity
Perhaps no one believes that Wakefield Trinity won’t be anywhere near the top six play-offs in 2022. But, look at what Willie Poching achieved towards the back end of the 2021 Super League season. Five wins from their last seven games meant that Trinity ended the season as one of the most in-form sides in the competition. And, with star halfback Jacob Miller now confirmed to be staying at Belle Vue alongside new signings Lee Gaskell and Tom Lineham, 2022 looks a whole lot rosier for the West Yorkshire side. Add into that a fit Tom Johnstone and Bill Tupou and Wakefield could cause a lot of damage.
8. Hull FC
2021 was a horrible year for the Black and Whites of Hull FC as they finished eighth with eight wins from 21 games. Granted, Brett Hodgson’s men were cut up by injuries and Covid-19, but nine defeats from their last ten games was a seriously bad way to end. That prompted owner Adam Pearson and Hodgson to bang heads together in a bid to rejuvenate the squad, with Luke Gale taking the number seven shirt from the departing Marc Sneyd and the likes of Joe Lovodua and Kane Evans signing from the NRL. There still seems to be something missing from the Airlie Birds’ squad, however, and a top six play-off spot could slip from their grasp once more.
9. Hull KR
If any Super League side overperformed in 2021 then it was Hull KR. Reaching a semi-final play-off game is no mean feat, but KR did it in style, with head coach Tony Smith living and breathing every minute. The Robins have an impressive triumvirate of halfbacks in Jordan Abdull, Mikey Lewis and Rowan Milnes, whilst the signing of Lachlan Coote is superb, but will teams now know how to play against the Red and Whites after months of getting used to it? Smith’s men rejuvenated Super League in 2021 with a breathtaking playing style, but it remains to be seen whether that can be replicated in 2022.
10. Huddersfield Giants
Again, another poor season is predicted for the Huddersfield Giants who finished ninth in 2021 with nine wins from 24 games. Ian Watson’s men did put together a good run of form towards the back end of the season with Will Pryce and Oliver Russell pulling the strings, but the weight on those two’s young shoulders will be immense in 2022. Lucky for them then that Watson has brought in Tui Lolohea and Theo Fages from Salford Red Devils and St Helens respectively. However, after finding problems with consistency too many times in 2021, it is unclear whether or not Watson can steer the Giants into the play-offs.
11. Salford Red Devils
Predicted to finish exactly where they ended the 2021 Super League season, the Salford Red Devils are in a rebuilding stage. Paul Rowley is the new head coach following the departure of Richard Marshall, whilst Marc Sneyd and Brodie Croft are the eye-catching recruits hoping to propel Salford up the table. However, it may take a while for the halfback duo to gel having never met before, plus we may see what happened to Huddersfield in 2021: that it takes time for a new coach to put his stamp on a squad that he is taking control over for the first time.
12. Toulouse Olympique
Every new Super League side will probably always be predicted to finish bottom, it’s just how it goes. Like the London Broncos in 2019, though, Toulouse will not go down without a fight so prepare for some shock results along the way. The French side’s hopes of staying in the top-flight will largely depend on the success of Johnathan Ford and Mark Kheirallah in taking to the Super League, though they do have a lot of top-flight experience in their ranks with the likes of Lloyd White and Harrison Hansen. It could be a tough baptism of fire for Toulouse.