The 2022 Super League season came to an end on Saturday evening as St Helens picked up their fourth Super League title in a row with a 24-12 victory over Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford.
Most of the talk following the game was around whether this Saints dynasty is the greatest Super League has seen, with Leeds Rhinos spell of dominance around the 2010s compared in many quarters.
For the Rhinos, the period following on from their golden generation has been a tough one, with their 2020 Challenge Cup triumph the only success of note since they beat Castleford Tigers in 2017 to win their eighth Super League crown.
This season in particular has been a rollercoaster ride for the Leeds faithful, as they flirted with the relegation zone for much of the first half of the season prior to the arrival of head coach Rohan Smith.
Since taking the Headingley hot seat in June, Smith has guided the Rhinos to 13 wins in 18 games, form that took them all the way to an unlikely Grand Final, having secured their play-off place on the final game of the regular season.
Though it wasn’t to be at Old Trafford, with St Helens proving to be one hurdle too far, there is genuine excitement around what Smith can achieve with Leeds going forward, particularly next year with a full season to play with.
It’s almost impossible to predict at this stage what state the Rhinos will be in come the start of the next campaign, however Sky Sports pundit Phil Clarke did not hesitate in predicting a higher finish for Leeds next season following their defeat at the Theatre of Dreams.
“We have seen in this Grand Final, the best team of the last four years against the best team of the last four months, and that is a worry for the rest of the teams who will have to face Leeds in Super League next year,” said Clarke.
He continued: “In round 10 they were playing Toulouse at home and there was a fear, had they lost that game, that they would be bottom of the table.
“Rohan Smith clearly knows coaching, his father was a very successful coach and he has inherited and learnt an awful lot over the last 40 years or so to put himself in a good position.
“Next year, with a full pre-season, Leeds, playing like that, will be in the top three places.”
It’s a bold prediction from the Sky pundit who also had some strong views on the disciplinary fiasco that surrounded St Helens forward Morgan Knowles in the build up to Saturday’s showpiece event.
Knowles was cleared to play in the Grand Final after a successful second appeal on a two-match ban for a perceived ‘chicken wing’ tackle on Salford’s Chris Atkin in the semi-finals. It was a decision that surprised many, with Clarke demanding that changes be made to the disciplinary process going forward.
“The issue is the fact that we’ve got procedures and protocols that seem to contradict one and other,” said Clarke.
“For the integrity of the sport, which is the most important thing, some people in authority need to correct what has happened this past week.”