The 2024 Championship season is nearly upon us, and the sides are all gearing up for a potential charge to Super League.
There have been some fantastic pieces of business this season in the Championship. Wakefield have brought in a fresh new squad, led by new boss Daryl Powell and clubs like York Knights, Featherstone Rovers and Halifax Panthers have all brought in Super League talent as they aim to reach the top flight.
These loaded squads will make for an exciting Championship season, but how might the table look in October? Here is our best guess at an early Championship final league table for this upcoming season:
1 Wakefield Trinity
The Trin look set to return to Super League at the first attempt, even with the new IMG grading systems. Off the pitch, Matt Ellis has brought the fans back in the droves with over 5000 season tickets sold; but on the pitch he has given Powell free reign to assemble a Super League quality side, and he has done just that. Wingers Lachlan Walmsley and Jermaine McGillvary are the headline pieces of business, but Powell has brought in a host of new signings, and these fresh faces could steer them back to the top flight.
The French outfit narrowly missed out on promotion last season, and they look likely to finish second in the table in 2024. They have an incredibly strong squad for the second tier, and will push Wakefield all the way in the promotion battle.
3 Featherstone Rovers
Featherstone Rovers are in a state of flux this season. They missed out on promotion again last season, but this latest spurned chance has seen the club go into rebuild mode. A whole host of players have left, but new faces have also come in-including Leigh Leopards halfback Ben Reynolds and Castleford Tigers prop Nathan Massey. They are still building for the top flight, but will need to be at their very best to overcome Toulouse and Wakefield.
4 York Knights
York Knights are another side who are building strong foundations in hopes of reaching the promised land. The club have also brought in some Super League quality talent, with Richie Myler making the move from Leeds Rhinos, and this is a proper statement of intent. They showed last season they can compete with the very best in the division, but is it too early in the process for a competitive title challenge?
5 Halifax Panthers
The reigning 1895 Cup champions will again be competitive this season, and will be fuelled on by the ending to the 2023 season. The Panthers may have lost head coach Simon Grix to Hull FC this off-season, but the playing squad they have assembled is looking very strong. Greg Eden is the headline signing, but the players around him will be wanting to improve on last season and push into the play-offs.
6 Bradford Bulls
The Bulls were one of the most improved teams last season, and they look set for another play-off berth in 2024. Incoming head coach Eamon O’Carroll would have been pleased with the way the side ended the 2023 campaign, but the retentions of key players should guide the former Super League champions into the end of season antics, but could they surprise anyone?
7 Sheffield Eagles
The Eagles soared high last season, but look likely to miss out on the play-offs this year. They have a very strong side for the division, but the teams around them have all improved at a faster rate, and this could see them just miss out on the play-offs. Last season showed they can mix it with the big boys of the division, so don’t be surprised if they push teams all the way for a play-off spot.
8 Batley Bulldogs
Another team who can mix it with the best in the division, Batley Bulldogs will be in a rebuilding phase this season following the exit of long standing head coach Craig Lingard. The new dual-registration deal with Castleford Tigers will see Batley have some fresh young talent to blood in, but with the teams around them building for Super League they could narrowly miss out on the play-offs.
9 Widnes Vikings
Widnes had a disappointing campaign last time out, and it looks set to be more of the same in 2024. They have a decent squad, and have recent Super League experience with Jordan Johnstone after his stint at Castleford Tigers last season, but it will be hard for them to compete with those above them this season.
10 Barrow Raiders
Barrow will solidify their Championship status for another year. The Cumbrian outfit will be without Jarrod Sammut this year, but they still have a good Championship level team and should avoid the drop this season.
Whitehaven stayed in the division by the skin of their teeth last year, and it looks to be another tight year at the bottom for them this season. The Cumbrian side are capable of pulling off a shock result, and this could prove vital in their survival bid.
Newly promoted Doncaster have recruited well this off-season, and this should see them stay in the division. They have a good core of players together from last season’s promotion party, but have added experienced Super League players to their roster which could give them the edge in the relegation scrap. They also have players with recent top end Championship experience, and this could again prove vital for them.
13 Dewsbury Rams
Newly promoted Dewsbury Rams unfortunately look set to return to League One. They had a brilliant season last year, but as Keighley Cougars showed last season, it is a huge step up to the second tier, and it could be too much for the Rams at this stage.
Swinton just about avoided relegation in 2023, but it might be a different story in 2024. The strength of the Championship this season could be their undoing, and despite their great run at the end of the season to avoid the drop, their time in the second division looks set to end.
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