Predicting the 2021 Super League table is a daunting task; which sets of fans will be annoyed or who will be inspired? Find out…
1. St Helens
It’s pretty easy to place Kristian Woolf’s St Helens at the top. After winning the Grand Final in 2020, motivation is at an all-time high to complete the ‘three-peat’. Of course, Saints were narrowly beaten by bitter rivals Wigan to first last season, but with the recruitment of former NRL stars Agnatius Paasi, Sione Mata’utia and Joel Thompson, Woolf is certainly not resting on his laurels.
2. Wigan Warriors
To predict a top two without St Helens and Wigan would be foolish. They were the two best sides in 2020 by far and they are likely to replicate that in 2021. Adrian Lam has brought back John Bateman to the club as well as signing NRL livewire Jai Field to give the Warriors extra options in the halves and at fullback, whilst Lam will certainly want to write the wrongs of the 2020 Grand Final.
3. Hull FC
It’s a bold prediction, but stranger things have happened. The sacking of Lee Radford and letting go of Andy Last ensured the last remnants of the previous coaching hierarchy have been washed away, with new boss Brett Hodgson coming in under a clean slate. The former Warrington and Huddersfield fullback has recruited just one player – halfback Josh Reynolds – with Jake Connor given the nod for the number one jersey. All the right noises have been coming out of the KCOM Stadium in pre-season, so look out for a big year for the black-and-whites.
4. Warrington Wolves
They will just about scape fourth place. With neither Gareth Widdop nor Blake Austin firing on all cylinders in 2020, head coach Steve Price will be hoping for much more in 2021. But, despite the capture of Greg Inglis, Warrington just don’t appear to be inspiring much optimism amongst their fans, instead, many tend to be looking towards 2022 and the new post-Price direction the club will be heading in.
5. Leeds Rhinos
The Rhinos enjoyed a Challenge Cup-winning year in 2020, but tailed off towards the end of the season, exiting the play-offs at the first hurdle. However, Richard Agar’s men look stronger and more capable of doing some damage in 2021, particularly with the signings of Zane Tetevano and Kyle Eastmond. Of course, the absence of Rob Lui, Jack Walker and Ash Handley for large chunks of the season will not help their cause which may explain why they are fifth and not higher.
6. Huddersfield Giants
It’s a new era for the Huddersfield Giants with Ian Watson joining from Salford, but they now look like a different side on paper to that that has struggled in recent seasons. The likes of NRL stars Jack Cogger and Ricky Leutele have joined, but also established Super League players in Josh Jones, Jack Ashworth and Luke Yates. Watson performed miracles at Salford on a shoestring budget, but now he has carved his own team at the John Smith’s Stadium. Look out for a surprise or two in 2021.
7. Catalans Dragons
With the pandemic continuing to cause confusion between European states, Catalans have yet another big job on their hands to ensure everything runs smoothly in terms of fulfilling their fixtures in 2021. The French club finished fourth in 2020, but played three less games than anyone else – and even six in Wakefield’s case – so it appears as though it will be difficult task to go one better. The loss of Israel Folau will hurt Steve McNamara’s men, though his replacement, Dean Whare, is not exactly a bad swap.
8. Castleford Tigers
Mid-table mediocrity is where Castleford may find themselves in 2021 after a dismal 2020. With it being confirmed that popular head coach Daryl Powell will be leaving the club at the end of 2021 – though announcing it a week before the season starts was a bit of a quandary – it could go one of two ways for the Tigers. Powell could either inspire one last silverware charge or it could be a case of wanting the season to end as quickly as possible. Niall Evalds will be a shining light for Castleford, but he’s only there on a one-year deal.
9. Hull KR
Tony Smith’s men fell way below expectations in 2020, but the Australian has recruited heavily for 2021. The likes of Albert Vete, Brad Takairangi and Korbin Sims have joined from Down Under as has Ryan Hall who returns to the UK following an ill-fated stop at Sydney Roosters. Jordan Abdull and Mikey Lewis struck up a dangerous partnership towards the back end of the season and the two will have benefited greatly from an extended off-season. Having Shaun Kenny-Dowall as captain could also pay off.
10. Wakefield Trinity
Another side that will be looking to improve upon a woeful 2020 is Wakefield. Seasons don’t get much worse than the one that Chris Chester’s men had to endure in 2021, with the coronavirus, injuries and discipline all leaving the head coach with very few options. Hopefully, if injuries aren’t as bad, then Chester will be able to get more of his better players out on the field for a longer period of time. New halfback signing Mason Lino also looks a handy capture.
11. Leigh Centurions
Most pundits have tipped Leigh to fall by the wayside and be demoted at the first time of asking well, not me. John Duffy has made some astute signings heading into 2021 with Nathan Peats joining from the NRL as well as established Super League stars in Ben Flower, Matty Russell and Joe Mellor. It will take some time for the team to gel, but they will surely win more than the three games that bottom side Hull KR did in 2020.
12. Salford Red Devils
Richard Marshall has arguably been learning from the best, having moved to Salford from St Helens where he was behind Justin Holbrook and then Kristian Woolf. But, it’s a different thing altogether in coaching a first-team and for some reason, the concoction of Marshall and new assistant Danny Orr just doesn’t appear altogether that inspiring. Morgan Escare and Elijah Taylor are very exciting signings, but they have lost the man that made the club tick and reach two finals against all expectations: Ian Watson. Because of that, the adjustment will be too much to stay in Super League in 2021.