Well another season is upon us, have to say it I haven’t managed to dust off the world cup final blues but a few weeks into what could be a strange season and the batteries will recharge.
As things stand we don’t know the structure for 2019 which could make the battle for the top 8 irrelevant, and what that’ll do to the million pound game is anyone’s guess but here we go.
With the Grand Final over 8 months away, it’s the race to finish top after 23 rounds that we’ll concentrate on.
Remember this is not to lift the league leaders shield, which is handed out over 30 games, but to be top of the table after the split.
Last year’s run away League leaders Castleford share favouritism with Wigan and St Helens with Super League sponsors Betfred. The three sides are quoted at 4/1, no surprise the Tigers are top of the betting but there’ll be a few eyebrows raised over the short price for Wane’s Warriors. Yes the cherry and whites had real injury problems last year but they finished the season in terrible form and have lost Mcillorum and Gelling, with no real top talent coming in.
There is plenty quality still left at the DW but they look reliant on Sam Tomkins returning to form we haven’t seen from him since his 1st season in the NRL in 2014, they aren’t for me this year and I can’t see them making the top 4.
As for the Tigers they will still be smarting from the humiliating Grand Final loss to Leeds and Zak Hardaker will be a a hard act to replace, Luke Gale has to recover from losing the 2 biggest games of his career in the space of around 10 weeks and whilst they will be the entertainers again there’s better value elsewhere to finish top of the pile, Powell will surely target the Grand Final and could manage his squad.
The week prior to Old Trafford, Cas were very fortunate to beat an inspired St Helens side and the Red V look the value to me to top the table after 23 games.
Barba looks a class act and Walmsley is the best prop in Super League for me. Roby looks back to his best, and my fancy for man of steel, and with Justin Holbrook having a full winter to evaluate his squad Saints to me look the team to beat this season. I last tipped Saints to finish top when they last managed it in 2014 and I think 4/1 is fair value for them to do so again, and with the starting 13 they can put out should be favourites. I think the Rhinos may time another late run to beat Saints at the theatre of dreams in October but I take Holbrook’s side to be top of the pile come July.
In what is a wide open market, 4/1 the field in a 12 runner heat , Hull FC probably have the best squad in the comp but have lost some key players from last year. They always go well in the Cup and with Lee Radford famous for managing his squad are hard to tip to finish top of the pile, admittedly they did this in 2016 though.
Whilst it’s a great achievement to win back to back Challenge Cups they may rue semi final losses to average Wigan and Leeds sides in the play offs over the last 2 years, and Wembley may again be their best chance of silverware this year.
Replacing Gareth Ellis will be tough, but on their day will be a match for anybody.
The black and whites are 6/1 to finish top but it’s a 3rd or 4th spot again for me and more play off semi final heartbreak.
It’s worth remembering that Hull along with Wigan are heading down under early in the season, this is bound to take it’s toll and is also costing the Warriors a home game.
Leeds look strong this time and the 6/1 looks a bit too big to finish top. The Rhinos though don’t tend to put too much emphasis on finishing top and may settle for repeating last year’s 2nd place and with it a home semi final.
A trip down under to play in the World Club Challenge will also take it out of them, it affected Wigan in 2014, and whilst they are serious dangers they look better value for glory at Old Trafford.
Next at 13/2 are last seasons big flops Warrington, after winning the league leaders shield and getting to Old Trafford in 2016 they took a leaf out of the Rhinos book and ended last year fighting for Super League survival in the middle 8.
Murdoch-Masila in particular looks a great signing but for all they may improve, for me they’ll be fighting Wigan for 5th spot.
The glory days seem over for Huddersfield, after League leaders shield wins in the past they’ve struggled the last few seasons. They get a 28/1 quote to top the table but look a bottom 4 contender to me again. World Cup star Jermaine Mcgilvary could be worth a look for top Try scorer but the Giants look like their better days are behind them.
Unlike 33/1 Wakefield who nearly made the top 4 last year, and could have albeit for an unlucky loss to St Helens.
They have Tom Johnstone fully fit, have recruited well and whilst they may miss out on the top 4 again they may give you a run for your money at 7/1.
Last year’s million pound game winner Catalan look no hopers at 50/1 and may repeat their appearance in the bottom 4. Mcillorum is a good recruit but the squad looks weak and they were awful last year. Even fortress Perpignan did them no favours.
Salford at 80/1, Hull KR at 125/1 and Widnes at 250/1 complete the line up and I expect these 3 to fill the bottom 3 places. They are 9/4, 7/2 and 5/1 respectively for a top 8 finish and I struggle to argue a case for either.
Widnes look in real trouble this year and it may take a League restructuring to keep them in Super League for 2019, especially with the likes of Leigh and Toronto waiting in the middle 8.
The 2/1 they finish bottom looks justified.
Punters looking for some value at big odds may look at the 12/1 that Wigan finish in the bottom 4. They surely have too much quality and should comfortably finish in the top 8 but 12/1 considering how close they came last year is too big, Leeds and Wire are testimony that no team is too good.
My 1-12 would be
1. St Helens
4. Hull FC
11. Hull KR
But what would I know, let me know what you think on twitter @paulredhead1.
Anyway here we go again, I’ll preview the week’s 2 live games on Wednesday as always please gamble responsibly. Most importantly check the rules on your slip , whether it’s 30 games , 23 or Grand Final . Firms may have different rules .