The next five years could be some of the most exciting and most competitive years in Super League history. Plenty of teams are not only building exciting squads for 2022 but are forming young sides capable of challenging for years on end. Even sides outside the likes of St Helens, Leeds and Wigan are beginning to look like serious contenders and potential mainstays in the upper echelons of Super League.
All of this means we could see some exciting Grand Finals between some excellent teams in the next five seasons as sides look to make good on the potential in their squad. With that in mind, we’re looking at the five teams with the best chance of winning Super League in the next five years and when their window of opportunity will open and shut.
St Helens 2022-24
Going into 2022 St Helens have to be considered favourites for Super League glory once again. Despite the fact they’re facing widespread change, the core of the side who have won the last three Grand Finals remains alongside constantly improving youngsters and exciting new signings. The know-how engrained into the squad coupled with the strength in depth in every position means St Helens will be hard to stop especially when it gets to the business end of the year. Meanwhile, the winning mentality Kristian Woolf has introduced provides the bedrock for what should be another few successful seasons as the Saints look to make history. All of this could come to an end in 2024 however. Jonny Lomax, Alex Walmsley and Tommy Makinson are all contracted to 2024 and by then they’ll all be deep into their 30s and thinking about retiring. It’s possible the trio will bow out together much like Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai did in 2015 with Leeds. Expect the trio to put their life and soul into the next three seasons potentially hunting another three-peat of Super League titles to bring a magnificent end to a brilliant St Helens dynasty. Worryingly for the rest of the league, Saints already have the youngsters in place to continue this success beyond 2024 but without their current best back, best forward and their best organiser it’ll be hard.
Saints may be favourites for Super League glory in 2022 but just behind them stand last year’s league leaders. With Sam Tomkins still at the club and on the back of his best ever season, there’s no reason the Dragons can’t go on to win at Old Trafford becoming only the fifth team to be crowned Super League Champions even without James Maloney. I’ve seen some speculate that the Dragons will be weaker next year but the arrival of Mitchell Pearce and Dylan Napa as well as other rumoured targets, they’ll arguably have an even stronger squad on their hands with French youngsters like Matthieu Laguerre and Arthur Mourgue getting better all the time. That youth mixed with the experience of former Super League winners like Michael McIlorum leaves the French outfit with a nice balance. The Dragons simply have to win the Grand Final in the next two seasons before the likes of Sam Tomkins begin to retire.
Leeds 2023 and 2026
I believe Leeds have two windows of opportunity in the next five years. It’s clear that the Rhinos have set themselves up for a big two seasons in 2022 and 2023 through the way they’ve dealt with new deals and signings. James Bentley, David Fusitu’a and Aidan Sezer all signed two-year deals whilst skipper Matt Prior was handed an extension which also expires in 2023. The quality those players possess rivals anything in the league and is complimented by the brilliant youngsters Leeds presently have. They could become serious contenders again over the next two seasons especially in 2023 if they can settle on a new coach with Richard Agar set for the Director of Rugby role as well as bringing in further quality signings. That said, that’s all likely to come to an end in 2024 as plenty of these deals come to an end, players move on or retire like Prior will most likely will. Thus, 2024 and 2025 will likely become seasons of transition for the Rhinos but after that, with the likes of Morgan Gannon, Jack Broadbent, Mikolaj Oledzki and Tom Holroyd nearing their peaks, Leeds could build towards another title challenge on the back of youth much like they did with the golden generation.
The Daryl Powell era at Warrington is about to begin and his brand of attacking rugby and ability to develop players could turn Warrington into genuine contenders again. It’s possible 2022 will come too early in his tenure for his side to truly push for Super League glory but 2023 and 2024 could be massive seasons for the Wire especially with Daryl Clark and George Williams contracted to the club until 2023 and 2024 respectively. Add youngsters like Connor Wrench, Matty Ashton and Josh Thewlis to the mix who’ll only improve under Powell and the classy players littered throughout the squad such as Ben Currie and Toby King, and it seems the Wolves’ wait for Super League glory could finally end soon.
Speaking of youngsters, Wigan have always built success on youngsters especially in the days of Shaun Wane who is now back at the club and will provide a ruthless mentality to the youngsters coming through whilst aiding their development as players. In Morgan Smithies, Ethan Havard and others they have some of the best young forwards in the league whilst Harry Smith is one of the best young halves in the league. By 2024, these players will be ready to hit their peak and with that could come success for the Warriors especially when you consider glory is engrained in the club’s DNA.