We’ve only seen the defending Champions retain the Super League crown five times. Two of those were St Helens in 2000 and last season. It’s clearly one of the most difficult things to achieve.
But even more difficult is winning it three times in a row. Only once has that happened and it was the Leeds Rhinos from 2007-09. St Helens will no doubt have that in mind going into the new season as they look to create history.
But being Champions leaves a target on your back and it’s always tougher defending the trophy. With that in mind, let’s look at the four teams most likely to steal Saints’ crown and stop them winning three in a row.
This is the most obvious shout. Arguably, Wigan should’ve won last year’s Grand Final. Late on they were awarded a penalty and missed the shot at goal. Had they kicked to the corner and set up for the 1, they could be Champions right now. However, heartbreak followed and they were denied the crown. They’ll be desperate to rewrite that wrong in 2021 and many experts fancy them to do so following two sharp pieces of recruitment. They’ve brought in the exhilarating Jai Field from the NRL and also have John Bateman back at the club. Bateman proved to be the world’s best back-row whilst at Canberra and could lift the Warriors a few notches this season and many fancy him to win the Man of Steel. Add to that the quality of Jackson Hastings and it becomes silly to bet against them.
Will it be Warrington’s year? There appears to be little hype surrounding the Wolves going into the new season and that might just help Warrington out. With no pressure they might be able to express themselves a little more. After a less than perfect first season in the Super League, it’s a chance for Gareth Widdop to prove his immense quality and if he does he could quite easily take the Wolves to a first Super League crown especially if Blake Austin can find form as well. They have quality outside backs and a huge winter recruit in Greg Inglis. They may also be motivated to send their departing coach out on a high.
A year ago many were tipping the Black and Whites to be the major threat to St Helens thanks to their impressive recruitment. This year has been a quieter winter for Hull with the major arrivals being an unproven coach in Brett Hodgson and the signing of Josh Reynolds. If the pair hit the ground running there’s enough quality in Hull’s squad to make them challengers again like they were back in 2016 and 2017. In Jake Connor they have one of the league’s most exciting players as well as a powerful pack. If Hodgson can find the right formula, Hull could very well be the surprise package of this season – they finished 2020 strongly don’t forget so a fast start could be expected.
Along with St Helens, Leeds are Super League’s most successful side. In fact, no team has won as many Grand Finals as the Rhinos. They have a particular affinity with Grand Final night having won 8 out of 10 appearances. After a couple of years in the wilderness, 2020 saw them get back on track with a 5th placed finish and a Challenge Cup triumph. They have a young and exciting squad and last year’s experiences will be vital as will the arrivals of Zane Tetevano and Kyle Eastmond. Eastmond may bring the flair Leeds need whilst Tetevano brings success wherever he goes playing in consecutive NRL Grand Finals for different clubs.