Defending a title is one of the most difficult things in sport and especially in rugby league.
In Super League history, only two teams have defended the Super League title. Leeds Rhinos won three in a row from 2007-09 prior to winning back to back titles in 2011 and 2012. St Helens meanwhile were back to back Champions at the turn of the century and have now won four in a row.
But to show just how tough it is to defend the title, here is the six most frustrating and difficult title defences in Super League history.
Wigan Warriors – 1999
In 1999, after winning the first ever Grand Final, the Warriors slipped down to fourth in the league in 1999. Then in the play-offs, they fell at the first hurdle losing to Castleford Tigers at home.
St Helens – 2003
2003 was the year things started to change for St Helens. They had won three of the first five Grand Finals but in 2003 they slipped down to fourth 13 points off the league leaders which was very unlike St Helens.
Leeds Rhinos – 2010
After winning three Grand Finals in a row, Leeds were overwhelming favourites in 2010 but injuries plagued their season. The likes of Kevin Sinfield, Scott Donald and Brent Webb picked up early season injuries. Then as they built momentum at the end of the year, they lost Jamie Peacock and Player of the Season Danny McGuire to season ending injuries.
Leeds Rhinos – 2016
In 2016, Leeds’ title defence was again characterised by injuries. In their second game after winning the treble they were stunned 56-12 by Widnes Vikings losing Tom Briscoe, Danny McGuire and Carl Ablett to long term injuries. They would constantly lose key men to injury especially McGuire who was the Harry Sunderland Award in 2015 and 2017. The Rhinos ended up finishing ninth.
Wigan Warriors – 2017
Wigan started 2017 in excellent form but by the end of the season they would slump to their worst finish since 2007 as they finished sixth and missed out on the play-offs. They were also well beaten at times during the season such as against Castleford.
Leeds Rhinos – 2018
In 2018, Leeds started the season strongly losing just twice in their first nine games. However, a run of four one-point defeats in six games would leave Leeds frustrated and they lost all confidence. Then injuries mounted and the Rhinos would finish 10th making this statistically the worst title defence in Super League history.