The Super League season is now officially six weeks away with Warrington Wolves set to host Leeds Rhinos on February 16th to get the 2023 season underway.
As we approach the new season, everyone can have a hunch about where their team will finish, some are overly optimistic whilst others pessimistic, but either way every rugby league fan will have a general opinion on how the table will look come the end of the season.
To take all bias out of it it’s best to use the people who make their money by predicting this kind of thing and that’s the bookmakers across the country, who always manage to spin a profit and therefore are generally right.
Below is what Super League’s top six is set to look like according to Sky Bet’s odds for the League Leaders’ Shield, and therefore which teams will make the play-offs and push for the Grand Final.
6th – Huddersfield Giants: 10/1
Pipping the Castleford Tigers into the playoff spots are the Giants who are coming off their most successful season in over a decade as they finished third in the league table and also made it to the Challenge Cup Final where they just fell short 16-14.
Ian Watson’s side have made some major moves in recruitment with the biggest being Hull FC’s Jake Connor signing up to play at the John Smith’s, this price could be an oversight by the bookmakers or just simply one that reflects the quality and depth of the league.
5th – Warrington Wolves: 15/2
Warrington need to bounce back from their 2022 campaign that saw them finish 11th and they’ve also added plenty to their squad with the Catalans trio of Sam Kasiano, Josh Drinkwater and Gil Dudson arriving as well as NRL star prop Paul Vaughan.
Other names include former Wire man Matty Russell and 2017 World Cup winner Josh McGuire, but even with such strong recruitment is that enough to make up the 24 points that they were shy of top spot last season. A tough test for Wire.
4th – Leeds Rhinos: 15/2
Also priced at 15/2 are Leeds Rhinos but on the basis of their 2022 performances the Rhinos are placed in fourth spot for this list. Rohan Smith has already started his first full pre-season at Headingley and that’s featured a whole host of signings, some of whom were on show during their Boxing Day defeat to relegation favourites Wakefield Trinity.
That game saw Smith ring the changes with a young and experimental team and the likes of new Papua New Guinea international Nene Macdonald didn’t feature, but if Smith can harness that mixture of youth and experience of the likes of Richie Myler who has been given the number one shirt then there’s a chance Leeds could make a play for the title.
3rd – Catalans Dragons: 13/2
The one remaining French side in the division are third favourites for the title, something they lifted in 2021 before being narrowly defeated in the Grand Final 12-10 to St Helens. Whilst Perpignan has definitely remained a difficult place to travel to and pick up a win the Dragons also impressed on the road lasts season ranking second for number of away wins.
One argument as to why they won’t lift the League Leaders Shield and therefore place as high as the bookmakers have them is their huge off-season losses including the aforementioned trio of Kasiano, Drinkwater and Dudson to Warrington. In addition there is the pre-season injury crisis that they’re in right now with both England stars Sam Tomkins and Mike McMeeken undergoing surgery for knee and arm issues, whilst top scorer for them last season Fouad Yaha is also out for a number of weeks with a dislocated shoulder, which could see them fall short in some crucial early match-ups including Wigan and Leeds away in rounds four and six.
2nd – Wigan Warriors: 7/2
Expected to come second again as they did last season are Wigan, just behind their rivals St Helens, with a price of 7/2. Wigan have only made two signings this off-season with Toby King and Jake Wardle both joining up at the DW but their losses amount to plenty of experience including the retiring Tommy Leuluai and John Bateman who has switched back to the NRL.
Having lost Bateman to Wests in a reported big-money deal there’s still a chance that Wigan could make some additions but as it is the bookies clearly don’t think they’ve added enough to keep the pace with the Red Vee, who topped the table four points ahead of Wigan last season.
1st – St Helens: 9/4
No surprise to anyone here with Saints expected to come in at top spot according to the bookies and with good reason too, they’re the best team in Super League right now. Whilst they haven’t won four consecutive League Leaders Shields, they have won four straight Grand Finals which is undeniable greatness hence their favouritism to top the table again.
Interestingly though the bookies are aware of this dominance in the playoff element of the league as they’ve actually shortened Saints to 2/1 to lift the Grand Final, as opposed to what is effectively two and a quarter to one at 9/4 for the league table. With this price change it actually makes every other side in this list, barring Huddersfield, drift out slightly in price to win the Grand Final with all four other teams shifting half a point further out e.g. Wigan at 4/1 as opposed to 7/2. The bookmakers never give cash away but they’re clearly running scared of Saints to lift the Grand Final but that just means it could be worth chancing another team to lift the League Leaders Shield.