In 2004, Leeds Rhinos became the fourth team to win the Super League title after St Helens (1996), Bradford Bulls (1997) and Wigan Warriors (1998) had been the first three winners of the title in the summer era.
Remarkably, in the 18 years since, Leeds won so many that they were the league’s most successful side in terms of Grand Final wins until St Helens wrestled that title away from them recently.
So, in the time it has taken for another new side to be crowned Champions, Leeds went from being the most recent new side to win the title to being the league’s most successful ever club to losing that mantle again.
This underlines how long it has been. The likes of Hull FC, Warrington Wolves, Castleford Tigers, Salford Red Devils and Catalans Dragons have all come close but no side has become the fifth team to be crowned Super League Champions.
So, at this moment, which teams are best placed to become the first new Champions for nearly two decades?
Salford Red Devils
Salford were very close to playing in a second Grand Final in 2022 and have maintained their squad going into 2023 adding quality players like Leigh Leopards star Sam Stone to the mix. They are brilliantly run and constantly unearth superb unexpected stars. This stands them in a great position to lift the Super League title soon.
The Giants finished third last year and have Grand Final winning experience in their squad. Statistically, they are the side most like St Helens and no team enjoyed more possession and territory than the Giants which are elements required to win the Super League title. This makes Ian Watson’s side likely Super League Champions in the years to come.
Tony Smith has taken three teams to the Super League semi-finals and two teams to the Grand Final. He knows the route and plays a brand of rugby effective in getting teams to the final stages of the season. He has added quality players to the mix and is a master at bringing the best out of players. In 2023 and the years to come they will be a big threat.