Every year the focus heading into the season is inevitably who will get their hands on the silverware but there’s a far more daunting prospect than missing out on a trophy, and that’s relegation.
For a handful of teams it’s almost no concern whatsoever with the likes of St Helens, Wigan Warriors and Leeds Rhinos being Super League powerhouses who almost always contest the title, never mind worry about relegation.
However as the 2022 season showed, even the teams who chase titles can find themselves in danger with perennial playoff contenders Warrington Wolves finishing 11th in a nightmare year for Daryl Powell’s men,
Ordinarily it’s a case of what must come up must go down with the team being promoted from the Championship getting relegated immediately in all of the last three seasons that feature the current format. The exception to this was Toronto failing to compete in the entire 2020 season, as they dropped out of the league structure and were replaced by Leigh the following season.
With that trend proving strong, could the Leopards, who have been promoted back to Super League again in 2023, be the most endangered team in the 2023 season? Here are the three teams the bookies think are most likely to face the drop.
Not coming as a surprise to most but Wakefield are the team that are most likely to be relegated, at least in the bookies mind anyway, with Trinity being rank outsiders to lift the title at 100/1 whilst also being 1/25 to finish in the bottom six.
At that shockingly low price you’d have to place £25 to win just £1 profit indicating the bookmakers feel it’s almost an inevitability, and they’re potentially right to think so with such a young squad being paired up with the youngest coach in Super League in the shape of Mark Applegarth.
Making just four additions to their squad, which finished 10th in 2022, Trinity have lost far more than they’ve gained with club captain and chief playmaker Jacob Miller moving to Castleford, star winger Tom Johnstone to Catalans and the big bopper himself, David Fifita, returning down under.
Whilst the youngsters in the back line such as Lewis Murphy and Corey Hall will inspire confidence the bookmakers consensus seems to be that Trinity won’t have what it takes to mix it, especially with new boys Leigh making some big splashes in the off-season.
As mentioned Leigh have added a whole host of impressive signings and the side that stormed the Championship in 2022 has been transformed with plenty of ins and outs, but a general improvement on the whole.
With the major departure being Nene Macdonald who has linked up with former coach Rohan Smith at Leeds, the Leopards have strengthened all across the pitch with established Super League talents such as Gareth Widdop, Jack Hughes, Zak Hardaker, Tom Briscoe, Ricky Leutele and Gareth O’Brien all joining Adrian Lam’s side.
Despite those major additions the bookmakers still make Leigh a likely candidate for relegation as they price them at 40/1 to do the unthinkable and win the Grand Final, but 1/6 to finish in the bottom six.
Whilst those odds aren’t quite as disparaging as those of Wakefield’s it does show a lack of faith in the Leythers, partly on account of the historic record of newly promoted teams it would appear.
Plenty of teams can find themselves get dragged into a relegation scrap, as we saw with Warrington in 2022, and KR won’t think that they’re one of them given their talented young squad, new coach hiring and the signings they’ve made including three NRL stars.
However with so many teams outside of the very elite teams such as Saints, Wigan and Leeds, all being on quite a comparable level it can be a case of anybody can beat anybody on their day which is the reason why we love the sport. With the new changes at Hull KR including coach and also now Chairman it could easily happen that KR go on a bit of a slide, as they have done in past seasons.
They failed to follow up their play-off semi-final appearance in 2021 with a successful season last year as they finished 8th but a mid season slump which saw Tony Smith leave could happen again. Star players Ryan Hall and Shaun Kenny-Dowall aren’t getting any younger and an injury again to the likes of Mikey Lewis or Jordan Abdull who pull the strings could lead to a slippery slope for Rovers.
Another worry would be the fact the bookmakers have made KR the exact same price as Leigh for both the title and to finish in the bottom six, so if you’re to include Leigh as relegation candidates it’s hard to ignore KR given the tendency that bookmakers get it right far more often than they do wrong. The issue at Rovers could be that whilst there’s plenty of squad depth there’s a lack of star power, other teams like Leigh can now rely on multiple star players, similar to the likes of Salford with Marc Sneyd, Brodie Croft and Andy Ackers who are the next most fancied to be relegated according to the bookmakers.