Salford’s run to the Old Trafford last season was a much-needed boost to a Super League competition that had become stale with the predictable Grand Finalists. The 100/1 outsiders unexpected feat was certainly a fairytale, but could it start a trend?
The Red Devils were unable to overcome a dominant St Helens side in that final but Ian Watson’s men certainly made many players and coaches change their perspective. Further to that, it perhaps underlined a new era for a competition that still only has four different winners in 25 years.
Last season was one that will live long in the memory, due to the congested nature of the table behind St Helens. Eventual Grand Finalists Salford were at risk of relegation for much of 2019, second-placed Wigan also flirted with the bottom in the first half of the campaign and eight-time Super League champions Leeds struggled in an ultra-competitive league.
There were only 10 points between London at the bottom and fifth-placed Castleford, with the Tigers going within one playoff win of a Grand Final Qualifier. This was just half the story though in a season that never stopped throwing up surprise results.
Super League has often been a competition where you can look at most fixtures and pick out the winners with ease. You only have to go back to 2014 when London finished bottom with just two points, winning only one of their 27 league matches. Fast-forward five years and the same side were tipped to have a similar experience in the top flight. However, Danny Ward’s Broncos more than held their own in Super League and were unlucky to go down, finishing on a record total of 20 points for a relegated side, falling through the trap door on points differential.
The final day relegation showdown highlighted just what an incredible season it was, with four teams at risk of dropping down to the Championship. The nerve-jangling Friday night was a unique one-off, with the competition’s unpredictability levels at an all-time high. It’s surely a situation that will never be repeated ever again in Super League, right?
Well, I say that, but writing this article we are just three weeks into the new season and the week-by-week shocks are continuing to happen. It was results like Wakefield’s victory over Warrington on Sunday that resulted in such a congested Super League table in 2019.
Adding to that the fact that Huddersfield are the only undefeated team so far underlines we are in for a similar competition. The Giants, who survived on the final day of the 2019 campaign, have started this season with two impressive wins away to Catalans and Salford, meanwhile record-breaking St Helens, who finished 16 points clear and lost just three games last season, have already suffered a 19-0 defeat at Warrington.
Saints are still favourites to win the Grand Final, sitting at around +175 to +225, depending on the sportsbook according to SportsBettingDime. Their +521 points difference last season underlined their dominance. That was also some 335 points better than any other team and the best mark since Wigan in 2012 (+545). Point’s differential often highlights a team’s capabilities in attack and defence, and given their ruthlessness in both these areas, you have to feel Saints have a very good chance of defending their crown.
So despite the unpredictable nature of Super League, we’re still expecting St Helens to be one of the Grand Finalists. However, the other spot at Old Trafford is most certainly up for grabs and it will be interesting to see if another relegation dogfight begins to take shape as well. The start to the new season certainly makes this a possibility, with Super League now more unpredictable than at any point in the competition’s 25-year history.