Each season, there is always a debate about which team will spring a surprise on the rest of the competition.
In 2019, it was Salford who managed to reach the Grand Final after a stellar season. Whilst there wasn’t really a shock in 2020, a possible return to normality could once more reignite the underdog spirit in 2021.
But, which three teams are the potential dark horses in the upcoming campaign?
The Giants are probably most people’s pick to be dark horses in 2021. That is entirely down to the choice of boss; Ian Watson was the man that steered Salford to the Grand Final in 2019 and the Challenge Cup Final in 2020 and now he will be looking to reignite a sleeping tiger in Huddersfield. Watson’s recruitment has been superb to say the least with Luke Yates, Josh Jones and Ricky Leutele amongst them. Chairman Ken Davy has backed the ex-Salford man greatly and that should be enough to push the West Yorkshire club up the table at least. However, Watson has his eyes firmly on the Super League prize after missing out with the Red Devils two years ago.
Speaking of a sleeping tiger, Castleford have been dormant ever since their 2017 season. The standards of their seasons are always likely to draw comparisons with that record-breaking year which is perhaps unfair. However, the Tigers fell badly after lockdown in 2020 with the lack of adaptation to the new rules coming back to haunt Daryl Powell’s men. The consistent injuries suffered also didn’t make Powell’s job easier, hence why he has gone for strength-in-depth in the transfer market with the likes of Suaia Matagi and Jordan Turner coming in. Of course, the capture of Niall Evalds was a major coup and he will be pivotal to Castleford’s charge on Old Trafford also. With the reigning Man of Steel in their ranks in Paul McShane and an exciting all-Britsh spine, the future signs are pointing in the right direction. But, for once, the Tigers go into a season with little expectation – no pundit has predicted a top-four finish and that plays right into the hands of Powell who will use this as motivation.
Each year, Hull FC are talked up about being potential Grand Final winners and each year they fall flat on their faces. But, something just feels different about the club since Brett Hodgson took over. The former Warrington and Huddersfield fullback seems to have instilled a much more inclusive culture and the Hull players look raring to go in 2021. Bringing in ex-Origin halfback Josh Reynolds has done Hodgson’s budding reputation no harm with the 31-year-old likely to be heading that Grand Final focus. Of course, when the enigma Jake Connor fires on all cylinders so do Hull so it will be interesting to see how Hodgson fares in bringing the utility back under his wing. Predict the likes of Manu Ma’u and Chris Satae to have superb seasons too, with Hull’s forward pack looking bigger and more powerful with each passing year.