In a repeat of last year’s Grand Final, St Helens play Catalan Dragons tomorrow in the opening match of the 27th Super League season.
Change is the buzz word for rugby league. Coaches have moved, players of the highest quality have arrived in the division, there’s a second French side in Toulouse, and a terrestrial TV deal for good measure – all of this in a home World Cup year.
“The sport is really well placed to have a roaring year,” Leeds Rhinos and Great Britain legend Jamie Peacock told City A.M.
“It’s such a big thing for the sport to reach Channel 4 – the first league free-to-air coverage for us – but there’s also a World Cup which is going to bring people together.
“Fans and neutrals will want to come and watch the World Cup after the last few years, it could be like the Euros in that sense. This country has a real appetite for world class sport.”
“This feels like Cas 2.0 now that Daryl Powell has left but I expect them to be very competitive with Lee Radford replacing him as coach. Could just about reach the play-offs.”
“I think Catalans will win something, whether it’s the Super League, League Leaders’ Shield or Challenge Cup I’m not sure. This is the best side they’ve had in decades.”
“They’ve got a great coach in Ian Watson and a brilliant half-back pairing. There’s no excuses now; I think Watson’s got a lot to offer and they too could be pushing for play-offs.”
“They may have had a lot of injuries last year but this time around they’ve got a lot to prove. It’s a big season for them if they want to be the best team in Hull and start building.”
“Kingston Rovers are still the best Hull side in the Super League right now. They’ll want to retain local bragging rights and have an outside shot at a play-off spot.”
“This season has a Leeds resurgence written all over it. Keeping the same core for so long has hindered some of the young lads but I think they can challenge for silverware.”
Salford Red Devils
“They’ll be hoping new signing Brodie Croft can be another Jackson Hastings and drag them to a level above what’s expected, but I think Salford will be in the relegation dogfight.”
“The question is whether Saints have the desire to go again. They’ve mostly kept the same team, their imports are excellent, and it’s all about wanting a fourth win in a row.”
“It’s hard to stay in Super League but promoted Toulouse have one key advantage: their home games. Forget away form and focus on making the south of France a fortress.”
“Willie Poching is the right person to be in charge but for Trinity it’s about momentum. Need a good run of form to be a play-off outsider but will want to stay in the league first.”
“Signing Powell from Cas as coach is a really good move. I think he’ll get the best out of them but, amid a bit of a rebuild, it might be next year until they challenge for titles.”
“Wigan have recruited well and simply need to avoid injuries to key players. If they can do that they’ll be highly competitive and difficult to beat.”
Jamie Peacock MBE is running a unique 100-mile ultramarathon around London to fundraise for sports and mentoring charity Greenhouse Sports on 16 April. To donate, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/runfortheroof.