It was a tricky winter for the sport of rugby league. Bradford Bulls, one of the most iconic Super League teams in its earlier years, were liquidated around the turn of the year.
There was disappointment for England and Scotland too in the Four Nations. Scotland produced one of the shocks of the year in world sport with a gutsy draw against New Zealand, but England flattered to deceive and didn’t make the final.
The Denny Solomona case too, made a huge impact off the pitch. Solomona broke the Super League record for most tries in a season last year, but “retired” from rugby league in order to make the cross-code switch to Sale Sharks. With a court case looming on the issue, it could set a dangerous precedent for the most promising rugby league stars.
The burden has fallen to Super League, therefore, to re-ignite the hope in British rugby league.
It’s shaping up to be an exciting season. Warrington came so close last season, with defeats in the Grand Final and Challenge Cup final, and will be hoping to go one step further this time around. The side that beat them, Wigan Warriors, will be looking to defend their Super League title- although Challenge Cup winners Hull FC and perennial contenders St.Helens may have something to say about that. Catalans Dragons, too, could well be in the running- although away form is always an issue for the French side.
Leeds Rhinos, treble winners in 2015, had a season to forget last year and will be looking to bounce back. With a number of promising youngsters coming through the ranks- and the signing of Manly’s Matt Parcell- it would be foolish to write off the Rhinos. Huddersfield Giants too had an underwhelming season. The retirement of Eorl Crabtree may hit them hard but they have enough depth and quality in the squad to comfortably secure a top-8 finish.
Castleford Tigers punched well above their weight last season thanks to Denny Solomona’s try-scoring antics, and this season could be a struggle. However, they’ve been boosted by the return of Michael Shenton, who missed last season through injury- and Zak Hardaker, the former Man of Steel who has a point to prove.
Widnes Vikings will be hoping to build on a successful season in 2016, as will the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. It’ll be a competitive battle to avoid the bottom 4, however, with Salford Red Devils– who so narrowly avoided relegation last season- determined to not be put in the same situation again. As for new boys Leigh Centurions, can they build on their impressive Middle 8s form and survive the drop?
It certainly will be an intriguing Super League season, with a number of teams in contention at both the top and bottom of the table.