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Nic Ladds 28th Jan 2010 - 12:32

Super League XV season preview

A new year and a new Super League season is upon us, with the Leeds Rhinos looking to seal their fourth successive title. Their main rivals this year are the usual suspects of St Helens, Warrington and Wigan after they all brought in bright young prospects. Do any of the teams have enough to stop the dominance of the Rhinos?

Here is a preview of all the clubs to help you decide where your money could go this season.

 

Leeds Rhinos

The Rhinos cemented their status as Super League's top team last season, beating St Helens in the final to become the first team to lift three consecutive titles.

Thanks to Ryan Hall's 31 tries last season (5/1 to be top try scorer this year) and the leadership of veteran Keith Senior and captain Kevin Sinfield the Rhinos ruled last season with relative ease. The team looks just as good as last year, if not better, with the addition of World Cup winner Greg Eastwood.

For this reason I can't see them slowing down this season and could even pull away from their rivals. This year could mean another battle for second place.

Regular season - Evens, Grand Final winner - 11/10

 

St Helens

They may have lost three finals in a row to Leeds Rhinos, but confidence is still high around Knowsley Road, as a few of the older players have been replaced with some promising up and coming prospects.

The challenge for coach Mick Potter will be getting the right balance with his older and younger players, but if he can - St Helens should be aiming for another crack at Leeds in the Grand Final.

Their star man is undoubtedly James Graham who looks a good bet at 10/1 for the Man of Steel award as his sheer athleticism makes him last longer than a Duracell bunny.

Overall St Helens could look at this year as transitional, blooding some youth, but if they can start well, they could be worth a punt on the Super League season handicap of +4 at 10/1.

Regular season - 11/4, Grand Final winner - 11/4

 

Warrington Wolves

The Wolves started last season so badly they didn't even manage a play-off spot but with Tony Smith no longer distracted by his national duties, they surely can mount a serious challenge this year.

Winning the Challenge Cup last year would surely serve as a confidence booster and with some shrewd signings - they have a real chance of making the play-offs. If they can stay injury free they surely posses the biggest threat to the top two this year.

They will look to Richie Myler to step up a gear and put in some top performances this year, after an impressive rise to fame with England.

Regular season - 10/1, Grand Final winner - 9/1

 

Wigan Warriors

Wigan are another team that endured a poor start last year, before they kicked on to reach the play-off semi-finals.

This year expectations are high with new coach Michael Maguire setting up his own unique regime. He has named a team of captains instead of just one and put the team through an intense pre-season.

The team has barely changed so they will be looking for last year's young player of the year Sam Tomkins to live up to his reputation. The fans will at least expect serious attempts at the Challenge Cup and play-offs and not yet another nearly season.

Regular season - 12/1, Grand Final winner - 10/1

 

Huddersfield Giants

After an impressive season last year, the Giants will be hoping they can build on the success of being named Super League club of the year. They finished third in the table (making this year's handicap of +9 at 10/1 a good prospect) plus they reached the Challenge Cup final and they will look to make sure that wasn't a one off.

Last year's Man of Steel Brett Hodgson was outstanding last season and is 12/1 to claim it again. If he can play well again, the Giants could be amongst the challengers for second place.

Regular season - 12/1, Grand Final winner - 14/1

 

Bradford Bulls

I think this is the place in the betting we are looking down the table instead of up. Bradford didn't have the best of seasons in 2009 - not even reaching the play-offs for the first time in eleven years and having a poor cup run.

They did suffer with injuries last year but they have lost big names in Sam Burgess and Paul Deacon so if they are to have any chance this year they will need everyone else to step up a gear.

Fans will hope they learned lessons from last year and will be eager to right some wrongs but I think the Bulls have a big task on their hands this year.

Regular season - 16/1, Grand Final winner - 14/1

 

Catalans Dragons

The Dragons ended last year strongly and reached their second successive play-offs and had some impressive wins. They will hope they can build on some good performances and aim for a play-off place but with so many other teams looking strong this year, I think it's a big ask.

Thomas Bosc needs a good season if the Catalans are going to achieve anything as the creative Frenchman is key to most victories.

A play-off is probably within reach with a consistent season but I think a mid-table finish is more likely here; it could be a tricky season for the Dragons.

Regular season - 20/1, Grand Final winner - 20/1

 

Hull FC

Injuries were the main feature of the Black and Whites' season last year as they crashed into 12th place. Coach Richard Agar will be hoping to put that in the past and look at 2008 as inspiration that they can do well.

Hopefully with fewer injuries they can finish higher and they will look to the experienced scrum-half Sean Long to bring his winning mentality to the club.

A positive could be the size of the squad to cope with another injury crisis - and if they can put a full squad out more often you have to expect them to better last year's showing.

Regular season - 25/1, Grand Final winner - 25/1

 

Hull KR

Just across the city from Hull FC lie Hull KR and after owning bragging rights from last season, finishing eight places above their rivals, they will hope to repeat an impressive 2009. A big worry has to be performances on the big stage as after a good season in the league, they couldn't overpower Leeds or Wigan in the play-offs.

The cool head of Shaun Briscoe is vital and his experience could help them beat the big boys but in my opinion, they did overachieve a little last year and it would be very hard for them to repeat or better a fourth place finish.

Regular season - 25/1, Grand Final winner - 25/1

 

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats

Expecting a tough 2009, Wakefield impressed and managed to finish fifth. If they can replicate such form that saw them finish so high, they will need better experience to keep the form going all the way through the play-offs.

Jason Demetriou will hope to captain them closer to success with a place in the top eight available at 6/4 certainly worth a go.

 The fans will also want a good cup run as some silverware may be needed if the league form dips.

Regular season - 50/1, Grand Final winner 66/1

 

Castleford Tigers

The Tigers scraped a play-off place last year and duly got knocked out in the first week. They may entertain at one end but pay for it with leaking points at the other end.

Their undoubted star is Rangi Chase, full of flair but also full of unpredictability - on and off the field. Proof being he missed the Tigers' pre-season training camp as his dog ate his visa.

Coach Terry Matterson lost a finger in pre-season training in a freak accident. His quick return to work and tough mentality could help, but I think Castleford fans could be in for a long season.

Regular season - 80/1, Grand Final winner - 80/1

 

Harlequins RL

After winning one of the last twelve games, Harlequins missed the play-offs by a long stretch and with record low crowds; things do not look good for the Quins.

Brian McDermott did steer the Harlequins away from relegation but he has never really pushed them to the next level. On their day, they can give most a game but they just don't have any real quality that can win a game in the blink of an eye.

The ever-present hooker Chad Randall finally missed a game after 101 consecutive games last year and he's become a real asset in their attack, he will be vital.

Regular season - 125/1, Grand Final winner - 125/1

 

Salford City Reds

Their first season back in the big league last year wasn't easy, getting only seven wins all year. Victories over the Rhinos and St Helens were certainly highlights and show that they can win, just not often enough.

Stefan Ratchford is their key man and at only 21, there's still a lot to come from him, not only creating the tries but chipping in with nine along the way.

They could say last year was a readjustment to the big time but I can't really see much improvement occurring this year and they could be lucky not to finish bottom (11/4).

Regular season - 150/1, Grand Final winner - 150/1

 

Crusaders

Last but not least, Crusaders come in bottom of this year's pile. After a shocking 2009, registering just three wins all season in the league, 2010 looks set to pile on the misery.

They are short on numbers after six players were embarrassingly deported at the end of last season due to visa irregularities. They will hope Lincoln Withers can better his six tries from last season if they have any chance, but I think the 4/6 on them to finish bottom is even generous at that and they could have a record breaking bad season.

Regular season - 250/1, Grand Final winner - 200/1

 

 
 
 

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