Super League XVI betting preview
The new Super League season is almost upon us and it looks set to be another great year of Rugby. The action gets underway this weekend at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff with seven games crammed into two days.
The current Champions Wigan are favourites to retain their crown but with all the teams bringing in new players to their squad who are the teams most likely to challenge?
Bradford Bulls have been busy in the transfer market throughout the winter months and have landed eleven new recruits. Possibly the most interesting change at The Bulls though comes in the coaching department as Mick Potter takes over as boss. The Australian left St Helens at the end of the 2010 season and looked set to return to NRL before signing a three year contract at Odsal.
That will be seen as something as a coup and The Bulls fans will be hoping it gives them a much needed boost after finishing a disappointing tenth place last season. It's certainly been a rapid fall from grace for Bradford, they won their third World Club Championship crown as recently as 2006 but have been getting consistently worse year on year. That has been reflected in falling attendances and a good start to the season will be required if that trend isn't to continue.
One of the new recruits for Bradford is John Bateman, a 17-year old hot prospect, who could well force his way into the team during the season and is expected to go far in the game.
They are 25/1 to win the Super League, it is probably beyond them this year .
Predicted finishing position: 8th
Castleford Tigers start the season as rank outsiders at 66/1. They narrowly missed out on a play-off place last season finishing just two points behind the Crusaders and will see finishing in 8th this time as a good season.
Terry Mathieson has been at the club for five years and that brings stability to the ranks. Although they have lost a couple of key players they have also brought players in most notably Danny Orr and Martin Aspinwall.
They blooded a number of young players last year and with a season of experience under their belt they could benefit and that will give some hope to The Jungle faithful. 19-year old Jordan Thompson is one to watch.
Castleford are even money to make the play-offs and I think it will be a close call.
Predicted finishing position: 9th
Catalan Dragons finished third in the regular season back in 2008 but have struggled since, finishing bottom of the pile last season. The Perpignan based club have a new coach in Trent Robinson. Robinson has previous experience as assistant coach at the Sydney Roosters.
They have signed Damien Blanch from Wakefield, the Australian-born Irish winger is a lethal finisher and is 40/1 to be the Super League's top try scorer this season. The each way terms for that bet is ¼ for the first four so he is definitely worth an each way punt.
Like a lot of teams in Super League this season Catalan have had a high turnover of players making it difficult to predict how the new side will gel but I think it's unlikely the French side will make the play-offs.
Predicted finishing position: 11th
The Crusaders start the season on minus four points due to financial problems and that will be a massive disadvantage to the Welsh club as they aim to build on their impressive results of last season.
They surprisingly made the play-offs last season and Iestyn Harris has taken over as the coach. It's a difficult task for him to follow Brian Noble and it seems unlikely he will be emulating the play-off qualification of his predecessor. Harris is taking a long term view and is attempting to bring through some home grown talent and converts from Rugby Union.
With the points penalty a season of toil looks likely and they are 1/5 to finish in the bottom six.
Predicted finishing position: 14th
London's only club Harlequins have yet to achieve anything of note since they took over the franchise from the London Broncos back in 2005. William Hill do not expect that to change this season as they are 125/1 to win their first ever Super League Grand final. They are also 33/1 to win 'without the top 4' which shows just what an uphill task they are set to face.
They are another team with a new coach as Rob Powell takes charge. He has been on the coaching staff at the club since 2006 so brings continuity to the ranks.
Powell has brought in a number of loan signings including Mark Calderwood. Calderwood's career has gone downhill recently and even struggled to find a club before Harlequins secured his services. If he can get back to his best he should be able to score a few tries and help his new club pick up some wins. They have also brought in Chris Bailey from Manly, a promising youngster who could good well this year.
Predicted finishing position: 13th
Huddersfield Giants are the favourites in the 'betting without the big 4' market and 20/1 to finish top in the regular season.
They performed brilliantly in last season's play-offs to see off the Crusaders and then gained a shock win away at Warrington. They needed to win at St Helens to appear at Old Trafford for the first time but despite only conceding a 2 point first half deficit the strain of the play-offs took it's toll and St Helens eventually ran out 42-22 winners.
They finished 5th in the regular season last time but they should have ambitions to go even better this time around. They played St Helens in a pre-season friendly last week winning convincingly 36-12 and that is sure to boost confidence. Kevin Brown was a star performer on the night and he is 25/1 to be named the Man of Steel.
The Giants could well be a dark horse this season and are 16/1 to win their first ever Super League title.
Predicted finishing position: 4th
Hull finished 6th last year but their fans will not remember the season too fondly after losing to their cross-city rivals Hull KR in the play-offs. They should get a chance to make amends this season and are rated at 4/11 to finish in the top 8.
The more ambitious fan can back them at 20/1 to win the Super League title. I think the best they can hope for is a fifth place finish and that are currently rated at 7/2 to win 'without the big 4'.
They have had some problems in pre-season with full-back Joran Tansey's future in doubt after reports of alcohol-related ill discipline. There is little time for the club to find a replacement and that could throw a spanner in the works at the KC Stadium.
Predicted finishing position: 8th
Hull KR's big signing for Super League XVI is Forward Willie Mason, he has joined on a three year contract and he is hoping to make his debut against rivals Hull next Sunday at the Millennium Stadium pending a work permit application.
They finished 7th last season and will be hoping to improve on that showing this time around. They are a long shot at 33/1 to lift the Super League trophy. I certainly think the 8/11 they finish in the top 8 is worth a bet. I expect them to start the season with a win at Millenium magic in the Hull derby and I they will out perform their city rivals throughout the season.
Predicted finishing position: 6th
Leeds have made some interesting signings in the close season with the most exciting being Ben Cross from the Newcastle Knights. The Australian prop has signed a two year deal and a lot is expected of him.
Cross endeared himself to fans in Australia with his effort and aggression and Leeds will need that if they're to improve on last season's 4th place finish. They have also brought in Zak Hardaker on a 5 year deal from Harlequins and Weller Hauraki from Crusaders on a three year contract.
Of the so called big four teams Leeds are rated as least likely to win this year's Grand Final at 9/2 and 11/2 to win the regular season.
They should get off to a winning start in Cardiff when they take on Yorkshire rivals Bradford Bulls but I don't see them challenging for the top positions during the regular season.
Predicted finishing position: 5th
Salford will have been disappointed with their 12th placed finish last year and will be looking to move up the table in 2011. They are 11/8 to make into the top eight and those odds will give their followers hope that a better season lies ahead.
They have made a big recruitment drive for the season most notably signing Luke Patten on a three year deal from Canterbury. The full back has over 100 first grade tries in Australia and is one to watch in Super League XVI. He is 66/1 to be the top try scorer.
Work has recently started on a new stadium which means they could become a force to be reckoned with in the coming years. I think they are in for a better year and should be challenging for the play-offs until the final weeks.
Predicted finishing position: 10th
2010 Grand Final runners-up St Helens will be hoping for a big season but they won't have the famous Knowsley Road roar to help as they will play their games in Widnes this year whilst their new stadium is built.
How that will affect them is yet to be seen although they did suffer a heavy pre-season defeat to Huddersfield in Widnes last week. They will also be without the retired talisman Kieron Cunningham.
Australian Royce Simmons takes over as Head Coach. They have made three key signings in Josh Perry, Michael Shenton and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Perry is a Prop and will line up alongside James Graham which should provide a formidable pairing.
They are 100/30 joint second favourites along with Warrington to win the Super League title and I expect them to be there or thereabouts all season.
Predicted finishing position: 3rd
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats did some good business in the close season with the signing of Wigan duo Josh Veivers and Stuart Howarth.
Both players represented Wigan in the last three academy Grand Finals. Veivers is a potent goal kicker with an 80% conversion rate for the Warriors academy team and he is rated as 10/1 favourite to be named rookie of year in Super League XVI. If he starts the season well and adapts to his new club that looks a great bet.
The club are currently in administration and start the season at -6 points. The Wildcats are the longest odds of any team in Super League at 12/1 to make the play-off positions. Their new signings will need to gel and I think they will be battling to stay off the foot of the table.
Predicted finishing position: 12th
The big news coming out of Warrington this winter was the signing of controversial Australian Joel Monaghan. After the end of the 2010 NRL season, Monaghan was released from his contract with the Canberra Raiders at his own request. His decision to leave the Raiders came after a photograph of him simulating a lewd act with a dog was published on Twitter. He is rated as 50/1 to put his problems behind him and be awarded the 'Man of Steel' trophy at the end of the season.
The news regarding Monaghan should not overshadow Warrington's pre-season though, they are an improving force in Super League and a lot of shrewd money is likely to be placed on them to win this season's Grand Final at 100/30.
They were unfortunate to lose out in the play-offs last year but they did enjoy a Challenge Cup victory which outlines their intent for the coming season. I certainly think they will be up at the top challenging and would expect them to finish in the top three.
Predicted finishing position: 2nd
After years of disappointment and under achievement Wigan are finally back at the top of British rugby and start the season as favourites at 2/1 to retain the crown they won so convincingly in 2010. Coach Michael Maguire had a good first season at the club and he remains in charge for Super League XVI.
Despite their standing in the game Cherry and Whites have just two Super League titles to their name but there are high hopes amongst supporters that they could be about to embark on a new era of domination similar to which they enjoyed in the 90's.
They have a chance to underline their return to the top in three weeks when they play St George Dragons at The DW Stadium in the World Club Challenge.
The key man this season will be Sam Tomkins and if he is at his best the omens will be good for Wigan. Tomkins is the 7/1 favourite to be named 'Man of Steel' after twice being named young player of the year.
They ended their pre-season preparations with a hard fought win over Warrington and that should give them confidence before they start their defence against arch-rivals St Helens at the Millenium Magic weekend on Saturday evening. I expect them to start the season where they finished the last one, by beating their arch-rivals St Helens.
Whilst anything can happen in the play-offs, Wigan are currently the strongest team and I would expect them to finish top of the regular season table at 7/4.
Predicted finishing position: 1st
It's sure to be another great season and it all kicks-off next weekend in Cardiff. As always William Hill will bring you a wide range of markets for each and every game as well as in-play betting on all the live action.
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