The 2021 Super League campaign is now nearly upon us, and there is plenty to look forward to with another exciting season in store.
Last year’s dramatic Grand Final proved the sport still has so much to offer, with St Helens beating rivals Wigan Warriors 8-4 at the KCOM Stadium thanks to a last-gasp Jack Welsby try.
Since then, there have been coaching changes and new arrivals, while there’s also a new club in the top flight, with Leigh Centurions taking Toronto Wolfpack’s place.
We take a look at the Super League contenders, as well as those clubs who could spring a surprise or two.
St Helens Aiming for Three in a Row
Kristian Woolf’s side have had their hands on the trophy for the last two seasons, and they will fancy their chances of making it happen again in 2021.
The arrival of Joel Thompson, Agnatius Paasi, Sione Mata’utia and Dan Norman has helped fill the void after the likes of Dom Peyroux, Jack Ashworth, Matty Foster and James Graham all moved on.
Saints set the bar in 2020 and they will be the ones to beat in 2021. Woolf’s side are
2/1 favourites to win the Grand Final at Old Trafford but old rivals Wigan are expected push them close.
Adrian Lam’s side won the League Leaders’ Shield in 2020, before losing to Saints in the Grand Final. They have lost Sean O’Loughlin to retirement but since tempted John Bateman back to the club after a two-year stint in the NRL with the Canberra Raiders.
Wigan are famous for bringing through top-quality youngsters, and with just two new arrivals in the off-season, Lam looks set to give the next generation every chance to shine this year.
However, they may get off to a slow start after a tough pre-season. Jackson Hastings’ future is up in the air and they lost last week to Salford in a pre-season friendly. They face Leigh Centurions in week one and, with several ex-Wigan players in their ranks, will fancy their chances.
One Final Hurrah for Price and Powell
Both Steve Price and Daryl Powell have confirmed they are to leave Warrington Wolves and Castleford Tigers at the end of the campaign.
Price has led Warrington to Challenge Cup glory in the past, while a Grand Final ring still evades Powell as Tigers coach.
There is every chance Powell replaces Price but, for now, it is business as usual as the two clubs try to contend for trophies, with Warrington
6/1 to win the Grand Final for the first time.
The Wire’s acquisition of Greg Inglis is something to excite all fans, with the Australian legend a superstar of the game.
If he can recapture his form, then Warrington should be in for a special year.
Castleford’s squad still contains the reigning Man of Steel, Paul McShane, and he will be motivated by a potential England call-up ahead of the World Cup.
The Tigers signed Niall Evalds at full-back, and he could provide a deadly combination with half-back Jake Trueman.
Leeds Lead the Best of the Rest
After a tough few years, Leeds Rhinos gave their fans something to smile about in 2020 when lifting the Challenge Cup. The late capture of Kyle Eastmond could be a crucial signing for the club, with the dual-code man an option all over the park.
Leeds need the likes of Luke Gale and Brad Dwyer to stay injury-free, but if they can get into the play-offs, they have every chance thanks to their fine record in the post-season.
Huddersfield’s capture of Ian Watson means they should be setting lofty targets rather than trying to avoid relegation. He has already tried to rebuild the squad, and playmaker Aidan Sezer can win them a game on his own.
Catalans Dragons, Hull FC, and Salford Red Devils will also look to spring a surprise, while the likes of Hull KR, Wakefield Trinity and Leigh Centurions are expected to be competing for the wooden spoon.
*All odds correct at time of writing.