The 2020 Super League season is finally upon us and in just a matter of hours, Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves will go to battle and kick-off what will hopefully be another year of thrills, spills and pulsating rugby league.
These are my Super League predictions for the forthcoming year…
Predicted finish: 1st Last season’s finish: 1st
Justin Holbrook guided Super League’s so-called ‘entertainers’ to destined Grand Final glory in 2019, as he closed a glory-filled chapter before embarking on a new journey with the Gold-Coast Titans.
However, there is a new man in town, Kristian Woolf. The Australian head coach heads to Merseyside with a pretty solid reputation after guiding Tonga National Team to their first-ever victory over Australia just months ago.
Despite the loss of half-back Danny Richardson and winger Adam Swift, Woolf has managed to keep together much of the side who defeated Salford at Old Trafford in October.
With players such as Lachlan Coote, Tommy Makinson, Luke Thompson and veteran James Roby, I am backing the Saints to emulate last season’s heroics and claim back-to-back league leaders’ shields.
Predicted finish: 2nd Last season’s finish: 2nd
Despite a slow start in 2019, Adrian Lam’s Wigan Warriors soon got going. A seven-game unbeaten run saw the Warriors ghost past Warrington and into second position, only for Ian Watson’s rampant Red Devils halting their Grand Final dream.
With star halfback George Williams leaving for the bright lights of the NRL, Adrian Lam acted fast and took no time in acquiring some big names.
2019 Man of Steel Jackson Hastings and his Salford teammate Jake Bibby join the Wigan ranks after a very successful stint in Greater Manchester, and with the inclusion of South Sydney Rabbitohs’ star George Burgess, I predict a very strong 2020 for the Warriors.
Predicted finish: 3rd Last season’s finish: 4th
After their Challenge Cup heroics at Wembley, Steve Price’s Wolves came off the boil towards the end of the 2019 campaign, eventually finding themselves in the opening playoff tie with Castleford.
However, Price will be looking to bounce back and has made some very good signings in the off-season. Anthony Gelling, Matty Ashton and marquee signing Gareth Widdop all enter the fold as the Wire hope they can hit the ground running when they kick-off their campaign at the DW Stadium tonight.
Predicted finish: 4th Last season’s finish: 8th
Life has been tough if you are a Rhinos fan as of late. After years of glory with the likes of Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow, a ninth and eighth-placed finish in the last two seasons have been difficult to stomach.
However, a bit of stability was needed and it came in the form of Richard Agar. The Yorkshireman has assembled a strong squad for the start of the 2020 season, with the acquisition of Castleford’s Luke Gale being pivotal in a strong recruitment drive.
If the former Man of Steel can stay fit and gather some of the form which led the Tigers to the 2017 Grand Final, then the Rhinos could be a serious contender for a top-five place.
Predicted finish: 5th Last season’s finish: 6th
It was a disappointing end to which was a pretty strong season for the Black & Whites. Poor form in parts cost Lee Radford’s side as Hull FC came touching distance away from that elusive fifth spot.
On paper, Hull have a very strong squad. With the likes of Jamie Shaul, Albert Kelly and Jake Connor, it is a massive surprise that Radford has not been able to reach the playoffs since 2017.
However, I see times changing in 2020 and with the introduction of St Helens’ Adam Swift and West Tigers’ Mahe Fonua, I predict that the Black & Whites will prolong their season past the final day.
Predicted finish: 6th Last season’s finish: 5th
A strong 2019 saw Castleford Tigers fend off the competition and claim that final playoff place.
Despite the signings of Sosaia Feki and young halfback Danny Richardson, there has been a fairly big overhaul in West Yorkshire with key players such as Greg Minikin, Mitch Clark and Luke Gale all moving on.
Taking that into account, I feel that Hull FC have a much stronger side and will be able to sustain a good run of form that will, unfortunately, condemn Castleford to sixth.
Predicted finish: 7th Last season’s finish: 9th
Everyone associated with Wakefield will be hoping that last season was an anomaly. Bad patches of form and frequent injuries meant that Chris Chester’s side came far too close to starting 2020 playing Championship rugby league.
However, a busy off-season has seen the Wakefield-born coach bring in a host of fresh faces. From the experience of Ryan Atkins and Joe Westerman to the energy of Josh Wood and Alex Walker, I feel Wakefield have the capabilities to really worry the teams above.
Predicted finish: 8th Last season’s finish: –
Just four years after they were founded, last season, Toronto Wolfpack reached the pinnacle of the rugby league pyramid, as a 24-6 victory over Featherstone Rovers cemented their place in the competition on just their second time of trying.
However, despite the introduction of worldwide rugby star Sonny Bill Williams and former Leeds Rhinos forward Brad Singleton, I don’t see Brain McDermott’s side setting the Super League alight. Not just yet, anyway.
Predicted finish: 9th Last season’s finish: 7th
Off the field incidents over the past few days may have disrupted Catalans’ final preparations before their Super League opener, following the controversial signing of Israel Folau. The Australian joined the French side following his sacking from the Wallabies last May due to his anti-LGBT social media posts.
Back to on-field matters, head coach Steve McNamara oversaw a huge change in the Dragons’ dressing room in the off-season, with the departure of some of the club’s big names.
The introductions of Josh Drinkwater, Joel Tomkins and Tom Davies, however, won’t be able to paper over the cracks and push the Perpignan side up the league standings.
Salford Red Devils
Predicted finish: 10th Last season’s finish: 3rd
Following on from their 2019 masterclass, a large amount of movement at the AJ Bell Stadium in the off-season has seen the majority of their big-name stars move on.
12 new faces will see a much-changed Salford side come their season opener at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday, as Ian Watson tries to mirror last season’s terrific form.
However, change needs time and despite going from relegation favourites to Grand Final contenders, I feel that Watson and his side will struggle to find any sort of rhythm throughout much of the 2020 campaign.
Predicted finish: 11th Last season’s finish: 10th
I would be surprised if many Huddersfield Giants’ fans had any fingernails left at the end of 2019 after their side came touching distance away from the drop.
Positive signings such as Kenny Edwards, Ashton Golding – who will miss the start of the campaign through injury – and former Canberra star Adam Sezer will make the Giants much more competitive, but I suspect another year of skirting with danger is on the horizon.
Predicted finish: 12th Last season’s finish: 11th
A disappointing 2019 meant that Tony Smith stepped up his recruitment in the off-season with a massive 15 players entering Craven Park for the start of the new year.
Despite the signings of Greg Minikin, Harvey Livett and Matt Parcel, much of this new look KR squad have come from the league below and just like Salford, I feel that too much change could hinder the East Yorkshire side.
Which is why I believe that Hull KR fans have another tough season ahead of battling towards the wrong end of the table.
Image – Connor Grace
Disclaimer – These are the opinions of the author and not ones of MerseySportLive.