Toronto Wolfpack will start off life in League 1 next year and Barrow head coach Paul Crarey believes it is hard to look past them as the outright winners of the competition.
Former Leigh Centurions boss Paul Rowley is the coach of the Canadian outfit and they have brought in a number of Super League and Championship players, including Greg Worthington and Jack Bussey.
Crarey believes the Wolfpack are expected to achieve automatic promotion and he hopes his side to snare second place.
“Toronto coming in this year with a big budget and a good quality coach and quality players are going to be hot favourites,” Crarey told Love Rugby League.
“It is who gets that second spot.”
Whilst Crarey is looking forward to the Cumbrian derbies he stressed it was a shame the fixtures don’t allow more games between the sides.
“It’s a pity we can’t play them home and away because you’d get big crowds for those games,” he said.
“We have got a lot of the top sides away from home.”
Barrow came within one match of securing promotion to the Championship last year, losing out to Toulouse in the play-off final.
Although Crarey wants to be in the same position at the end of next season, he did stress how much competition there is.
“In the past there were one or two teams that could win the competition,” he told said.
“Now you have eight sides that will be fighting for two spots.”
This year getting business done early has ensured a productive start to pre-season, according to Crarey.
“We have signed our squad up really early which has been key,” he said.
“You’ve got Jarrad Stack who has been outstanding for Workington.
“Tom Walker who I believe is one of the best young front-rowers knocking about at 21.”
Compared with pre-season last year, Crarey is delighted with the progress that has been made this time round.
“We are a million miles from where we were last year,” he said.
“We struggled with the field last year and members of our squad got injured and we were still building the side.
“We have overcome all that and we are a little bit further on than where we were this time last year.”