With January upon us, it won’t be long until the new season of Super League gets going and it’s already looking like an interesting and explosive year for rugby fans. Warm-up matches kicked off on Boxing Day with the season proper starting on January 31st. We’ll be taking a look at which teams are favourites to win.
This year will see Castleford Tigers; Catalans Dragons; Huddersfield Giants; Hull F.C.; Hull KR; Leeds Rhinos; London Broncos; Salford Red Devils; St. Helens; Wakefield Trinity; Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors duking it out, but there are four teams in particular with not a lot between them for anyone trying to predict the league winner.
In 2018 Wigan Warriors were crowned champions for the fifth time at the Grand Final, beating Warrington Wolves 12-4. It was their 22nd championship overall, marking a new record. They’re joint favourite to win at the moment with rugby league betting odds placing them at 7/2. They’ve signed former Leeds and Castleford full-back and 2015 Man of Steel Zak Hardaker, a player with tons of potential and an opportunity to achieve it at Wigan.
Some are questioning whether Wigan will take a bit of a step backwards in 2019, however. Adrian Lam is stepping in as interim coach and promising a more mobile game from the team, but with only a year in the job it’s questionable how much impact he’ll be able to have. Meanwhile, John Bateman and Sam Tomkins will leave huge boots to fill, though a deep bench of other talent and upcoming younger players will mean they’re still likely to deliver a strong performance.
The other joint favourite with odds of 7/2, St Helens won the League Leaders Shield in 2018 but failed to reach the Grand Final after losing their semi 19-18 to Warrington Wolves, the first time since Huddersfield in 2013 that the League Leaders didn’t make the final. This was despite being viewed by many as the best team through most of the season, meaning the pressure’s on for them to perform.
They’ve made headlines with a few big signings for the new season, including Australian full-back Lachlan Coote; Fiji captain Kevin Naiqama and Samoan international Joseph Paulo. Combined with Big Alex Walmsley coming back and Luke Thompson in the forwards, they’ll be fielding a strong team.
As third favourite at 4/1 and runner-up in the Grand Final, Warrington Wolves are another contender for the top. With Blake Austin coming over from the Canberra Raiders to round out the halves, the Wolves might have found the final piece to their puzzle and built a squad that will win finals. They’ve also brought over Jason Clark from South Sydney Rabbitohs – primarily a loose forward but also a capable second row, he’s likely to add consistency to the pack.
After losing out to Wigan in 2018’s Super League semi-final, there are questions floating around over their ability to win big games, but that hasn’t stopped the bookies giving them solid 9/2 odds of winning. They’ll face pressure from improving teams like Catalans Dragons, Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants, but if they can find some consistency they can still challenge for the title.
Right out of the gate we’ll see some big fixtures that could really set the tone of the season, with St. Helens taking on Wigan Warriors on January 31st and the Hull derby between Kingston Rovers and Hull F.C. on February 5th. With not a lot to separate the front-runners, 2019 should be a great season of rugby.