We’re only a few rounds in to the new season and already there are some interesting sub-plots developing in Super League.
Champions Wigan have made a lacklustre start under new coach Adrian Lam, losing three of their first four games, as well as going down, albeit in a spirited fashion, to Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge.
Crowds have dipped at Wigan over the past few years – though perhaps this is a game-wide problem rather than specific to the Warriors – with some of that blame portioned towards former coach Shaun Wane’s playing style, however successful it may have been.
With the peculiar situation, and apparent doubt, surrounding Shaun Edwards taking charge in 2020, perhaps Wigan lack a bit of direction in the early stages of this season.
They are short of players through injury, the likes of Joe Burgess, Dom Manfredi, Liam Farrell and Ben Flower, but with the play-off format changing for this season, they will be anxious not to fall too far behind the pace setters.
HIGHLIGHTS – Broncos stun Wigan!
London Broncos defeated reigning Super League champions Wigan Warriors 18-16 to record their second victory of the season – including this 100m effort from Kieran Dixon!
— Sky Sports RL (@SkySportsRL) March 3, 2019
It’s hardly been the start to the new era Leeds would have liked, and they were pasted at home to Wakefield on Friday night.
The Rhinos’ big off-season signings, with the exception of Konrad Hurrell, have yet to live up to the billing, and Tui Lolohea so far doesn’t look like the answer to resolving the creative problems they have.
They missed Jack Walker, which makes it all the more surprising that Ashton Golding was allowed to play for Featherstone, and there are questions as to whether some of the other players in the team are capable of dragging the Rhinos in to the top five.
They have lost that edge and that arrogance that they carried in years gone by, understandable given the player departures and the astonishing dynasty that they have created, and fans will have to be patient with David Furner while the re-building work goes on.
Will it finally be Warrington’s year? They’ve started well, but were pipped by Catalans in a cracker on Saturday night.
Sam Tomkins has the star quality and champion hunger and experience to lead the Dragons to bigger and better things.
The Wolves, along with St Helens and Castleford, look like being the top three in 2019 so far.
Danny Brough put in a typically masterful performance for Wakefield in their Leeds win, showing his former club Huddersfield what they are missing.
Winger Tom Johnstone’s post-match interview for Trinity just reflected the excellent culture they have created, and after finishing fifth in the past two seasons, they will be hoping for the play-offs this term.
— Wakefield Trinity (@WTrinityRL) March 2, 2019
Huddersfield are rooted to the bottom after yet another miserable start. Changing their coach doesn’t seem to be having the desired affect, apart from the initial new manager bounce, and it may be time now to point the figure of blame at their recruitment.
Their decision to sell Brough was perhaps done with salary cap restrictions in mind, but they are lacking experience and reliability at half-back, while there aren’t many in their pack that would get in at any other Super League side and they spent part of the off-season trying to offload their best prop in Sebastine Ikahihifo.
Simon Woolford acknowledged a re-building job was on at the Giants and it would take a while for it to all be shaken up, but they can ill-afford to gamble with their Super League status given London’s start to the season.
🗣️ Huddersfield coach Simon Woolford gave a very honest and frank assessment of his team's start to the 2019 season following their defeat to Hull FC – A result that keeps the Giants rooted to the foot of the Super League table.
— Sky Sports RL (@SkySportsRL) March 3, 2019
The Broncos have picked up two wins out of five, both against teams that finished in the top five last season, and their home form may well see them make a mockery of the pre-season odds of them being relegated.
The key for them may be what flexibility they have to add players throughout the season, should they decide the squad needs strengthening.
A final word for Hull, who have ended their losing streak with back-to-back away wins at Wigan and Huddersfield, and will very much be in play-off contention come the season’s end – if they can keep key players fit.