Five ridiculously early (and frankly, stupid) predictions for the new Super League season

Aaron Bower
Daryl Clark Luke Littler Odsal Alamy

It’s that time of the year again – no, not the return of Super League, the return of endless predictions about what may happen over the next eight or nine months. Of course, we’re not immune to that at Love Rugby League; this week, our team will be doing their annual predictions for who’s going to finish where.

But why should the crystal ball-gazing be limited to simply where a team will finish in the table? Often, the best headlines can be found away from the rugby itself: so with that in mind, we’ve looked ahead and plucked out five things that (probably won’t) happen, so you don’t have to. Disclaimer: this is purely for fun and these things definitely won’t happen.. we don’t think.

IMG commission a darting showdown to replace Warrington v St Helens

The marketing-frenzied brains at Warrington Wolves are likely already thinking ahead to July, when the Wolves face St Helens in the league for the first time (yes, the days of endless meetings per season are finally behind us, friends). But as the fixture approaches, IMG decide to take matters into their own hands.

The Wire and the Saints have played each other enough times over the years. To be quite frank, they decide, it’s all got a bit repetitive. And having cast their minds back to the PDC World Darts Championship, they hatch a plan. Darting sensation Luke Littler is a Warrington season ticket holder, and former world champion Michael Smith is an ardent Saints supporter.

Both clubs sent a presence to the Ally Pally over Christmas; albeit in different formats, with Warrington sending their mascot, Wolfie, and the Saints sending one of the league’s best players in Jack Welsby.

But to settle the next instalment of the rivalry, IMG replace the Friday night rugby match with a darts contest between Littler and Smith on the Totally Wicked pitch. The winner gets their team the two competition points. It all threatens to get a bit nasty when Wolfie throws a pint at Smith, but Bully Boy holds his nerve in the end. Littler exits to jeers of “It’s always your year”. And speaking of the Saints:

Daryl Clark’s performances lead to St Helens fans forgetting James Roby existed

St Helens’ acquisition of Daryl Clark to replace legendary hooker James Roby always seemed like a useful one but by mid-summer, it proves to be a masterstroke.

Clark is instrumental in guiding the Saints to the Challenge Cup final, where a man of the match display helps them edge out Dewsbury 13-12. As the celebrations ensue inside Wembley one Saints supporter can be heard muttering: “He’s much better than that old bloke we had last year. What was his name, again?”

And so it begins. By the end of 2024 Roby has been erased from the memories of Saints supporters in a fashion similar to the infamous scene in Men in Black, when one press of a neuralyzer from Will Smith erases your memory completely. In the years to come, there will be talk of how the Saints never truly replaced Cunningham until Clark arrived in the winter of 2023.

And a nagging feeling that the club’s leadership, culture and performance coach has a face you’ve definitely seen before, but you just can’t place.

A shock twist – and buyer – in the Odsal lease race

It’s August. The Championship title race couldn’t be tighter, with Wakefield and Bradford separated on points difference alone with just a handful of games remaining. There’s already rumours aplenty that whoever wins the Championship Grand Final will secure just enough grading points to squeeze into Super League in 2025.

It wasn’t supposed to be this close for Wakefield, who have by this point delivered on their pledge to emulate Leigh in 2022 by bringing in 16 overseas players and spending well over £2million on the cap. So Trinity’s owners, with all their riches, hatch a plan: to use their millions to decide things once and for all.

Of course, by this point, the Odsal Stadium lease saga is STILL ongoing, with the RFL refusing to tell anyone anything, other than they’ll sell it when they’re good and ready. But Wakefield swoop in with a late bid of £5million, way above asking price, to convince the RFL to part with the lease.

And they promptly decide what they’ll do with their new investment: chuck the Bulls out and send them to the Horsfall Stadium just down the road, so their IMG score plummets. Bradford win the Championship Grand Final, but the Sky cameras pan to the Trinity board at full-time chuckling like Bond villains, knowing that in the end, the result was ultimately immaterial. They then unfurl a banner simply reading: “CA$H IS KING”.

IMG announce the RFL board will be subject to grading along with the clubs

Grading will be one of the buzz words of 2024, it seems. Throughout the course of the year, all clubs will be mindful of how they are performing off the field, as well as on it. But that assessment won’t be limited to just the clubs.

With no double-header around Easter to keep everyone occupied – or to burn the players out beyond belief – IMG decide to spice things up by announcing that the entire Rugby Football League will be subject to the same grading system. Perform well? You keep your seat at the table. Score poorly? You’re on your way, I’m afraid.

Nobody is exempt. The media team’s social metrics will be assessed and if they’re not up to scratch, they’ll be sent to report on National Conference League matches. The board of directors risk being sent to the basement if they’re off their game.

Unfortunately, IMG’s grading system is so stringent that in the end, everyone at the governing body falls short of standards and the RFL is dissolved.

Oldham gain an unprecedented double-promotion

The pre-season mood around League 1 side Oldham is that they have assembled the best squad the third-tier might have ever seen – perhaps with the exception of Toronto’s all-star inaugural squad. And the RFL and IMG, well aware of that hype, consider something altogether more remarkable as the season goes on.

As Oldham roll towards a clean sweep of the League 1 campaign, with victory in every game and a points difference well above 1,000, the shock announcement that Mike Ford has convinced son George to have a crack at the Championship in 2025 leads to drastic action.

Oldham aren’t just promoted from League 1: they can skip the Championship altogether thanks to a late addition to the grading which details any club employing a former England rugby union international with George in their name secures a bonus 15 points on their score. Keighley, now keen advocates of IMG by this point, frantically try to scratch a deal together for Jamie George given the news – but fail to agree personal terms.