Grading every Super League club’s start to the 2024 season

Ben Olawumi
Leeds Rhinos, Castleford Tigers, Leigh Leopards, Wigan Warriors (question marks over each club's picture) with text on bottom: 'GRADING EVERY SUPER LEAGUE CLUB'S START TO 2024'

Love Rugby League grades every Super League club's start to the 2024 campaign - Alamy

We’re now four rounds into the 2024 Super League season, or circa 15% of the way through the regular campaign. And though it’s still in its early stages, we thought it was about time for the first Love Rugby League gradings of the year.

We’ve given each of the 12 top flight teams a grading, almost like an early term school assessment, based upon how they’ve performed over the opening month or so.

10 of the 12 have played four Super League games, with Leigh Leopards and Wigan Warriors each having one fewer on the board due to the latter’s exploits in the World Club Challenge.

Assessed alphabetically, find out how we grade your team below…

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Castleford Tigers – F

Craig Lingard
Castleford Tigers head coach Craig Lingard – Alamy

Early spoiler alert: This is the worst grade of any club involved, and we think it’s justified.

After a woeful 2023, there was a bit of promise around Cas ahead of the season’s start. Nobody expected them to break any pots, granted, but they made the most signings (12) of any Super League team and got some investment from Martin Jepson.

We’re not sure Jepson will be at all pleased with what he’s seen so far – four defeats and very little fight about the Tigers, the worst of which in Round 4 when Huddersfield Giants put 50 on them in their own backyard. “Embarrassing” was head coach Craig Lingard’s assessment of that defeat, and it probably applies to most of the year to date at the Jungle.

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Catalans Dragons – C

Catalans lost a huge figure both on and off the field when Sam Tomkins hung up his boots at the end of the season just gone, and his departure – along with that of others – brought a bit of uncertainty over just whether they’d be able to be right up there again.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, they don’t look too far off the mark, but a C is next to their name on the basis of not really putting anyone to the sword yet barring new boys London Broncos.

The Dragons haven’t got out of first gear, and it told in defeat at Leeds Rhinos, almost like a lacklustre start catching up with them. Steve McNamara‘s side are where we expected them to be at this point, so we think a grading of C is a fair assessment.

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Huddersfield Giants – C+

Ash Golding, Jack Murchie, Gareth O'Brien
Huddersfield Giants duo Ash Golding (left) & Jack Murchie (right) tackle Leigh Leopards’ Gareth O’Brien in their Round 1 clash – Alamy

Inconsistency is what plagued Huddersfield last year, and to an extent, we’re already seeing it again in 2024 which is why they’re not higher than a C+.

Not many expected them to go and beat Leigh Leopards away from home in Round 1, but they did so with a really resolute defensive display. Likewise, putting 50 points on Cas in Round 4 probably wasn’t expected by many either.

But in-between those two wins, they’ve been quite poor in defeats to both Wigan and St Helens. Had they showed a bit more fight in both of those games, even when losing, we’d probably have bumped them up to a B-.

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Hull FC – E

FC are another side who didn’t have a pleasant 2023, and their start to 2024 has been really poor overall – only saved the blushes of a grade F from us courtesy of the sole victory against London, which was probably undeserved all things considered!

We’re not here just to slate teams, and in fairness the Black and Whites squad at the moment is absolutely depleted. The tough shift they put in when beaten by Warrington Wolves in Round 2 – following Nu Brown’s early controversial red card – was probably their best performance so far, and that’s saying something.

Brown aside, most of the off-season recruits have really let Tony Smith down so far too. When players do what Franklin Pele did on the opening night for instance, you do wonder what a coach can do. It looks like FC are in for a long old season again.

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Hull KR – C

Mikey Lewis
Hull KR’s Mikey Lewis celebrates Peta Hiku’s game-clinching try against Leeds Rhinos in Round 2 – Alamy

KR get a C from us, the same as Catalans, and they’re comparable to the French side in that they’re probably where you’d expect them to be at currently. That said, the roles are reversed given that there’s more expectation on the Robins this year than last given the success they enjoyed in 2023.

Willie Peters‘ side would have been much higher in our gradings had they come out on the right side of the result in the last two, losing against both Salford Red Devils & Warrington.

Those gritty games are the ones which the top teams win even when they’re not at their best. It might help KR if they could sort their kicking out too, particularly in clashes like the two we’ve mentioned.

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Leeds Rhinos – B

Our highest grading so far goes to Leeds because – as we’ve already touched on – everything is relative. After the 2023 season they had, not much was expected of this Rhinos side heading into 2024, but they’ve done quite well so far.

They’ll no doubt be disappointed with their defeat at KR, but have picked up good wins at home against Catalans and more recently away at Leigh to bounce back in style, coming from 16-0 down at half time in the latter to win 22-16.

That first half against Leigh was probably Rohan Smith’s side at something like their worst, and the second something like their best. They can ill-afford to keep repeating showings like that first 40 minutes because some teams would have been out of sight, but after the rally to claw their way back and make it three wins from four, they get a B from us.

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Leigh Leopards – E

Leigh Leopards
Josh Charnley (left), Kai O’Donnell (middle) & Lachlan Lam (right) downbeat during Leigh Leopards’ defeat at St Helens – Alamy

Where do we even start with Leigh? Three long-term injuries to absolute key men already in Edwin Ipape, John Asiata & Tom Briscoe makes you ponder whether there was something slightly amiss with their pre-season preparations. There comes a time when it’s not just luck going against you.

The Leopards were really poor in their opener against Huddersfield, showed slight improvement against St Helens, and then at half-time against Leeds when they were 16-0 up, you thought they’d turned a corner.

That wasn’t the case though, absolutely throwing away that lead, on home soil too. Adrian Lam‘s side started slow last year, so we know they’re very capable of getting back to winning ways, but improvement is needed and fast. Any more injuries, and you fear for them greatly. The blows they’ve had so far are probably the only reason they’re not getting an F from us.

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London Broncos – D-

We know that London have lost all four games so far, but let’s face it, everyone expected them to anyway. To add to that, as we’ve already mentioned, they should have beaten Hull FC and if they had done, we’d probably have bumped their grading up to a C+ at the very least!

What’s hampering the Broncos, at least we believe, is their defence. They’re scoring more than most expected them to in games, but conceding just as most thought they would do, in mass.

When you throw in a positive first 40 minutes against Wigan last weekend, albeit with the Warriors rotating their squad, the club from the capital have done better already than anyone outside their camp believed they would do. It’s a grade D-, but it could have been much worse.

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    Salford Red Devils – B+

    Nene Macdonald Salford Red Devils Alamy
    Nene Macdonald celebrates his try for Salford Red Devils against Castleford Tigers – Alamy

    Another spoiler alert: Only one club score higher than Salford in our early season gradings. Honestly, what a start it’s been for the Red Devils, and we’re saying that after they lost their opening game at Leeds.

    Paul Rowley‘s side continue to defy the odds, overperforming and exceeding expectation, following up a hard-fought win against Castleford with victories against both Hull KR & St Helens, the latter ending a 44-year wait for a win away against a side donning the Red V.

    Whether Salford can sustain this start to the season or not given their lack of squad depth is a conversation for another day, but they deserve a huge pat on the back for what they’ve achieved early doors. Just imagine if they’d beaten Leeds in Round 1!

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    St Helens – B

    To earn that win at Saints, Salford came from 20-6 down, albeit with the hosts down to 12 men for the vast majority of the second half. Had Paul Wellens’ side hung on for the win, and made it four victories from four, they’d have been on for at least a grade A from us.

    We admit that the B against Saints’ name is slightly harsh given that they’ve been really good in every other game up until that point, but it’s criminal to throw games away like they did last Friday night, regardless of if you’re a man down.

    Wellens‘ men have been unbelievable defensively, and not bad in attack either, to say the least. But after that defeat, it’s been a good start, not a great one. The Good Friday showdown with Wigan will tell us more.

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    Warrington Wolves – B+

    Matty Ashton Warrington Wolves Alamy
    Matty Ashton applauds the Warrington fans

    The joint-second best grading after four rounds goes to Slammin’ Sam Burgess’ Warrington, who have won their last three, and were unlucky not to leave Perpignan with a win in Round 1 against Catalans.

    The Wire comfortably swept aside both Castleford & Hull FC, but the most impressive showing to date came last time out at Hull KR, winning 22-20 in a game which they definitely would not have won last year.

    Burgess is getting a better tune out of his group than many expected, and the fact they didn’t get the win at Catalans is the only reason they’re denied an A grading. The task now? Keep this positive run going for as long as physically possible.

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    Wigan Warriors – A

    We’ve saved the best grading until last. Well the alphabet did that for us, but it ties in, so we’ll go with it.

    It’s been a great start to the season for the reigning Super League champions, now also the champions of the world after that victory against NRL kings Penrith Panthers last month, of course. Three wins from three in Super League to boot, Matt Peet‘s side haven’t broken sweat yet, and we don’t think they’re even in first gear, let alone getting out of it.

    There have been tight patches in their Super League games against both Castleford and London, and albeit they ended up comfortable winners in the end in both, that’s the only reason it’s not an A+ or even an A* grading at this moment in time. We don’t think those levels are far away though. We like what we’re seeing from the Warriors, it’s hard not to.

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