Super League 2024 is looming on the horizon – and Sunday’s pre-season action offered supporters plenty of chances to get a look at how their side could fare this year. Of course, nothing is won or lost in pre-season, but there were some standout results, some impressive performances and plenty of talking points to discuss.
Here’s the Monday debrief on everything we saw at the weekend, and what caught our eye.
Hull FC and Salford: panic, or perspective?
With the season under a fortnight away, most clubs in pre-season action on Sunday opted to field close to their strongest line-ups. That meant the opportunity to get an early glimpse at what to expect in the coming weeks: but it wasn’t pretty viewing for everyone.
Both Hull FC and Salford Red Devils were handed comprehensive defeats; the Black and Whites at home to reigning champions Wigan, the Red Devils away at St Helens. Is it a cause for panic, or is there some perspective needed given how it was simply a pre-season hit-out?
The answer, in reality, is less than a fortnight away now.
Wigan’s strength in depth is ominous
Those who’d followed the off-season recruitment of Wigan Warriors would have been prepared for what they saw at Hull FC yesterday.
But seeing the strength of the squad Matt Peet has assembled on paper for real is eye-watering. The reigning Super League champions were magnificent in their 40-0 victory against Hull FC in Scott Taylor’s testimonial, with a number of impressive individual displays. That was perhaps headlined by hooker Kruise Leeming, who offers Peet a wealth of experience and ability in replacing Sam Powell.
But even the players who were perhaps considered fringe at various points last year – like Patrick Mago – were excellent. There is a strong argument Wigan could field two entirely different starting line-ups that would compete at the top end of Super League.
It’s an early warning to anyone looking to wrestle the title away from the DW Stadium.
St Helens’ talent factory keeps producing
One of the best academy conveyor belts in Super League is at it again, it seems.
St Helens are one of a number of clubs who have consistently produced top-tier talent and the early signs for 2024 look promising once again. George Delaney made his big breakthrough last season but he looks destined to play a pivotal role in the Saints’ bid to reclaim the Super League title this season.
There are more stars emerging beneath him, too. Noah Stephens was another who caught the eye in the 52-10 win against Salford with some magnificent defensive displays, and Jonny Vaughan – no, not the Radio X DJ – also caught the eye. Should Paul Wellens need to call on youth this season, it seems he is in safe hands once again.
London need new faces – and quick
Pre-season results aren’t the be all and end all, of course. But London’s draw away at League 1 Oldham – granted, perhaps the strongest team League 1 has seen for some years – underlines how the Broncos need more bodies if they’re to compete in Super League this season.
Their cause wasn’t helped last week with the horrendous news that exciting 20-year-old Bill Leyland will likely miss the whole season with an ACL injury. But it has further reinforced the need to get bodies through the door.
The question is: are there players of sufficient quality available as we enter February? Lee Kershaw’s form while on trial at London has been eye-catching, and he could well provide some depth in their outside backs. The Broncos may also be able to turn to the NRL, too, when the season begins Down Under.
But as things stand, they look short with their opener at St Helens now less than a fortnight away.