The opening game of each Super League season – Part one

With the start of Super League just three weeks away, we looked through the games that have kicked off the previous 22 seasons.

Champions Leeds travel to Warrington to kick-off the season, while Hull will also host Huddersfield on the same evening.

In this first of a three part series, we look at the first games of Super League from 1996 to 2002.

1996 (29th March) – Paris St Germain 30-24 Sheffield Eagles
Oh what might of been. Super League’s opener in the French capital in front of 17,873 promised so much of the new era. Super League legend Keith Senior scored a try, while the Eagles were then coached by Leeds CEO Gary Hetherington.
PSG tries: Arnaud Cervello, Darren Adams, Frederic Banquet, Pierre Chamorin, Michael Piscunov. Goals: Patrick Torreilles (3)
Sheffield tries: Paul Carr, Matt Crowther, Andy Hay, Dean Lawford, Keith Senior. Goals: Mark Aston (1), Matt Crowther (1).

1997 (14th March) – Bradford Bulls 58-20 Warrington Wolves
With Warrington battling with the impending departure, and subsequent controversy, of Iestyn Harris, they were handed what was a regular pasting at Odsal back in those days. Robbie Paul scored a hat-trick, dependable full-back Stuart Spruce notched a brace and now Catalans coach Steve McNamara chipped in with 22 points.
Bradford tries: Robbie Paul (3), Stuart Spruce (2), James Lowes, Brian McDermott, Steve McNamara, Danny Peacock, Jonathan Scales. Goals: Steve McNamara (9)
Warrington tries: Andy Currier, Chris Rudd, Kuripitone Tatupu, Nigel Vagana. Goals: Jon Roper (2)

1998 (April 3rd) – Huddersfield Giants 6-38 Bradford Bulls
Champions Bradford opened the season for the second successive year, this time taking on newly-promoted Huddersfield at the (relatively) new McAlpine Stadium. Wigan legend Shaun Edwards made a try-scoring league debut for the Bulls.
Huddersfield tries: Danny Russell. Goals: Paul Cook.
Bradford tries: Tevita Vaikona (2), Graeme Bradley, Shaun Edwards, Mike Forshaw, Danny Peacock, Stuart Spruce. Goals: Steve McNamara (5).

1999 (March 5th) – Wigan Warriors 58-6 Hull Sharks
The fourth season of Super League opened at Central Park in its last season as the home of the Warriors. It proved a comfortable victory against Hull, for whom the late great Steve Prescott scored a try and a goal.
Wigan tries: Lee Gilmour (3), Kris Radlinski (2), Mick Cassidy, Gary Connolly, Neil Cowie, Andy Johnson, Paul Johnson, Jason Robinson. Goals: Andy Farrell (7)
Hull tries: Steve Prescott. Goals: Steve Prescott.

2000 (March 3rd) – St Helens 10-32 Bradford Bulls
The first season there wasn’t a stand alone fixture to launch the season came on the turn of the Millennium. Elsewhere on the same night, Halifax beat Hull 30-27 and Wakefield beat Leeds 22-18 at Headingley. The opening game at Knowsley Road was a repeat of the previous season’s Grand Final, and the Bulls got a little revenge for that – they wouldn’t stop Saints recording a second successive title later that season though.
St Helens tries: Keiron Cunningham, Chris Joynt. Goals: Sean Long.
Bradford tries: James Lowes (2), Nathaniel McAvoy, Robbie Paul, Michael Withers. Goals: Henry Paul (6).

2001 (March 2nd) – Wigan Warriors 34-6 Warrington Wolves
For the fifth successive season, the opening game of the Super League season was a one-sided affair, this time Wigan cruising past a Warrington team that played Lee Briers at full back. Kevin Walters and Allan Langer went head to head with Adrian Lam and Matthew Johns in the halves.
Wigan tries: Adrian Lam (2), Denis Betts, David Hodgson, Paul Johnson, Steve Renouf. Goals: Andy Farrell (5)
Warrington tries: Ian Sibbit. Goals: Lee Briers.

2002 (March 1) – Wigan Warriors 4-18 Bradford Bulls
Once again the season started with a repeat of the previous year’s Grand Final, and once again the Bulls came away with the spoils. This was within the Bulls period of dominance. Their full line-up for this match, coached by Brian Noble, was: Withers, Vaikona, Costin, Gilmour, Vainikolo, Paul, Deacon, Vagana, Lowes, McDermott, Gartner, Peacock, Forshaw. Subs: McAvoy, Radford, Fielden, Anderson.
Wigan tries: Terry Newton.
Bradford tries: Mike Forshaw, Lee Gilmour, Tevita Vaikona. Goals: Paul Deacon (3).