RFL Championship 2024: The favourites and outsiders to lift League Leaders’ Shield ranked

Ben Olawumi
Wakefield Trinity head coach Daryl Powell, Bradford Bulls' Ben Blackmore, Halifax Panthers, Widnes Vikings try v Barrow Raiders

Wakefield Trinity (top left), Bradford Bulls (top right), Halifax Panthers (bottom left) and Widnes Vikings (bottom right) will all compete in the Championship in 2024 - Alamy

We’ve ranked all 12 Championship clubs by order of how much they’re fancied to lift the second tier’s League Leaders’ Shield come the end of the upcoming campaign.

Since the Championship was formed in 2003, replacing the old Second Division, Featherstone Rovers are the club to have won the shield the most.

They lifted it for a fifth time last year, but notably have never won promotion to Super League, either due to licensing or failing in the play-offs.

Of the teams currently in Super League, four – Leigh, Salford Red Devils, Castleford Tigers & Hull KR – have all been crowned top dogs of the Championship at least once.

Whitehaven, Toulouse Olympique, Barrow Raiders and Toronto Wolfpack are the only other clubs to have won the division to date, with a total of nine different ‘champions’ to date.

Please note that the below are based on the odds offered by Betfred, the competition’s principal sponsor, accurate as of January 18, 2024.

RFL Championship 2024: The favourites and outsiders to lift League Leaders’ Shield ranked

14. Swinton Lions

Joey Romeo Swinton Lions Alamy
Joey Romeo in action for Swinton Lions in 2023 – Alamy

Swinton are one of three classed as absolute rank outsiders by the bookmakers for glory in 2024, priced at 100/1.

After winning promotion back up to the Championship in 2022, the Lions survived a first season in the second tier last year, winning away at Halifax to seal that survival on the final day of the campaign.

Ahead of the upcoming season, the Greater Manchester outfit have lost their head coach Allan Coleman, bringing in Alan Kilshaw from Hunslet to fill the void in the dugout.

= Whitehaven

Also valued at 100/1 are Whitehaven, whose 2023 survival story is an even greater one. Jonty Gorley’s side finished 12th, one place and three points better off than relegated Keighley Cougars. That’s points difference, not competition points, so had they conceded another try in the season, they’d have gone down!

Instead, Haven now look forward to a fifth consecutive season in the Championship having won promotion as League 1 champions back in 2019.

The Marras’ best finish in the second tier since then came in 2021, when – via points percentage – they crept into the play-offs, eventually beaten by Halifax.

= Barrow Raiders

Fellow Cumbrians Barrow are the last of the three teams priced at 100/1 to win the Championship League Leaders’ Shield, despite having a double-figure recruitment tally.

This off-season has seen the Raiders bring in players including Ramon Silva from Super League champions Wigan Warriors and the duo of Matty Costello & James Greenwood from Salford.

Nonetheless, after a 2023 which saw them fighting against relegation, vast improvement isn’t on the cards at Craven Park in the eyes of the bookmakers.

11. Dewsbury Rams

Paul Sykes Dewsbury Rams Alamy
Veteran Paul Sykes in action for Dewsbury Rams in 2022 – Alamy

Dewsbury lost just two of their 18 league games last year en-route to clinching the League 1 title and sealing an instant return back to the second tier following relegation in 2022.

Liam Finn was the man to lead the Rams’ return, but has since departed to take the reins at Halifax, with ex-Scotland international Dale Ferguson assuming pole position in the dugout the FLAIR Stadium ahead of 2024 accordingly.

With punts taken on numerous amateur stars, Ferguson will have some job on his hands to somehow upset the 66/1 odds and pull off a minor miracle by lifting the league title.

10. Doncaster

Doncaster were the side promoted alongside Dewsbury, winning the League 1 play-offs to bring an end to eight years playing in the third tier, with five of the seven campaigns prior ending in play-off heartbreak.

After six straight wins to get over the line at the back end of the 2023 season, Richard Horne’s side are given hearty odds of 50/1 to go on and be crowned kings of the second tier this year.

There’s no doubting it would be an almighty surprise if that happened, but the Dons have recruited well with Joe Lovodua from Hull FC and Reece Lyne from Wakefield Trinity among the signings made by the Championship new boys.

9. Batley Bulldogs

Slightly more favoured – at 40/1 – are Championship stalwarts Batley, who haven’t found themselves out of the division at all since its re-formation 21 years ago, escaping relegation in 2005 with a win in the relegation play-off final.

More recently, the Bulldogs have enjoyed some success. Reaching the play-off semi-final in 2021 and going all the way to the final against Leigh – then Centurions – the following year, those two runs came on the back of 4th & 5th-place finishes respectively.

2024 will be the first year since 2020 that Batley don’t have Craig Lingard at the helm, with the 46-year-old taking the helm at Super League outfit Castleford. Former assistant Mark Moxon is the man chosen to replace him at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.

8. Sheffield Eagles

Jesse Sene-Lefao Sheffield Eagles Alamy
Jesse Sene-Lefao in action for Sheffield Eagles – Alamy

The Eagles have been in the Championship continuously since 2007, with last year the first time in seven seasons that they reached the play-offs.

Beaten by London Broncos, the club have gone on to announce plans for a new 5,000-seater ‘Super League quality’ stadium in partnership with local football team Sheffield FC, looking to impress IMG as the game enters another new era.

That’s still at least a few years away, and in 2024, they’re priced at 28/1 to win the second tier.

= York

Likewise, ambitious outfit York are also priced at 28/1 having had an impressive off-season in the transfer market.

Veteran Richie Myler is the headline recruit, bringing an end to six years with Leeds Rhinos to move to the LNER Community Stadium on a one-year deal.

Andrew Henderson led the Knights to a 6th place finish in 2023, their second year on the spin in the same spot. They eventually lost out in the play-offs to Bradford, and 2024 will be York’s sixth consecutive season in the second tier.

6. Widnes Vikings

Three-time kings of the country and one-time World Club Challenge winners Widnes haven’t finished higher than 8th in the Championship since their relegation in 2018. That’s barring the 2020 season in which they were 5th after playing five games before the COVID-19 Pandemic brought an end to the campaign.

The Vikings have a new man at the helm this year, with Allan Coleman making the move from Swinton and completing eight permanent new signings as well as adding Wigan Warriors youngster Harvey Wilson on a season-long loan and agreeing a dual-registration partnership with Warrington Wolves.

Coleman‘s side are given odds of 25/1 for title glory in 2024, the sixth favourites for the competition.

5. Halifax Panthers

Gareth Widdop Halifax Panthers Alamy
Gareth Widdop has joined hometown club Halifax Panthers for 2024 – Alamy

Fifth favourites are Halifax, another club with silverware in the cabinet and history behind them, albeit limited success in recent times.

The Panthers lifted the 1895 Cup last term, but haven’t finished higher than 3rd in the Championship since 2010 having been in the division since 2004.

This year, Fax are priced at 18/1 to top the league under new boss Liam Finn having signed ex-NRL champion Gareth Widdop following his retirement from the full-time game.

4. Bradford Bulls

Bradford – four-time Super League champions – were relegated from the top flight since, with last year’s 3rd-place finish their best effort since then.

Like many, the Bulls have a new man at the hem for the upcoming season, with Eamon O’Carroll – who told Love Rugby League that he wants to ‘help put the club back on the map’ – departing his role as Catalans Dragons’ assistant to take charge.

The bookmakers fancy O’Carroll to do a decent job, with his team given odds of 12/1 to lift the League Leaders’ Shield come the end of September.

3. Featherstone Rovers

James Ford Featherstone Rovers Alamy
Featherstone Rovers head coach James Ford – Alamy

The bookmakers give last season’s league winners – and the most successful club in Championship history – Featherstone odds of 10/1 to repeat the feat this year. In an exclusive interview with Love Rugby League, head coach James Ford says their Super League ambition remains unchanged.

It’s unusual for the kings of the previous campaign to be given such long odds, though this time it’s probably explainable by the sheer number of players they’ve lost.

17 of their title-winning squad departed at the end of last season after failing in the play-offs, with Ellis Longstaff & Chris Hankinson also going on to exit Post Office Road.

2. Toulouse Olympique

Alongside Canadian outfit Toronto, Toulouse are one of just two non-English clubs to have lifted the Championship League Leaders’ Shield, doing so in 2021 when the title was based on points percentage with the COVID-19 Pandemic still affecting games.

The French side went on to win promotion through the play-offs that year, and looked odds on to do so again last year when they had a play-off final on home soil against London, but lost that game having led by 10 points at the break.

Now, Sylvain Houles‘ side will spend 2024 in the second tier, with the hope of impressing IMG on and off the field to earn a place back amongst the elite in 2025. They are given odds of 7/1 to win the division this term.

1. Wakefield Trinity

Daryl Powell Wakefield Trinity Alamy
Wakefield Trinity head coach Daryl Powell – Alamy

Overwhelmingly and unsurprisingly, the absolute odds on favourites to win the Championship in 2024 are newly-relegated Wakefield, priced at 1/3 on.

Despite being in the second tier, you’d argue Trinity are in a better position now than 12 months ago, with renewed hope both on and off the field after the club was bought by local businessman and multi-millionaire Matt Ellis.

He has brought Daryl Powell in as head coach, and provided the financial backing for a recruitment tally which is in double figures. Trinity have Super League quality in their ranks, and will hope to be back there come 2025, though that will be up to IMG to decide.

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