St Helens have been installed as the outright favourites to win the 2019 Super League Grand Final after falling just short this year.
Saints won a remarkable 26 out of 30 regular season games in 2018, but crashed out in the semi-finals of both the league and the Challenge Cup. Yet the oddsmakers are convinced they have the quality to put those disappointments behind them and emerge as the team to beat next year.
Read the BetOnline review before discovering their odds available for next season and you will see that St Helens are priced around 3/1 to win next season’s Grand Final.
Beaten finalists Warrington, who defeated Saints in the semis, are next at 9/2, followed by defending champions Wigan at 5/1.
It is the end of an era for Wigan, where long-standing manager Shaun Wane has just stepped down after guiding them to Grand Final success, and bookmakers think that could affect their chances of further success next season. John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, and Sam Tomkins are also leaving, and it may take the Warriors a little while to rebuild.
But St Helens have their own issues to address as Man of Steel Ben Barba has left, returning to the NRL with North Queensland Cowboys.
He scored 31 tries this season and sauntered onto the Dream Team, so his departure leaves a gaping hole in the team. North Queensland, meanwhile, saw their odds cut to 16/1 to win the Grand Final 2019 Down Under, but they are well behind 4/1 favourites Sydney in the betting.
The Roosters beat Melbourne to claim the famous trophy in September and they are heavily fancied to defend their crown in 2019, although Barba will certainly make North Queensland a formidable opponent for the champions.
“I always knew when I was coming here that it wasn’t going to be easy,” said the 29-year-old full-back as he reflected on his time with St Helens. “I knew what this competition is capable of. I think me going back to the NRL is a lot about Super League and St Helens. Saints got me enjoying my football again and allowed me to play that expansive football.”
He heads back to Australia with the Man of Steel title to go along with the Dally M he seized in 2012. “It’s an award that I could have only hoped for at the start of the year,” he said. “What makes it more special is that it’s voted for by the other players, my peers, and to win it against guys like James Roby and John Bateman, I’m so honoured to be the one holding it.”
Roby will be crucial to Saints’ chances of success next year, along with Jonny Lomax and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook. Fiji captain Kevin Naiqama will provide added experience and there is more international talent such as Scotland’s Lachlan Coote and Samoa’s Joseph Paulo.
Throw in a bunch of local young stars, and there is every reason to thin that the future looks very bright for St Helens. Alex Walmsley will also return to line up alongside Luke Thompson, and Saints are very much the team to beat.
However, most of the early betting action is going on Leeds Rhinos, a long shot at 12/1. The 2017 champions have made sweeping changes to their backroom staff this autumn and they are boosted by the arrival of former Hull FC coach Richard Agar. He has just left St George Illawarra Dragons and he is now head of player and coach development at Leeds.
Dave Furner is the club’s new head coach, with assistants Jimmy Lowes and Chev Walker, while Chris Black is back as the club’s new head of physical performance and Alex Morrell is head of physiotherapy.
Leeds endured a disappointing season and failed to make the Super 8s, but director of rugby Kevin Sinfield has devised an ambitious blueprint to return to the top of punters have clearly bought into his vision.