Super League 2016 preview: Part 2

SALFORD RED DEVILS

Last Season: 3rd – Middle 8’s

Coach: Ian Watson

Captain: Tommy Lee

Key Player: Gareth O’Brien

Ins: Mark Flanagan (St Helens RLFC), Philip Joseph (Widnes Vikings), Craig Kopczak (Huddersfield Giants), Robert Lui (North Queensland Cowboys), Ben Murdoch-Masila (Penrith Panthers), Gareth O’Brien (Warrington Wolves), Daniel Vidot (Brisbane Broncos), Josh Jones (rugby union)

Outs: Rangi Chase (Leigh Centurions), Theo Fages (St Helens RLFC), Martin Gleeson (retired), Harrison Hansen (Leigh Centurions), Gareth Hock (released), Ben Jones-Bishop (Wakefield Wildcats), Kevin Locke (released), Reni Maitua (Leigh Centurions), Adrian Morley (retired), Cory Paterson (Leigh Centurions), Lama Tasi (St Helens RLFC), Scott Taylor (Hull FC), Iain Thornley (Hull Kingston Rovers)

It has been the usual busy off-season for the Salford Red Devils under owner Marwan Koukash, as he looks to find the solution to finally break into the upper ends of Super League. The Doctor has already spoke of his change of tact in not simply going after big-name signings, and his recruitment this winter is seemingly better than the ones previous.

Tim Sheens has opted to stick around, which can only be a positive thing for Salford, as the team playing at the AJ Bell Stadium are starting to look more and more like a play-off fighting side.

Amidst all the players they’ve signed in the forwards, keep an eye out for young Gareth O’Brien. Whilst not being considered good enough to keep his place permanently in the side at Warrington, their loss may turn into Salford’s gain, as a halfback of his quality may just be the push they need to get them into the top eight. Josh Jones could also be a key late signing, though the injuries to Weller Hauraki and Daniel Vidot are troubling.

Squad: 1. Niall Evalds 2. Justin Carney 3. Josh Griffin 4. Junior Sa’u 5. Daniel Vidot 6. Robert Lui 7. Michael Dobson (VC) 8. Craig Kopczak 9. Tommy Lee (captain) 10. George Griffin 11. Ben Murdoch-Masila 12. Weller Hauraki 13. Mark Flanagan 14. Gareth O’Brien 15. Adam Walne 16. Olsi Krasniqi 17. Phil Joseph 18. Greg Johnson 19. Logan Tomkins 20. Jordan Walne 21. Ryan Lannon 22. Matt Sarsfield 23. Carl Forster 24. Mason Caton-Brown 25. Jake Bibby 26. Josh Wood 27. Matt Haggarty 28. Matty Gee 29. Matty Wilkinson 30. Liam Bent 31. Connor Williams 32. Jordan Andrade

ST HELENS

Last Season: 4th – Super League Super 8’s

Coach: Keiron Cunningham

Captain: Jon Wilkin

Key Player: Alex Walmsley

Ins: Theo Fages (Salford Red Devils), Jack Owens (Widnes Vikings), Dominique Peyroux (New Zealand Warriors), Lama Tasi (Salford Red Devils)

Outs: Mark Flanagan (Salford Red Devils), Lance Hohaia (retired), Mose Masoe (St George Illawarra Dragons), Adam Quinlan (St George Illawarra Dragons), Paul Wellens (retired), Josh Jones (rugby union)

It would be suffice to say that the 2014 Super League Champions had an inconsistent year in their title defence. Under club legend Kieron Cunningham for the first time, the Saints were semi-finalists in both the Super League play offs and the Challenge Cup, losing to eventual winners Leeds in both competitions. But the task for Cunningham this season, is how can he take the club one step further this time around?

They have recruited well through the likes of Theo Fages and Lama Tasi, in what is already a very strong but youthful squad. However, the main issue for Cunningham and St Helens, is whether they can keep their stars fit and on the field consistently throughout the season.

If they can get the likes of Luke Walsh and forgotten man Jonny Lomax up and running in 2016, then there’s no reason they can turn those semi-finals into trips to Wembley and Old Trafford.

Squad: 1. Jonny Lomax 2. Tommy Makinson 3. Jordan Turner 4. Mark Percival 5. Adam Swift 6. Travis Burns 7. Luke Walsh 8. Alex Walmsley 9. James Roby 10. Kyle Amor 11. Atelea Vea 12. Jon Wilkin 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook 14. Lama Tasi 15. Greg Richards 16. Andre Savelio 17. Luke Thompson 18. Dominique Peyroux 19. Theo Fages 20. Joe Greenwood 21. Matty Dawson 22. Jack Owens 23. Shannon McDonnell 24. Matty Fleming 25. Lewis Charnock 26. Olly Davies 27. Jack Ashworth 28. Morgan Knowles 29. Ricky Bailey 30. Calvin Wellington 31. Danny Richardson 32. Levy Nzoungou 33. Jake Spedding 34. Regan Grace

 
WAKEFIELD WILDCATS

Last Season: 4th – Middle 8’s (Winner of Million Pound Game)

Coach: Brian Smith

Captain: Danny Kirmond

Key Player: Jacob Miller

Ins: Tinirau Arona (Cronulla Sharks), Anthony England (Warrington Wolves), Liam Finn (Castleford Tigers), Ashley Gibson (Castleford Tigers), Ben Jones-Bishop (Salford Red Devils), Sean Morris (London Broncos), Anthony Tupou (Cronulla Sharks)

Outs: Dean Collis (released), Ali Lauitiiti (New Zealand Warriors), Paul McShane (Castleford Tigers), Lopini Paea, Matthew Ryan, Daniel Smith (Huddersfield Giants), Danny Washbrook (Hull FC)

As many would have predicted, it has been a very busy off-season for Super League’s bottom placed side in 2015. It is a similar kind of winter that the club had the season before, but the difference being in the quality they have brought in this time around.

Ben Jones-Bishop, a Grand Final winner with Leeds just a few years ago, adds much needed quality in the backs, whilst Liam Finn will offer stability and control from the halfback position.

Head coach Brian Smith undoubtedly did a great job in eventually retaining the club’s Super League status in the Middle 8’s. But I’m sure this year he would rather be looking up towards the top eight, rather than over his shoulder at the Championship sides ready to take their place in the top flight.

Squad: 1. Ben Jones-Bishop 2. Tom Johnstone 3. Bill Tupou 4. Ashley Gibson 5. Richard Owen 6. Jacob Miller 7. Liam Finn 8. Nick Scruton 9. Scott Moore 10. Anthony England 11. Mickael Simon 12. Danny Kirmond 13. Anthony Tupo 14. Reece Lyne 15. Jordan Tansey, 16. Tinirau Arona 17. Matty Ashurst 18. Joe Arundel 19. Jonny Molloy 20. Mikey Sio 21. Max Jowitt 22. Jordan Crowther 23. Scott Anderson 24. Stuart Howarth 25. Craig Hall 26. Chris Annakin 27. Anthony Walker 28. Andy Yates 29. Sean Morris 30. Ben Shulver

 
WARRINGTON WOLVES

Last Season: 6th – Super League Super 8’s

Coach: Tony Smith

Captain: Chris Hill

Key Player: Chris Sandow

Ins: Jordan Cox (Hull Kingston Rovers), Mitchell Dodds (Brisbane Broncos), Kurt Gidley (Newcastle Knights), Jack Hughes (Wigan Warriors), Benjamin Jullien (2016), Tom Lineham (Hull FC), Chris Sandow (Mid Season: Parramatta Eels, 2017), Joe Westerman (Hull FC), Ryan Bailey (Castleford Tigers)

Outs: Chris Bridge (Widnes Vikings), Anthony England (Wakefield Wildcats), Joel Monaghan (Castleford Tigers), Richard Myler (Catalan Dragons), Gareth O’Brien (Salford Red Devils)

After years of challenging for a place at Old Trafford, Warrington had to sit back and watch the others take centre stage as they finished 6th in what was a forgettable season for the Wolves.

The squad was at a stage of where it needed a rebuild and fresh faces to give it a new look for 2016, and the club has not disappointed. And the Wire fans must be excited by their off-season recruitment, with the likes of Kurt Gidley and Mitchell Dodds switching Down Under for a life in Warrington, whilst Tom Lineham and Joe Westerman have been brought in from Hull FC.

Tony Smith was under pressure from some parts during 2015, and will be hoping his new look Warrington side can trouble the play off places this time around, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them at Old Trafford come October time.

Squad: 1. Kurt Gidley 2. Tom Lineham 3. Rhys Evans 4. Ryan Atkins 5. Matty Russell 6. Stefan Ratchford 7. Chris Sandow 8. Chris Hill 9. Daryl Clark 10. Ashton Sims 11. Ben Currie 12. Jack Hughes 13. Ben Westwood 14. Joe Westerman 15. Mitchell Dodds 16. Brad Dwyer 17. James Laithwaite 18. George King 19. Ben Harrison 20. Kevin Penny 21. Ben Evans 22. Gene Ormsby 23. Gary Wheeler 24. Toby King 25. Joe Philbin 26. Declan Patton 27. Sam Wilde 28. Jack Johnson 29. Benjamin Jullien 30. Harvey Livett 31. Morgan Smith

 
WIDNES VIKINGS

Last Season: 2nd – Middle 8’s

Coach: Denis Betts

Captain: Kevin Brown

Key Player: Kevin Brown

Ins: Chris Bridge (Warrington Wolves), Chris Houston (Newcastle Knights), Setaimata Sa (Hull FC), Corey Thompson (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

Outs: Danny Galea (retired), Willie Isa (Wigan Warriors), Philip Joseph (Salford Red Devils), Jack Owens (St Helens RLFC)

Widnes would have been hoping in 2015 to build on their play-off appearance from the season before, but they just missed out on the top eight despite showing decent performances in short spells.

Therefore consistency will be something that Denis Betts will be hoping to bring to Widnes for this season, as there’s no doubting the quality that the squad now has.

Corey Thompson and Chris Houston come in from Australia with NRL experience that will stand the Vikings in good stead, and if Kevin Brown can come close to his form he showed last season, and stay fit, then Widnes won’t need to be worrying about their Super League status like they did in 2015.

Squad: 1. Rhys Hanbury 2. Corey Thompson 3. Chris Bridge 4. Charly Runciman 5. Patrick Ah Van 6. Kevin Brown 7. Joe Mellor 8. Eamon O’Carroll 9. Lloyd White 10. Manase Manuokafoa 12. Danny Tickle 13. Hep Cahill 14. Chris Dean 15. Setaimata Sa 16. Paddy Flynn 17. Stefan Marsh 18. Gil Dudson 19. Macgraff Leuluai 20. Alex Gerrard 21. Tom Gilmore 22. Matt Whitley 23. Ted Chapelhow 24. Jay Chapelhow 25. Ed Chamberlain 26. Ryan Ince 27. Almer Salvilla 28. Brad Walker 29. Olly Ashall 31. Ben Kavanagh 33. Aaron Heremaia

 
WIGAN WARRIORS

Last Season: 2nd – Super League Super 8’s (Grand Finalists)

Coach: Shaun Wane

Captain: Sean O’Loughlin

Key Player: George Williams

Ins: Willie Isa (Widnes Vikings), Sam Tomkins (New Zealand Warriors)

Outs: Matt Bowen (retired), Joe Burgess (Sydney Roosters), James Greenwood (Hull Kingston Rovers), Jack Hughes (Warrington Wolves), Iain Thornley (Hull Kingston Rovers)

Wigan, for the second season running, were on the wrong side of a tight battle at Old Trafford in the Grand Final last season and no doubt the aim will be to go one step further this year.

The much talked about return of fullback Sam Tomkins has no doubt made them a stronger team, but he won’t be donning the Cherry and White jersey until at least Easter. Therefore, the pressure is put onto youngster Lewis Tierney to produce the goods in Sam’s absence.

They’re the bookies favourites to take the Super League crown in October, and with the likes of George Williams and Dom Manfredi having another year’s experience under their belts, they may take some stopping in 2016.

Squad: 1. Sam Tomkins 2. Josh Charnley 3. Anthony Gelling 4. Dan Sarginson 5. Dom Manfredi 6. George Williams 7. Matty Smith 8. Dom Crosby 9. Michael McIlorum 10. Ben Flower 11. Joel Tomkins 12. Liam Farrell 13. Sean O’Loughlin 14. John Bateman 15. Tony Clubb 16. Sam Powell 17. Lee Mossop 19. Taulima Tautai 20. Oliver Gildart 21. Ryan Sutton 22. Lewis Tierney 23. Connor Farrell 24. Rhodri Lloyd 25. Willie Isa 26. Greg Burke 27. Nick Gregson 28. Jake Shorrocks 29. Joe Bretherton 30. Jack Higginson 21. Gabriel Fell 32. Luke Waterworth

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