Castleford kick-start the Super 8s against St Helens tonight, so we take a look at the eight teams involved and where they might end up.
Castleford – 40 points
There isn’t a lot that can be written about Castleford that hasn’t already been said. They have won 20 of their 23 games so far, are unbeaten at home but it is the style in which they have done it that has caught the attention of almost everybody. But given the current structure of the game, it matters little if they can’t back that up with a trip to, and subsequent victory in, the Grand Final at Old Trafford. They are undoubtedly the team to beat.
Leeds – 30 points
Despite their final round surrender to Wigan, Leeds are in a strong position going in to the Super 8s. A win in their first game over Wigan is perhaps crucial to a stress-free passage to the play-offs. A defeat, coupled with results elsewhere, could them dragged back in to what is likely to be a six team dog-fight for the remaining three places.
Hull – 27 points
The Challenge Cup finalists are establishing themselves as a major force and an annual challenger for honours. They saw off Castleford in the cup and will fancy another go at them. The challenge for the Airlie Birds will be how they deal with their Wembley trip sitting among potentially crucial Super 8s fixtures. The week before Wembley, they have a home game with Huddersfield, who could have nothing to play for by then.
Salford – 26 points
Whatever happens in the Super 8s, Salford deserve to be one of the stories of the season. After years of turbulence, false promises and underperforming, under Ian Watson they have turned into a solid, more than competitive Super League side. They’ve had a taste of the big occasion, and although it ended in disappointment, they’ll be stronger for it. That said, they have been on an indifferent run and were perhaps fortunate that Wakefield’s slip at home to St Helens ensured their top four place.
Prediction – 6th
Wakefield – 26 points
Like Salford, Wakefield have had a season to remember. Chris Chester has got the best out of his squad on a challenging budget and for the second year running, has them in the Super 8s. The return of Jacob Miller is a huge boost, though it’s hard to see them winning enough games to hold off the might of St Helens and Wigan behind them.
Prediction – 7th
St Helens – 25 points
Nothing to lose and everything to gain. New coach Justin Holbrook is still getting to grips with Super League and to steer the redvee to the play-offs in his first half season would be a solid achievement given their start to the year. They enter the Super 8s with momentum, and every game featuring Saints promises to be mouth-watering and critical when it comes to the final placings.
Prediction – 4th
Wigan – 23 points
You cannot write Wigan off. For all their injury woe and disappointing performances, they’ve booked a Wembley date and are still in with a shout of a Super League play-off place. They are the defending champions and it’s not in their nature to give it up that easy. Have they left themselves too much to do? Who knows, but with everyone more than capable of beating each other, back-to-back wins may well fire the Warriors in to pole position for that fourth spot.
Prediction – 5th
Huddersfield – 21 points
Rick Stone deserves credit for how he has turned around the Giants season to get them in the Super 8s to begin with. Huddersfield as a club too perhaps deserve credit for sticking by Stone, who looked a dead man walking as recently as May. They’re going to need to win probably six of their seven games to have a shot at the play-offs, and that is a tall order. Stranger things have happened though.
Prediction – 8th
Semi finals: Castleford v St Helens, Leeds v Hull
Grand Final: Castleford v Hull
Tell us what you think will happen in the comments below!