The burning questions ahead of Super League 2023

James Gordon
Super League 2023 launch at Channel 4

Picture by Simon Wilkinson/

The Super League 2023 season is upon us and there are plenty of questions to be answered once things get underway.

Can St Helens make it five in a row?

Though not in Super League action on the opening weekend due to the small matter of a World Club Challenge tilt Down Under against Penrith Panthers, the champions will start the season as favourites once again.

They have won four in a row under Justin Holbrook and Kristian Woolf, with new coach Paul Wellens tasked with making it five.

A settled squad is the name of the game again for Saints, who have only really lost Regan Grace from their regular starting squad. A return from injury from Lewis Dodd, who they missed for a large part of last season, will almost feel like a new signing.

Both Dodd and Jack Welsby will be expected to light up Super League again – and Saints will surely benefit from the team bonding and togetherness created by their length tour Down Under. They’ll have to make sure it doesn’t contribute to tiredness towards the business end of the year.

Do Huddersfield have the strongest squad in Super League 2023?

The Giants find themselves in the unusual position of not having the game on the opening weekend, as they were due to face St Helens, which will give Ian Watson the chance to cast his eye over the rest of Super League.

Watson has certainly put his stamp on the Huddersfield squad and played his trump card with the return of the mercurial Jake Connor to wear the number one shirt amidst some uncertainty over his injury status.

Even the loss of Danny Levi to the NRL has been covered by the re-signing of Nathan Peats.

Unfortunately, we weren’t on the very select list of media that were invited to Huddersfield’s media day recently that has prompted complaints from some quarters, though we won’t hold that against them here.

Their squad has great depth and strength, with a blend of experience and youth, some new faces and young players expected to kick on again.

The usual talk will centre around the big ‘four’ but Huddersfield will surely be in the mix for all three trophies.

Will Leigh make it fourth time lucky?

Three seasons in Super League and three relegations. That’s a record that the newly christened Leopards will be wanting to change. In their defence, they were dealt a rough hand on their last excursion, owing to the late replacing of Toronto and the reduced central funding. And the time before that, they didn’t finish bottom of Super League, but were instead relegated in the Million Pound Game at the end of The Qualifiers.

Of all the Super League clubs in the off-season, it’s Leigh that have been attracting the most talk – and yes, not all of it has been good, but with a big opening night planned with Scouting for Girls, this is their best chance ever of earning a second successive Super League campaign.

Their recruitment has put them in the best shape in comparison to previous years, though the late loss of Blake Ferguson having sacrificed Nene Macdonald and Sam Stone off the quota is a blow.

Is Daryl Powell going to turn things around at Warrington?

Warrington have already been dealt a blow ahead of the new season with a lengthy suspension for one of their big forward recruits Josh McGuire. Another, prop Gil Dudson, has also been ruled out for the first month through injury.

That increases the pressure on Daryl Powell in his second year in charge at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. His first year was certainly an eye-opener and while a re-build was inevitable, given the number of out of contract players the club had, such was their under performance in 2022 that the pressure will be ramped up early.

Any defeat the Wolves suffer in the early rounds of the season will come under much scrutiny. How patient the fans will be, remains to be seen.

But Powell, who has enjoyed relative success wherever he has been, is confident that having navigated the rough seas of last season, that he can do the job he was brought in to do – even if this year might not be Warrington’s year.

What will the new TV deal look like?

It’s inevitable in rugby league these days that off-field discussions grab the headlines. There will be more of that this year with IMG set to reveal the finer details of their plan to re-introduce a licensing system to Super League.

But regardless of all that, the biggest question will be around the TV deal. We’ve been through this before, a couple of years ago when a dramatically reduced deal was agreed, which resulted in a cut in central funding.

Chiefs will be eager to avoid a further drop, but it will be interesting to see how discussions pan out – even if talk of other interested parties beyond Sky Sports is true.

Who will come out on top in Hull?

Finishing above the other was pretty much all the Hull clubs had to play for last season as they both disappointingly finished short of the play-offs.

Tony Smith preparing for Super League 2023 season
Former Hull KR coach Tony Smith is taking charge of Hull FC in Super League 2023. Picture:

Both have new coaches going in to 2023, with Tony Smith having made the cross-city switch to Hull FC and Hull KR bringing in Australian Willie Peters to lead them.

The pair are united in their desire to ensure Hull remains a true rugby league city and both will have designs on finishing in the play-offs and of course competing for silverware.

Will Smith’s experience give the Airlie Birds the advantage? The derby rivals will only face each other twice this season too.

Are Wakefield going to get it right on and off the pitch?

They’ve never been relegated from Super League and it would be a cruel twist of fate for Wakefield if they drop in the year exciting improvements are made to their famous old ground.

Rookie coach Mark Applegarth has it all to do in his maiden year, especially given the loss of skipper Jacob Miller and talismanic winger Tom Johnstone.

Newly-promoted Leigh look as well equipped as any previous promoted side to fight the threat of relegation, and it points to Trinity as being the most vulnerable.

Being written off is nothing new to Wakefield, and it will be interesting to see if the growth off the field can inspire them to success on it and a potentially bright future for the city club.

It could well be the last season that we see traditional promotion and relegation, with the selection of the 2025 Super League teams set to be decided by a licensing system.

Give us your predictions for Super League 2023 league leaders’, Grand Final winners, Challenge Cup winners and who will be relegated in the comments below!

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