In a new weekly feature, Love Rugby League editor James Gordon will take on a guest from the world of rugby league and beyond to predict the weekend’s Super League games.
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Will anyone be brave enough to back the draw?
In the chair this week is Dr Phil Cooper, one of the co-founders and trustees of State of Mind.
A Warrington fan, Phil is a mental health professional and helps to co-ordinate and deliver hundreds of sessions to clubs, schools, community groups and businesses throughout the year with State of Mind.
State of Mind, set up following the death of Terry Newton in 2010, has a themed Super League round every year to raise awareness of mental fitness.
Phil said: “Here goes for a new season of Rugby League is really good for my own State of Mind and I cannot wait for the season to start!”
Warrington v Leeds, Thursday
Phil: “A fantastic opening match and Thursday night in front of the cameras. Warrington fresh from a season of possible underachieving and will want to prove a point in the opening game and their defence may be crucial. Leeds having had another champion season last year after their own underachieving season the year before, but crucial players have now left so it is going to be close.”
James: “I think Warrington may be a little undercooked, but if they manage to pull off a win it will be a great way to start their new era and put last season behind them.”
James – Leeds by 2 / Phil – Warrington by 6
Hull v Huddersfield, Thursday
Phil: “Hull FC at home are usually a really tough nut to crack and Huddersfield will want to perform their own Nutcracker Suite with Jermaine McGilvarry being a potential key player again this year, but with another season of development I think Hull FC may have a profitable first home fixture.”
James: “Huddersfield started pretty poorly last season and they’ll want to avoid that this time round, especially with a relatively settled squad and having Jake Mamo from the off. But for me, this is a perfect opener for Hull to put down a marker before they jet off to Australia.”
James – Hull by 14 / Phil – Hull by 14
Salford v Wigan, Friday
Phil: “Salford have had a few changes throughout the club and will be looking for a positive first hit out, Ian Watson has done fantastically well, but the loss of Manu Vatuvei will be a big strike threat lost. Wigan have recruited well and it will be interesting to see if they miss Michael McIllorum at hooker. I think Wigan will be too strong and I will go for a Wigan.”
James: “Ian Watson is quickly becoming my favourite Super League coach. He has got a big job on his hands on and off the field, and Wigan at home first up might just be a bit too early for them.”
James – Wigan by 10 / Phil – Wigan by 16
St Helens v Castleford, Friday
Phil: “Another cracking first week tie and Saints will be wanting to test themselves out against the stand out form team from last year. How will Castleford cope without Zak Hardaker at the back and this may be interesting to watch throughout the season and the impact this has on the balance of the side. Saints at home are always strong with a vastly improving side towards the end of the season last year.”
James: “Everyone is almost waiting for Castleford to fail, and they will want to show that they still mean business even without Hardaker and all that drama. For Saints, this is a good chance to show that their Super 8s form wasn’t a flash in the pan. I’ll be at this one too, and hope it’s a cracker to kick-off the Friday night Super League on Sky.”
James – St Helens by 7 / Phil – St Helens by 4
Hull KR v Wakefield, Friday
Phil: “Will Danny McGuire’s guile at half back be enough to take on and defeat the Wakefield team that has been immensely well drilled under Chris Chester, the clash of the packs will be vital and I think Hull KR will spring a victory.”
James: “Hull KR’s priority this season must be winning their home games, and there’s a few great stories behind this one, not least Chris Chester returning to the club who binned him off three games in to the season a few years back. Since then, he’s coached a team to the top eight twice, while Rovers have been relegated. I think they’ll win this one though.”
James – Hull KR by 6 / Phil – Hull KR by 8
Widnes v Catalans, Sunday
Phil: “Widnes will want to start with a strong statement and improve on last season, but Catalan with on off season under Steve McNamara could prove the difference, again a close call but think Catalan will take the game.”
James: “Widnes’ last game was at Catalans and it was a magnificent win and a great occasion for them. They won just five games in the regular phase last season and they must win this one to get off on the right foot – if they don’t, they’re in for a very long year.”
James – Widnes by 4 / Phil – Catalans by 12
Let us know your predictions in the comments below! Don’t forget to enter your tips before kick-off in the Warrington game on Thursday night.