Castleford have been the surprise team over the past two seasons and are still riding the wave of momentum that begun when Daryl Powell took over back in 2013. Classy Cas’ will be looking to build on a Wembley and Super Eight’s appearance in the past two seasons by finally breaking into the top four of Super League.
Last season they lost a few of their big name players and whilst this season they have lost powerhouse Justin Carney they have strengthened the squad overall. Experienced winger Joel Monaghan will give the side an extra dimension with his aerial threat out wide something Cas lacked last season.
The Tigers had a lot of success last season due to the creative half-back pairing of Luke Gale and Ben Roberts who had the opportunity to create chances on the back of constant hard work from forwards like Grant Millington and veteran Andy Lynch. If Powell can get his side to repeat this formula in 2016 Castleford could really be a force and challenge for the top four.
Key Player: Michael Shenton – Cas’ Captain will need to lead from the front again for the Tigers to improve on last season.
One to watch: Denny Solomona – Solomona burst onto the scene last year with 18 tries in 15 games, expect him to build on this in 2016.
New signings: Ben Crooks, Joel Monaghan, Greg Minikin, Ryan Hampshire, Jy Hitchcox.
The French side have had quite a large turnaround in 2016 with a lot of players leaving but also bringing in eight new faces. Catalans finished 7th last season and this was due, in most part, to their fantastic home form. However the Dragons away form is much the opposite with the French side constantly struggling on their travels. They only managed to win two away games all season last year – both against Wakefield. If their away form doesn’t improve then there’s no chance they will challenge higher up the table.
Catalans have lost numerous vital players to an array of NRL clubs such as Scott Dureau, Ian Henderson, Elliot Whitehead and Zeb Taia. However they have brought in straight replacements for the majority of their losses. Richie Myler will fill the boots of Dureau and will likely do the job well after proving himself over time at Warrington. Glenn Stewart and big Dave Taylor will bring some power and NRL experience to their pack which could prove pivotal over the season.
The new half-back partnership of Carney and Myler will have to hit the ground running if they expect to challenge in the top half of the table. However with a lot of new recruits coming into the side it could take the Dragons a while to gel and therefore delay any ambitions they have of making the top four.
Key Player: Todd Carney – Will be instrumental to everything Catalan do going forward if he can remain fit and find his best form.
One to watch: Glenn Stewart – New arrival from South Sydney expect the forward to add to Catalans already ferocious pack.
New Signings: Pat Richards, Richie Myler, Krisnan Inu, David Taylor, Pail Aiton, Justin Horo, Jodie Broughton, Glenn Stewart.
The last few seasons Huddersfield have been the ‘nearly’ men of the Super League
missing out on the Grand Final and League Leaders Shield narrowly on both occasions. However the Giants have tasted success back in 2013 when they finished top of the regular season but again fell at the play-off hurdle.
The Giants have lost key player Brett Ferres as well as other notable players such as Jodie Broughton, Shaun Lunt and Craig Kopczak. Even though none of these players are huge losses the Huddersfield squad has thinned out due to their departures and they haven’t really been replaced. However, on a positive, Huddersfield have kept hold of star men Danny Brough and Jermaine McGillvary which means they will have a lot of power in the final third. McGillvary will be looking to retain his title as the Super League’s top try-scorer.
If the Giants are to shake the title of being the ‘nearly’ team in the league they will need to be more consistent at the back end of the season particularly in the super eights and play-off stage. However with a diluted squad this season it may be difficult for the Giants to hit the form needed come September time.
Key Player: Danny Brough – The organiser for the Giants, Huddersfield will struggle if they lose Brough at any point.
One to watch: Jermaine McGillvary – Last season’s top try-scorer and his tries will be pivotal in the Giants challenge for top four.
New Signings: Ryan Hinchcliffe, Sam Rapira, Daniel Smith, Larne Patrick.
Lee Radford and co have made some serious waves in pre-season with their signings and
a heavy victory over Hull KR. However it always seems that hype is built around the black and whites before the season only for them to disappoint pretty quickly. After finishing in 8th place last season Hull will be hoping this is the year that their investment pays off and they finally begin to get back to the heights of the mid 2000’s.
FC’s biggest signing is Frank Pritchard from the Bulldogs. The prop has tonnes of experience and will be a huge force against any other pack in the league. With the likes of Pritchard, Ellis and fellow new signing Sika Manu Hull will find themselves in better positions in attack as well as managing to toughen up in defence, something that has been a major issue over the past few campaigns.
Last season Hull FC really struggled in the creative department and Leon Pryce and Marc Sneyd will definitely need to step up and offer them something different in the final third of the pitch. With a stronger pack around them this season it is likely they will control games more often allowing them to be more expansive in attack.
Key Player: Gareth Ellis – The black and white’s captain who, if he remains fit, will be vital to improving their defence this season.
One to watch: Frank Pritchard – FC’s big recruit from the NRL Frank ‘the Tank’ will dominate in the forward line.
New Signings: Frank Pritchard, Scott Taylor, Carlos Tuimavave, Mark Fonua, Sika Manu, Danny Washbrook, Lee Smith.
Hull KR narrowly missed out on the super eights last season to their cross-city rivals Hull
FC however they didn’t lose a game in the middle eights stage. Coach Chris Chester will be looking to build on this and make the super eights stage this time around. The Robin’s were decent in spells last season but really fell when Terry Campese and Albert Kelly suffered injuries and which meant they lacked any organisation or creativity.
KR have struggled to recruit this winter with Shaun Lunt and Kevin Larroyer being their only notable signings. Lunt could bring another dimension when they are going forward however the Robins were strong in attack last season it was their defence that was the problem. With no serious incomings in the forwards it is likely KR will struggle again this season in defence.
The Robin’s are likely to struggle this season and it will be extremely difficult for them to push for a spot in the top eight. If Chester’s side do have serious hopes of finishing above the likes of Catalans, Salford and FC they will need to continue their decent home form as well as picking up more victories away from Craven Park.
Key Player: Terry Campese – KR missed Campese when he was injured last season his ball skills will be key to KR’s top eight challenge.
One to watch: Josh Mantellato – The Robins winger who is lethal in an aerial challenge and is guaranteed tries.
New Signings: Thomas Minns, Iain Thornley, Shaun Lunt, Kevin Larroyer, Chris Clarkson, James Greenwood, Ryan Shaw, Rob Mulhern, Will Oaks.
Last season Leeds dominated domestic Rugby League winning the Challenge Cup, League Leaders Shield and the Grand Final in an historic treble. This feat was a perfect send-off for departing trio Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai. However it remains to
be seen whether Brian McDermott’s men can repeat their heroics of last season having lost all this experience.
Brett Ferres is Leeds’ main signing ahead of the 2016 season after leaving Huddersfield in controversial circumstances. However, with the off field situation aside Ferres is a top quality player and runs the best attacking lines around. On the back of McGuire and Liam Sutcliffe he will cause mayhem for any defence. Sutcliffe will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders this season and will be expected to step up and come into his own this year, something he can definitely manage.
Even with the big losses Leeds have suffered at the end of last season their is still no doubting their is a lot of quality in the side and they still have tonnes of experience with the likes of Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Jamie-Jones Buchanan and Carl Ablett. If these players can help develop and nurture the younger talent in the Rhino’s ranks there is no reason they can’t go on to win trophies again in 2016.
Key Player: Danny McGuire – McGuire has huge shoes to fill as Leeds captain following Kevin Sinfield’s departure.
One to watch: Brett Ferres – Ferres’ attacking lines will bring Leeds a lot of joy and he will help to ease the loss of Kylie Leuluai and Jamie Peacock.
New Signings: Anthony Mullaly, Keith Galloway, Jordan Baldwinson, Beau Falloon, Brett Ferres.