Super League 2016 Preview – Part Two

Salford Red Devils

Over the past few seasons there hasn’t been many Rugby League teams who have been at

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Salford’s new signing – Justin Carney
the forefront of the media spotlight than Salford. Since Dr Marwan Koukash came on board his controversial yet innovative stance on Rugby League has captured the attention of all involved. Again this season he has splashed the cash bringing in thirteen new faces.

 

Daniel Vidot was Salford’s biggest signing however he has picked up an injury and is ruled out for the majority of the season which could be a big blow for the Reds. However Justin Carney is fit after leaving Castleford in controversial fashion and he will give Salford a lot of pace and power out wide which will definitely benefit them in attack. However with the loss of both Theo Fages and Rangi Chase a lot of pressure will be on Michael Dobson to provide the creative spark for Salford.

The Red Devils are still aiming to finally secure a place in the top half of the table after their struggles over the past few seasons. The expectations of Salford may have been too much in recent times however unfortunately expectations are high again for the Red Devils and it will be difficult for them to reach the super eights stage. If they do miss out on a top eight spot again it remains to be seen how long Dr Koukash will stick around for.

Key Player: Michael Dobson – Dobson will be in charge of everything Salford do on the field with Chase gone.

One to watch: Justin Carney – The powerhouse will be crucial to Salford’s attack and scoring all season.

New Signings: Mark Flanagan, Gareth O’Brien, Craig Kopczak, Phil Joseph, Robert Lui, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Matt Haggarty, Justin Carney, Daniel Vidot, Logan Tomkins, Matt Sarsfield, Jordan Andrade, Josh Jones.

Prediction: 9th

St Helens

Saints spent the majority of last season chasing Leeds and the rest of the pack. This wasn’t helped by St Helens being ravaged by injuries again with their key playmaker Luke

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Saints hooker- James Roby
Walsh out for large parts of the season. Kieron Cunningham recently signed a new contract as coach of Saints and he will be looking to continue to instil his imprint on the side and with a fully fit side for the majority of the season Saints could be a real threat.

 

If Luke Walsh can stay fit for the whole season he will be like a new signing for the Saints and with the addition of Theo Fages the Saints now have three half-backs to choose from and an ability to mix things up in attack. As always James Roby will be pivotal to their campaign his technique and speed in attack combined with his control over his powerful pack will allow Saints to really kick on this season.

Cunningham’s clan will be aiming to better their semi-final appearance last season and get all the way to the Grand Final and earn back the title they lost in 2015. However it always seems that St Helens struggle with injuries and it is unlikely that this will change this season.

Key player: Luke Walsh – Walsh is an organiser for the Saints and controls the game from start to finish.

One to watch: Theo Fages – New half-back from Salford who showed spells of genius for the Red Devils last season.

New Signings: Lama Tasi, Dominique Peyroux, Theo Fages, Jack Owens.

Prediction: 2nd

Wakefield Wildcats

Wakefield managed to retain their Super League status last season with a 24-16 victory

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Young winger – Tom Johnstone
over Championship side Bradford Bulls in the ‘Million Pound Game’. Coach Brian Smith managed to slow down the Wildcats freefall towards the end of the season and they won the most crucial game in the clubs recent history. Wakefield will need to improve in the early stages of the season this time around if they expect to avoid the middle eights stage.

 

Irish half-back Liam Finn is Wakefield’s most intriguing transfer in pre-season from local rivals Castleford. Finn performed extremely well in the World Cup and last season when given a chance for the Tigers and he could be the one player who helps the Wildcats organise their play on the field. Scott Moore, also from Cas, brings a bundle of Super League experience whilst Ben Jones-Bishop gives Wakefield a threat on either wing along with young Tom Johnstone.

Smith will be aiming to improve Wakefield’s home form in order to give them a base to work and build on from last season. If the new signings manage to hit the ground running the Wildcats could manage to improve on last season but it is very unlikely that they will earn a place in the top eight.

Key Player: Liam Finn – New signing from Castleford who will be looking to give Wakefield that added edge going forward.

One to Watch: Tom Johnstone – The young winger impressed last season and his tries could help the Wildcats move up the league.

New Signings: Anthony England, Ben Shulver, Sean Morris, Liam Finn, Ashley Gibson, Bill Tupou, Anthony Walker, Anthony Tupou, Tinirau Arona, Ben Jones-Bishop, Scott Moore, Jason Walton.

Prediction: 11th

Warrington Wolves

Warrington were last season’s real disappointment finishing in 6th placed there lowest finish since 2009. Throughout the season the Wolves couldn’t find any real form with a double over Leeds being there only real high point of the year. However Tony Smith has addressed this problem in pre-season and spent money to improve the team.

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Kurt Gidley in Warrington colours

Warrington’s new half-back combination of Kurt Gidley and Chris Sandow has a huge amount of potential and could really make the Wolves a serious force this season. Joe Westerman is also a very solid signing and youngster Tom Lineham could really light the league up if he is given the right service from Gidley, Sandow and co. Warrington’s strong pack – Ashton Sims, Ben Currie, Chris Hill and Ben Westwood will allow the flair players to express themselves and also give Wolves a sturdy backbone in defence.

It seems almost guaranteed that Smith’s side will improve this season and will push for a final play-off position come September. Whilst the Wolves will be back up their this year it is hard to see them directly challenging Wigan, Leeds and Saints and instead maybe being stuck in a battle for 4th spot with Castleford and Huddersfield.

Key Player: Ben Currie – The forward will be trying to build on an impressive breakthrough season last year.

One to watch: Kurt Gidley – Warrington’s new half-back is sure to bring some NRL class to the side.

New Signings: Kurt Gidley, Tom Lineham, Jack Hughes, Mitchell Dodds, Benjamin Jullien, Joe Westerman, Jordan Cox, Ryan Bailey.

Prediction: 4th

Widnes Vikings

The Vikings managed to finish 9th last season and survived in the middle eights stage

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Widnes’ Kevin Brown
with ease at the end of the campaign. Coach Dennis Betts has said that he can see Widnes making the top eight this time around. However too often last season the Vikings put in valiant performances but came out on the wrong end of the scoreline which eventually cost them a real play-off challenge.

 

Betts’ biggest transfer has been the acquisition of Chris Bridge from rivals Warrington Wolves. Bridge has experience at the top clubs and top level in Super League and along with Danny Tickle and Kevin Brown can help bring through the younger members of the squad like fellow signing Connor Farrell. Of course Kevin Brown will be the main man again at Widnes and will be crucial to any success they have.

Widnes’ recruitment hasn’t been as strong as other sides such as Wakefield, Salford and Hull FC and this could mean they’ll struggle. Much like last season it seems like Widnes will run teams close, especially at home, but fall short and it could turn out to be a very long season for Betts’ side.

Key Player: Kevin Brown – Brown is Widnes’ go-to man in attack and will likely be involved in the majority of the Vikings try.

One to watch: Chris Bridge – The centre will bring some more experience to the Vikings camp.

New Signings: Chris Bridge, Setaimata Sa, Corey Thompson, Chris Houston, Connor Farrell, Sam Brooks.

Prediction: 12th

Wigan Warriors

Wigan narrowly missed out on the Super League crown last season losing the Grand Final against Leeds 22-20. The Warriors led up until the 64th minute but Sean Wane’s men couldn’t see the game through. They will be hoping to go one better this season and

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The returning Sam Tomkins
secure the Super League title.

 

The return on Sam Tomkins will be not only be pivotal for the Super League but will be crucial to Wigan’s challenge for the Super League crown this season. Tomkins brings another dimension in attack for the Warriors with both his pace and timing he is sure to run a lot of defences ragged this season. New Signing Willie Isa will also add some extra steel in the pack for the Warriors.

Wigan impressed in large parts last season with young winger Dom Manfredi scoring over twenty tries in his breakthrough season and he is sure to get more this campaign with Tomkins’ added service. Wigan will almost definitely be the team to beat this season and if they keep players such as Sean O’Loughlin fit for the whole season they will be very tough to beat.

Key Player: Sam Tomkins – Returning from his spell in the NRL Tomkins will be looking to continue where he left off in 2013.

One to watch: Dom Manfredi – The young winger will have to carry on his scoring form especially with the loss of Joe Burgess.

New Signings: Sam Tomkins, Willie Isa, Greg Burke, Rhodri Lyod.

Prediction: 1st

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