Former Rugby League World Cup finalist Kevin Brown has told The Sportsman that this season’s Betfred Championship could be one of its best in years as numerous clubs battle for promotion to Super League.
Brown, an England international as well as an ex-Wigan Warriors, Huddersfield Giants and Widnes Vikings half-back in a storied 18-year, six-club career, will be a keen follower of the second tier this season as a pundit for Viaplay Sports.
And, as he tells The Sportsman, the challenges presented by the likes of Keighley Cougars and Featherstone Rovers, who meet on live TV in round one on Monday night, mean this is one of the most competitive leagues in recent memory.
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“It’s going to be difficult as a pundit to pick who’s going to win each week,” Brown tells us. “I’m looking at the teams in there and there’s probably 10 or 11 sides expecting to be up there in the top four so nobody wants to say that they’re going to be the team to beat.
“Keighley looked very strong even before Luke Gale signed. They’ve obviously come up from League One, and I think with the roster that they’ve put together they’ll be confident, especially in round one when they play Featherstone at Cougar Park. I think that will be a really good test and we’ll be able to see where both sides are at.
“It’s great that there’s so many good players. Joey Leilua at Featherstone is a headline, he’s a world-class player and it’s so good for the competition, so good for the sport and so good for the viewers too.”
One new face to the Betfred Championship in 2023 is Michael Lawrence, who has ended a 16-year association with Huddersfield to become skipper of the Bradford Bulls. And while Brown is finding it unusual seeing his former team-mate in the red, amber and black, he believes the Jamaica international will be one of the best performances in the competition.
“When I was at Huddersfield as captain, Michael was coming through and that’s all I’ve ever known. Now he’s the captain of Bradford, who were a bit of rival when we were there,” adds Brown. “He says he’s loving it, he’s another superstar of the game and he’ll be a terrific buy. I think Bradford as a club have done some terrific recruitment this year and I think they’ll be better too.”
The Championship season begins on Saturday afternoon when Barrow Raiders host Toulouse Olympique live on the OuRLeague platform, while Keighley v Featherstone is live on Viaplay Sports 1 at 19:45 on Monday.
The Sportsman also announced this week that it will again screen at least 20 live matches from across the Betfred Challenge Cup, League One, the Betfred Women’s Super League and wheelchair rugby league over the course of the 2023 campaign.
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