What's the matter? The first part of our guide to the big talking points at each Betfred Super League club heading into the 2023 season wasn't enough for you?
Here you go, have this. It's got last season's top six completely and utterly covered...
Let’s say it. There’s a Keiron Cunningham-sized cloud of doubt surrounding the appointment of Paul Wellens as Saints’ new coach after Kristian Woolf’s exit. Cunningham was the original ‘club-legend-turns-head-coach’ figure at Langtree Park, and we all know how that ended up.
It feels a bit different with Wellens though. He has worked under two of the best in the business in Woolf and Justin Holbrook, and his assistant coach role with England shouldn’t be overlooked either. He also has a squad packed with experience and talent alike, and so he’s talking like somebody who isn’t going to change Saints’ style too much – which was an issue cited for the failures between 2015 and 2017 under Cunningham.
The uncertainty over the 42-year-old is the one thing holding many people back from calling them a shoo-in for a fifth title in a row.
*Betfred odds: Grand Final winners: 2/1, League Leaders' Shield winners: 2/1
The Matt Peet evolution – rather than revolution – continues at the DW Stadium. Out has gone John Bateman to the Wests Tigers after an unconvincing second spell in the Cherry and White, and Liam Farrell has been handed the captaincy following the retirement of Thomas Leuluai.
It all feels like a continued ‘Wiganisation’ of the club, with the move to look within the ranks for Peet 12 months ago having been replicated with many of their actions in the latest off-season. There are no big-name signings, with only Toby King and Jake Wardle coming in. Instead, there is consistency, commitment and a pathway for young talent to follow.
The question is whether this kind of move comes good in 2023 or a year or two down the line.
*Betfred odds: Grand Final winners: 7/2, League Leaders' Shield winners: 7/2
Is this the year the Ian Watson legend is bolstered with silverware? A runner-up in Super League in 2019 and Challenge Cup finalists 12 months later with Salford Red Devils, Watson bounced back from a difficult first year in West Yorkshire by taking the Giants to the Challenge Cup final last season.
The heartbreaking late defeat to Liam Marshall’s try will only have redoubled Watson’s efforts to finally become a winner with the Giants, and he’s built a squad boasting Super League experience in the likes of three-time winner Kevin Naiqama and Jake Connor, added to an already strong-looking unit.
Under Watson, Huddersfield might be the best hope yet of Super League finally welcoming a fifth club to the winners’ podium.
*Betfred odds: Grand Final winners: 12/1, League Leaders' Shield winners: 10/1
OK, we’ll admit it. We had Steve McNamara down to last seven months rather than seven seasons at Catalans Dragons. But the former England coach has achieved previously unattainable success in Perpignan, with a Wembley win in the 2018 Challenge Cup final and the 2021 League Leaders’ Shield coming after their brush with relegation in the 2017 Million Pound Game. The question now is whether he can plot a route to more glory having welcomed acrobatic finisher Tom Johnstone and goal-kicking back rower Siosiua Taukeiaho to the ranks for ’23.
McNamara has built a real togetherness in the Dragons’ squad, and with as good a mix as they’ve probably ever had between native French stars and overseas imports, there could be another tilt at trophies this season.
*Betfred odds: Grand Final winners: 7/1, League Leaders' Shield winners: 13/2
The sensational turnaround under Rohan Smith in 2022 might have many wondering whether Leeds can go one step further than their Grand Final defeat to St Helens. But for us the continuing heroics of Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield are what are taking our attention.
Sinfield might be ‘one of them lot’ these days as England rugby union’s defence coach, but nobody has given rugby league a greater name in recent years than the former Rhinos skipper. His ongoing dedication to the MND cause in the name of his great mate Burrow – who has done such sterling work himself – is worthy of sainthood, let alone a knighthood.
*Betfred odds: Grand Final winners: 8/1, League Leaders' Shield winners: 7/1
SALFORD RED DEVILS
While there were a bunch of so-called bigger names swimming around the bottom of Super League’s pool last season, Salford were one point down to St Helens with 10 minutes remaining of their semi-final. You know, the four-times super-duper, mega-unstoppable St Helens.
Brodie Croft was a big reason for that. The former Melbourne Storm half made all the difference to a Red Devils side which few would have tipped for the play-off picture, let alone the final four. The magical master was their missing piece in that semi at Langtree Park too, after a failed HIA ruled him out.
Another individual campaign like the last one for Croft, and Salford could cause shocks again.
*Betfred odds: Grand Final winners: 33/1, League Leaders' Shield winners: 33/1
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject to Change