Following on from last week’s look at the title contenders, this time we will be considering those who may make up the top eight.
Next up is Catalan Dragons. As usual, they failed to deliver last year after some big name signings and a flying start to the season, they flopped miserably as the season progressed. This year they have again seen a massive turnover of players, with big names Taylor, Stewart, Richards (retired) and Horo (rumoured) all gone. Although they have done well in finding replacements, with ex Australian international Greg Bird, NZ International Sam Moa and St Helens maestro Luke Walsh being the best of the crop. If they can keep these fit alongside the return of Kristen Inu, a place in the top 4 could be achievable.
Next up could be considered a long shot, but with their solid recruitment, many believe Super League’s new boys Leigh Centurion’s will be in the mix for the middle 8’s when the fixtures are split. After two excellent seasons in the championship, they have developed a winning culture around the club, along with some notable signings. Ex Australian International Glen Stewart will lead from the front, alongside the experienced duo of Hanson and Patterson, who can mix it with any established back three. Again, a lot will depend on injuries, but if Leigh can keep the squad fit then a surprise top 8 place could be on the cards.
Our final place goes to the 2015 champions Leeds; whose spectacular fall from grace shocked everyone last season. Leeds have been quiet in the off season, with only the addition of Corey Aston from Championship side Sheffield Eagles to last year’s squad. However, Leeds surely can’t suffer the injury crisis that crippled them last year and a lot will depend on the outcome of the Segeyaro dispute, but with a good pre-season and the experience their younger players gained, the Rhinos may start to find some of the form that helped them to claim the triple just over 12 months ago.
Next time we will be looking at the those that could be in for a long season and make up the bottom 4 come the July split.