With the Super league returning in February, let the preseason friendlies commence, over the next few weeks we all get to watch your team’s new signings first hand. But before that here’s our guide to top teams for 2017.
Let’s start with last year’s winners Wigan Warriors! Expectations are high with the reigning champions, although there have been a few alterations to the playing squad, mainly England international Dan Sarginson to the NRL, Matty Smith to rivals St Helens and Prolific Try scorer Josh Charnley to Sale RU. They have recruited a mixture of youth and experience in the form of returning NZ international Thomas Leuluai, Joe Burgess after an unsuccessful stint in the NRL alongside ex Catalan Players Morgan Escare and Romain Navarrete. In addition to Micheal McIlorum returning after sitting out 2016 injured. It will be a hard job for anyone to take that Champions Crown from them.
Next up is the team that lost two finals in 2016. Warrington Wolves have had their ups and downs over the Preseason, mainly with influential half back Chris Sandow going ‘walkabout’ and deciding not to return for his second year. But the additions of England International Kevin Brown to replace Sandow, Mike cooper (NRL) and Andre Savelio (St Helens) to help strengthen the pack, it really could be Warrington’s year.
Next up is last year’s Challenge cup winners HULL. After leading the way for the majority of the season, they fell flat at the business end of the season. The experience the young players gained will help push the Airlie Birds that bit more this year alongside some excellent signings. With the forwards Hull have, they can cover the loss of Frank Pitchard who has returned to the NRL. It’s in the halves and backline they have improved, with the wildcard Albert Kelly crossing over from relegated Hull KR, Josh Griffin and the young Jake Connor both looking at slotting into the centres to replace the retiring Kirk Yeaman. It will be a brave man that bets against Hull taking home some more sliver ware in 2017.
Next Up it’s the Saint’s!! 2016 wasn’t the best season for St Helens compared to their own high standards, however they have recruited strongly for 2017, after replacing the outgoing Luke Walsh with Matty Smith (Wig) and Ryan Morgan replacing Jorden Turner in the centres. It is the additions to the pack that fans are excited about, with Luke Douglas (NRL) and Adam Walker (HKR) both joining the club, and putting in some excellent performances for Scotland in the Four Nations. St Helens now look to have a more experienced and balanced team and with some luck on the injury front will be up there fighting for a place at Old Trafford next October.
Next Up is our ‘Wild Card’ for next season. Under Daryl Powell, Castleford have grown in strength over the past few years and are now more than capable of competing for honours in 2017. Although they have not gone mad in the transfer market, Powell has bought in experience and cover where needed with the additions of ex Man of Steel and England international Zak Hardaker alongside ex Huddersfield junior Greg Eden after his stint with the Brisbane Broncos. The return of Ben Roberts, who missed large parts of 2016 with injury, and Powell’s excellent ability to pick up quality players from championship teams, I am tipping a massive year for the Tigers in 2017.