The 2017 Super League season gets under way this week and we’ve picked out our best long-term bets ahead of the new campaign.
Wigan will be looking to repeat last year’s Grand Final success after denying Warrington a maiden title at Old Trafford in October, while 2015 champions Leeds bid to bounce back from a woeful 2016.
New boys Leigh are sure to make survival their number one priority after finally reaching the promised land and Salford will set out to avoid another relegation battle following last season’s incredible comeback against Hull KR in the Million Pound Game.
Who will win the Super League XXII Grand Final?
Warrington (3/1) have been cruelly dubbed the ‘nearly men’ of Super League after losing three of the last five finals but the Wolves can hopefully shed that tag in 2017. Chris Sandow’s return to Australia is obviously a blow but the capture of Widnes captain Kevin Brown may just give Tony Smith a more reliable and consistent playmaker.
An already powerful forward pack has been bolstered by the arrival of Mike Cooper, Dom Crosby and Andre Savelio, while Warrington now have a hugely-experienced back line. The Wolves do have some early injury problems, with Chris Hill, Stefan Ratchford, Ben Currie and Kevin Penny missing, but hopefully that will just mean they are fresher when the play-offs come around.
Which team will top the regular-season table?
Hull picked up the most points in the first 23 games of last season before fading out in the Super 8s, but we’re backing Wigan (5/2) to lead the way this time around. The Warriors have waved goodbye to Josh Charnley, Dan Sarginson and Matty Smith but Shaun Wane has brought a couple of familiar faces back from the NRL in Joe Burgess and Thomas Leuluai.
Explosive French full-back Morgan Escare looks another inspired signing from the Catalans Dragons, highly-rated 22-year-old stand-off George Williams should improve after shining for England at the end of last term, Sam Tomkins can hopefully return to full fitness and the club’s fabled academy will no doubt again produce more fresh blood to fill any gaps.
Leading tryscorer in the regular season
Denny Solomona touched down an incredible 40 times for Castleford last season but he has since switched codes, so his title is up for grabs. Joe Burgess (8/1) has to be on the short list after finishing second in the table two years ago, before leaving Wigan for the Sydney Roosters. The 6ft 5in winger failed to settle Down Under but should fit straight back in with the Warriors.
Tom Lineham (25/1) is our second pick after finishing third when with Hull in 2015 and then having a solid first season at Warrington. Joining the Wolves’ star-studded squad was always going to be a daunting move but the 24-year-old should be ready to now kick on again.
Top points scorer in the regular season
Castleford’s Luke Gale (9/2) had to settle for second place behind Marc Sneyd of Hull in this category last term but is tipped to go one better. The Tigers always try to play attractive rugby, giving Gale plenty of shots at goal via conversions.
The nippy half-back also led the way in try assists in 2016 and can hopefully cross the whitewash more himself this season, rather than setting others up.
Man of Steel
Wigan’s John Bateman (12/1) has all the traits needed to take this much-coveted trophy. The fiery 23-year-old can play at centre or in the pack and never takes a backwards step on the field of play.
Featuring for England in the Four Nations should have helped to further elevate his status and the tough-tackling workhorse only needs to keep his emotions in check to earn the respect of his fellow players.