The 2017 Rugby League season is nearly upon us, so here’s a little preview of what to expect from our local teams this year.[one_half]
SALFORD RED DEVILS
Salford Red Devils secured their place in this season’s Super League in the most dramatic fashion, with Gareth O’Brien’s extra-time drop-goal in the Million Pound Game.
The aim in 2017 is to avoid being in the same situation and with money that has been invested into the squad in recent years a top-eight finish will be seen as a minimum.
The departures of Josh Griffin and Tommy Lee are big losses but the re-signing of Lama Tasi from St Helens and Lee Mossop from Wigan are strong additions to the forward pack.
A six-point deduction for salary cap breaches was the difference between Salford making the Super 8s and the Qualifiers in 2016 and the club will feel they are better placed on and off the field to make the top-eight this season.
In: Lama Tasi (St Helens), Lee Mossop (Wigan Warriors), Kriss Brining (York City Knights), Kris Welham (Bradford Bulls), Daniel Murray (Warrington Wolves).
Out: Josh Griffin (Hull FC), Mason Caton-Brown (Wakefield Trinity), Luke Burgess (Catalans Dragons), Tommy Lee (St Helens), Daniel Vidot (Released).
FIRST SIX FIXTURES
Wigan Warriors (H) – Saturday February 11, 13.15
Huddersfield Giants (A) – Thursday February 16, 20.00
Leeds Rhinos (A) – Friday February 24, 20.00
Warrington Wolves (H) – Saturday March 4, 15.00
Wakefield Trinity (A) – Sunday March 12, 15.00
Catalans Dragons (H) – Sunday March 19, 15.00[/one_half] [one_half_last]
Following an 11-year absence, Leigh Centurions return to Super League in 2017 and are aiming to prove that they are worthy of their top-flight status.
Neil Jukes’ side won six of their seven matches in the Qualifiers, including wins over fellow Super League sides Huddersfield and Salford.
The Centurions have added quality to their squad including the likes of Glenn Stewart and Atelea Vea from Catalans and St Helens respectively as well as Josh Drinkwater and Mitch Brown from the NRL.
Leigh face a difficult opening set of fixtures and it will be a real test to see if they can compete with the competition’s best sides.
Staying in the Super League for 2018 will be the Centurions’ initial priority and then to build the club into a long-term Super League side.
In: Josh Drinkwater (Wests Tigers), Mitch Brown (Cronulla Sharks), Atelea Vea (St Helens), Matty Dawson (St Helens), Antoni Maria (Catalans Dragons), Glenn Stewart (Catalans Dragons), Eloi Pelissier (Catalans Dragons), Ryan Hampshire (Wigan Warriors), Ben Crooks (Castleford Tigers, loan), James Green (Hull KR), Dave Thompson (Warrington Wolves), James Clare (Bradford Bulls).
Out: Liam Kay (Toronto Wolfpack), Jonathan Pownall (Toronto Wolfpack), Andrew Dixon (Toronto Wolfpack), Greg Worthington (Toronto Wolfpack), Tom Armstrong (Widnes Vikings), Reni Maitua (Retired), Tom Spencer (London Broncos).
FIRST SIX FIXTURES
Castleford (A) – Friday February 10, 20.00
Leeds Rhinos (H) – Friday February 17, 20.00
St Helens (H) – Friday February 24, 20.00
Wigan Warriors (A) – Friday March 4, 20.00
Huddersfield Giants (H) – Thursday March 10, 20.00
Warrington Wolves (H) – Thursday March 16, 20.00[/one_half_last]
2016 was a hugely successful year for Wigan as they claimed their fourth Super League title with a 12-6 win over rivals Warrington Wolves.
With strong recruitment over the winter after Joe Burgess and Thomas Leuluai returned from the NRL, Warriors fans will have similar expectations for 2017 with a squad rich in talent.
Shaun Wane’s side will have to cope with the loss of key players Josh Charnley, Dan Sarginson and Matty Smith but the 52-year-old will already have their replacements in mind given his early transfer business, plus the range of options from their academy.
It’s certainly going to be another exciting year in the Betfred Super League but will Wigan reign supreme and hold on to their crown in October?
In: Joe Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Thomas Leuluai (New Zealand Warriors), Romain Navarette (Catalans Dragons), Morgan Escare (Catalans Dragons), Liam Forsyth (Bath RUFC).
Out: Josh Charnley (Sale Sharks), Dan Sarginson (Gold Coast Titans), Matty Smith (St Helens), Dom Crosby (Warrington Wolves), Ryan Hampshire (Leigh Centurions), Lee Mossop (Salford Red Devils).
FIRST SIX FIXTURES
Salford Red Devils (A) – Saturday February 11, 13.15
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (H) – Sunday February 19, 15.00
Widnes Vikings (H) – Friday February 24, 20.00
Leigh Centurions (H) – Saturday March 3, 20.00
Warrington Wolves (A) – Thursday March 9, 20.00
Huddersfield Giants (H) – Sunday March 19, 15.00[/one_half] [one_half_last]
Warrington have been Super League’s ‘nearly men’ in recent seasons losing three Grand Finals in the last five years, but will 2017 finally be their year?
The Wolves won the League Leaders’ Shield in 2016 but fell at the final hurdle in both the Grand Final and Challenge Cup Final.
Chris Sandow’s departure is a huge loss with Kevin Brown brought in from local rivals Widnes to replace the Australian playmaker.
Warrington have strengthened their forward pack with Dom Crosby and Andre Savelio being brought in from Wigan and St Helens respectively as well as England international Mike Cooper returning to his hometown club after a stint in the NRL.
In: Mike Cooper (St. George Illawarra Dragons), Dom Crosby (Wigan Warriors), Andre Savelio (St Helens), Kevin Brown (Widnes Vikings), Matty Blythe (Bradford Bulls).
Out: James Laithwaite (Toronto Wolfpack), Gary Wheeler (Toronto Wolfpack), Ben Evans (London Broncos), Mitchell Dodds (Brisbane Broncos), Dave Thompson (Leigh Centurions), Ryan Bailey (Released), Jordan Cox (Released), Daniel Murray (Salford Red Devils), Chris Sandow.[/one_half_last]