Super League XXII Tips | Week 1
Super League is back on our screens this weekend so we asked rugby league fanatic Kaine Greenwood (@KaineG23) for his best bets.
The season commences on Thursday night under the lights in St. Helens and I’m told it will be Totally Wicked. Not least because that is the re-brand given to the Saints’ home patch on the back of a sponsorship deal with a local e-cigarette company.
It should be pretty awesome also as two of the competition’s most prestigious clubs get straight to testing each other’s level.
The Rhinos relied heavily on the consistent form of Rob Burrow in their 2016 struggles and the trip to St. Helens will represent a 500th appearance for the schemer who has seen it all during a 17-year-career in the game.
In contrast, Burrow may well find himself lining up against an opponent without a single Super League minute to his name in 20-year-old Danny Richardson.
Richardson’s involvement in the 19-man squad for this game is due to the leg break suffered by off-season recruit Matty Smith and he could be one of five debutants for Keiron Cunningham alongside Adam Walker, Tommy Lee, Ryan Morgan and Scotland international Luke Douglas.
Douglas is a 6’ 3”, near 19-stone unit that will add real grit to a Saints pack that already houses the Kyle Amor and Alex Walmsley and, for me, could be one of the season’s best pick-ups.
Saints however finished off their pre-season with a tough 22-6 defeat to Castleford and that could hint at the time it may take to adjust to the absence of Smith at the heart of their midfield.
In the game Smith suffered his injury they were barely tested by a Widnes side who couldn’t even put up a point in a 16-0 Karalius Cup defeat but that won’t be the case here.
Brian McDermott will be without Bretts Delaney and Ferres for this opener as well as prop Keith Galloway – who is still nursing an Achilles injury from last season – but seems confident enough in the strength of his squad, bringing in just three new recruits.
Jack Ormondroyd and Matt Parcell are both included in this fixture and the former, along with the impressive Jordan Baldwinson, already has competitive minutes under his belt after helping Featherstone to victory at Halifax on Sunday on dual-registration.
By their very nature opening fixtures are tough to call, Keiron Cunningham has stated this week that enough training has been done and it’s time to get out on the field but Thursday represents a chance to get off to a wicked start at St. Helens’ expense and I’m for taking the 2.62 offered on the two-way win market for the Rhinos.
I provisionally have the former treble winners as finishing one place above their hosts here over the course of the season and do not feel there will be much between them either at the season’s end or in this clash so it would make no sense to back an odds-on ‘Red Vee’ considering their midfield shake-up and potential number of signings that would need to bed in straight away.
It has been a bit of a dumpster fire pre-season for the Vikings in all honesty, as round one approaches Denis Bett’s side have a few questions to answer.
Why did we allow Kevin Brown to leave? Well, that might be answered in the shape of Tom Gilmore in who the Chemics hold a lot of hope long-term.
But, his promotion into a extended first-team role will not be helped by the absence of Widnes’ remaining half, Joe Mellor.
So how do they account for that loss? Mellor himself is just 26 yet has now totted up over a 100 appearances in a white shirt. Most of those have been impressive and the Warrington-born player is sure to be on the radar of England coach Wayne Bennett for the World Cup should he return in similar fashion.
In short, I don’t think they will go particularly well in the spell he could miss. Denis Betts’ side have struggled to put on points in their warm-up fixtures and with losses also extending to Chris Dean, Eamon O’Carroll and Manase Manuokafoa for the opening weeks or longer, the home side appear to be losing numbers all over the field.
An over-reliance on Rhys Hanbury or Corey Thompson is not how they would like to start.
Rick Stone had half a season to assess where his Giants were placed last term and guided the club fairly safely back into Super League after the Middle 8’s phase.
That hasn’t stopped him from overhauling the roster though with a number of young talented names joining the ranks for a crack at Super League in 2017 – Lee Gaskell is one of five names to switch Bradford for Huddersfield this year and is an intriguing addition with a talent for this level that has yet to be realised.
Another addition that will strength Stone’s starting XIII should be Jake Mamo – who he has coached previously at the Knights – but the full-back is around a month away from action.
Quite simply when looking at the markets for this tie I think the Giants are best prepared going into the curtain-raiser and on a 12-0 showing over Warrington just last week look a safe bet for as much as a friendlies can mean.
Backing them to come away with the two points on a handicap of less one try (-2.5) looks like the right play at quotes of 1.88 and it’s the one I have most faith with this weekend.