Up the Cream’s Super League Preview 2019

The long winter is over and something exciting is coming. No I’m not talking about Game of Thrones, but something even more enthralling than that. ‘New Beginnings’ is the tagline repeatedly echoed by Super League’s Numero Uno – Mr Elstone, and from a Hull FC perspective, we certainly hope so after a torrid 2018.

Occupants of the Pie Dome, Wigan are the Champions, aided by a salary cap breach (just how many times now?) and therefore start life in 2019 with a points deduction. Can Adrian Lam and co live up to Wane’s Wigan World? Will Saints shake off the Dinner Plate winner tag and actually pick up some credible silverware? Can the returning London Broncos spring a few surprises with Danny Ward’s workmanlike outfit? All will be revealed in the coming weeks and months as the Super League story begins to unfold.

UTC takes a look at this year’s contenders, with a few predictions too (which will obviously end up being completely wrong).

1.) Never write off the Saints

Coach: Justin Holbrook

Captain: James Roby

Key Player: Alex Walmsley

“Ben Barba may have cleared off with his MoS accolade but the Saints still have heaps of quality within the squad. New recruits include Kevin Naiqama (Wests Tigers), Lachlan Coote (North Queensland Cowboys) and Joseph Paulo (Cronulla Sharks) – their pedigree speaks volumes. Quality personnel remain such as Autumn international hero Tommy Makinson and the evergreen James Roby, while Alex Walmsley will be like a new signing in the pack after recovering from a neck injury. We think Sky Sports’ darlings will not only get the Dog Dish, but also go the extra mile and triumph at the Grand-Final, hellbent on righting last season’s shortfalls.”

2.) Weeeeeegan

Coach: Adrian Lam

Captain: Sean O’Loughlin

Key Player: Zak Hardaker

“Typical of the Pies’ ethos, mid-season woes were turned into success in 2018 as the momentum built around Shaun Wane’s end of season departure. Club legend, Adrian Lam has been brought in for 2019, keeping the seat warm until Shaun Edward’s delayed arrival in 2020. Lam will be under no illusions as to the tough job he has in matching last year’s success. Losing John Bateman and to a lesser extent, Ryan Sutton, to the NRL is a huge blow. Therefore getting the best out of the notorious Zak Hardaker will be pivotal. Was that snow in Wigan this week or some other white substance? The mind boggles. Puns aside, we think the Warriors will finish as runner-up this year.”

3.) It’s always their year

Coach: Steve Price

Captains: Chris Hill & Jack Hughes

Key player: Blake Austin

“It was a tough year for Steve Price’s Wire outfit as they were edged out in both competitions at the final hurdle. The team will have learnt from these experiences and Price has recruited astutely, upgrading Tyrone Roberts for Blake Austin (Canberra Raiders), along with Jason Clark (South Sydney Rabbitohs) and Jake Mamo from Huddersfield. Getting the best out of Austin will be crucial but losing Kevin Brown to a potential season-ending achilles injury was a hammer blow. No bother though, give the RFL a call and they will wave their salary cap wand, right? Domestic success may be a step too far but we fancy a Challenge Cup tilt from the Wolves.”

4.) Le Dracs

Coach: Steve McNamara

Captain: Remi Casty

Key Player: Sam Tomkins

“After a sluggish start to 2018, the French outfit really sprung to life as the season unfolded culminating in a brilliant Challenge Cup triumph. Who could forget that semi-final dismantling of the Saints? Steve McNamara has added a sprinkling of quality to his squad including Sam Tomkins and Matty Smith. Just where the duo fit in alongside the likes of David Mead and Tony Gigot remains a mystery, however. Everybody’s favourite pantomime villain, Micky McIlorum, is another player in the side to watch out for, unless he’s busy walking his dogs. A top four finish should be a realistic aim for the Dragons.”

5.) Harlem Globetrotters

Coach: Daryl Powell

Captain: Michael Shenton

Key Player: Jake Trueman

“It’s been an eventful year for the Tigers even before a ball has been touched, including the loss of Luke Gale for the entire season to an achilles injury (SOS – Save our Salary-cap) and some well-documented fisticuffs during the club’s pre-season piss-up to Lanzarote. After taking such huge strides during 2017, that momentum seemed to stall last year and given the club’s lack of recruitment in the off-season, questions are being asked by fans. Jordan Rankin could be a canny signing but you can’t help but feel a cup run may be a more realistic aim for silverware this year. Jake Trueman is faced with the prospect of stepping into Gale’s shoes and his form will be instrumental to the Tigers’ fortunes.”

6.) The Cream

Coach: Lee Radford

Captain: Danny Houghton

Key Player: Jake Connor

“What more can be said for the Airlie Birds during 2018? It started with optimism which quickly turned to despair as Lee Radford’s men endured a rotten Super 8s campaign. Lessons will have been learnt in terms of team management and coping with injuries, as Radford places a focus on depth with his recruitment. Ginger sort, Jordan Thompson has returned along with new boys; Danny Langtree, Levy Nzoungou and Matty Dawson-Jones. You can’t help but feel 2020 is the year when the Black & Whites will take bigger steps forward but if Radford can keep the bulk of his team on the field, there’s no reason why the 2016 & 2017 Challenge Cup winners cannot mix it with the best.”

7.) Wakefield

Coach: Chris Chester

Captain: Jacob Miller

Key Player: Danny Brough

“Chris Chester has done a marvellous job at Belle Vue (traditional ground-names only please) with repeat play-off appearances. Though the Trinity continue to overachieve, there’s some genuine quality in Chester’s squad. Recruiting Danny Brough will add more creativity to the halves and when he’s suspended (as he inevitably will be), Jacob Miller will happily lead the line. Hanging onto the free-scoring Tom Johnstone and Bill Tupou is important too. It’s a tough ask to finish in a play-off position again given the rule changes and restructure that’s bound to be a determent to their fat lads, but they will be safe from any fears of the drop.”

8.) The Whinos

Coach: David Furner

Captain: Kallum Watkins

Key Player: Konrad Hurrell

“The Whinos regime has had a significant overhaul over the winter period. Hopefully, Gary Hetherington chooses to keep his pesky nose out indefinitely as Kevin Sinfield looks to galvanise ailing fortunes. New Coach, David Furner is familiar with the Super League from his playing days and has recruited big in the likes of Konrad Hurrell (Gold Coast Titans), Trent Merrin (Penrith Panthers) and Tui Lolohea (Wests Tigers) for the new campaign. Old age pensioners such as Jamie-Jones Buchanan remain but losing Ryan Hall to the NRL is a big blow and the Briscoe brothers have a huge task in trying to replace him. Could 2019 be a learning-curve year for the Yorkshire outfit? Let’s hope so.”

9.) Huddersfield

Coach: Simon Woolford

Captain: Leroy Cudjoe

Key Player: Matt Frawley

“After Rick Stone’s sacking at the beginning of 2018, Simon Woolford took the Giants on an excellent winning run that steered them to safety. Akuila Uate (Manly Sea Eagles), and Matt Frawley (Canterbury Bulldogs) are two big names from the NRL and while Uate brings power on the wing, Frawley’s arrival will be key as he replaces the outgoing Danny Brough in the half-back role. Watch out for returning Giant, Joe Wardle who trades places with the Castleford-bound Jordan Rankin. The Giants already face being on the back-foot after losing powerhouse winger, Jermaine McGillvary to a hamstring injury. This may be a season of consolidation for the Giants.”

10.) Salford

Coach: Ian Watson

Captain: Lee Mossop

Key Player: Jackson Hastings

“Salford remain the competition’s yo-yo side and this situation certainly hasn’t been helped by the Good Doctor Marwan’s departure. Money is certainly lacking for the club but keeping Jackson Hastings for this season could prove to be a master-stroke, as well as signing up former Red & White, Ken Sio (Newcastle Knights). Hastings won in every game he was involved in last year, such is his influence on the side. Keeping him and Robert Lui could be the key to the team’s fortunes. However, injuries are likely to bite and if more recruitment isn’t done in the coming weeks, the Manchester-based outfit could really struggle as the season progresses. That said, we think they’ll be fine, even without Gareth O’Brien’s drop-goals.”

11.) Bin Dippers

Coach: Tim Sheens

Captain: Joel Tomkins

Key Player: Josh Drinkwater

“Survival was the aim for last season but the East Hull outfit have bigger aspirations this season and their recruitment reflects this. Apparently quantity has been replaced by more quality as the likes of Kane Linnett, Jimmy Keinhorst, Josh Drinkwater and Weller Hauraki come into the squad. As always, a lot will depend on injuries given that Sheens’ squad is smaller this season but with players such as Danny Addy and George Lawler fit once again, and due to the fact that Toronto bottled it when it really mattered, you would expect them to avoid a relegation battle.”

12.) Laaaaaaaandaaaaan

Coach: Danny Ward

Captain: Jay Pitts

Key Player: Jordan Abdull

“It’s a testament to Danny Ward and his Broncos’ coaching staff as to how far the club has come since their Super League relegation in 2014. Gaining promotion was a huge achievement and London deserve their place amongst the sport’s elite. That said, it’s a big ask to survive the drop this season and while Ward has a workmanlike team, there is a distinct lack of quality in the squad. Losing star-man, Jarrod Sammut to Wigan hasn’t helped the cause but bringing in the likes of former Hull FC player Jordan Abdull and St Helens’ Ryan Morgan will help. The Broncos will spring surprises along the way this year but we suspect it will not be enough to survive relegation back to the Championship.”

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