Ahead of the 2023 Betfred Super League season, we ask our Sky Sports rugby league experts to give us their views on what will unfold in the upcoming campaign…
Grand Final winner: St Helens to beat Warrington Wolves. After losing five Grand Finals in a row between 2007 and 2011, this year they win their fifth in a row.
Relegated: Wakefield Trinity. They have been the best escape artists in professional sport for the last 20-plus years, but this year their luck runs out.
Man of Steel: Jack Welsby. I said last year he was the best player in the competition, and this year everyone else will agree. The St Helens star.
Surprise Package: Warrington Wolves. From 11th to second in 12 months! Although some might say that they are too big and too old, I think Matt Dufty’s speed saves them.
Rising Star: Possibly Tee Ritson if he takes the place of Regan Grace on the wing at St Helens and becomes the first Thai-born try-scoring sensation in Super League. But more likely to be Hull Kingston Rovers half-back Mikey Lewis if he stays fit.
It’s a big year for: Daryl Powell. Warrington’s head coach has six games at the start of the seasons which will determine if he is there at the end of the season. The first three for the Wolves are very tough: Leeds Rhinos, Huddersfield Giants and Salford Red Devils – every game has pressure with a capital ‘P’!
I must just add a rider here. I tipped Brad Takarangi to be Man of Steel last year and Warrington to win the Grand Final. I got more time on the pitch than Brad and Warrington were lucky to stay up, so my tips don’t always come true!
Grand Final winner: St Helens. Something has to give at some stage, I’m just not sure this year is that stage. It would be dull for everyone but them if they won it again. The Australia trip could gas them early doors, but Lewis Dodd is back – look out Super League. Interesting fact: Paul Wellens and Jimmy Nail are reported to have 99.9 per cent identical faces.
Relegated: Wakefield Trinity. I feel like Leigh Leopards have recruited okay. Wakefield have two inexperienced but exciting coaches in Mark Applegarth and assistant James Ford, and they are used to being in the trenches so won’t go down without a fight. You know the scene in ‘Commando’ where Schwarzenegger is loading his weapons? Well, that’s Wakefield every week.
Man of Steel: Jai Field. It was quite astonishing when you look at the quality of his year in 2022 he didn’t win it. The only danger is teams working him out – that’s if you can work out blistering pace, an ever-evolving concept of tactics, and inflated game-specific IQ. Dodgy ‘tache, though.
Surprise package: Warrington Wolves. Either way it will be a surprise and either way it will be a story to follow. If it’s not a vintage year for them then tough questions will follow. But despite the squad and big surly-looking men from Down Under incoming, I think we will act surprised if they go on and win the Grand Final.
Rising star: Harry Newman. Laughable right? He’s already a star! Well, he is, but injuries require him to rise and keep rising. If he gets 25 games in this year, he will be destructive. Leeds Rhinos need to keep this star shining.
It’s a big year for: Catalans Dragons. Questions marks about their value in the game? Suggested imagery for the following: A clandestine meeting in a smoked-filled disused snooker room in Dewsbury, half full of crusty wealthy men conspiring to bring into Super League a team actually on the M62. The ‘M62 Hard Shoulders’ will be based between junction 25 and the emergency telephone just before 24.
Seriously, it’s a big year for Catalans. The value they bring is without question, this year remains important, and a French team flying high would be harder to drag into the mud than one swooping close to it.
Grand Final winner: Wigan Warriors. If anyone can stop St Helens winning a fifth in a row, it will be their fierce enemies. I believe Matt Peet is the man to guide last year’s Challenge Cup winners to glory. The pace and finishing ability of Bevan French, Jai Field and Liam Marshall is unrivalled, and I’m positive Harry Smith will stand up again in 2023 now Tommy Leuluai has retired.
Relegated: Wakefield Trinity. History suggests it will be promoted Leigh, but I think they have brought in some significant players and held on to a number as well. Trinity have lost some stars in David Fifita, Tom Johnstone and Jacob Miller. New Zealand international Kevin Proctor brings experience and Renouf Atoni some excitement, but I just don’t think they have the depth to get through the season. Let’s see!
Man of Steel: Jack Welsby. Super League’s young player of the year, for the second time, in 2022 was one of three contenders for the top award as well. With Lewis Dodd back from injury, Welsby will be able to make that No 1 jersey his own. England’s disappointing World Cup campaign would have taught him a lot and made him hungry for more.
Surprise package: Salford Red Devils. They made the semi-finals in 2022 with many believing they were exceptionally unlucky not to progress to Old Trafford. This year they’ve managed to not only hold on to their best, but also bring in some other up-and-coming stars like Ollie Partington, Ellis Longstaff and Sam Stone. Man of Steel Brodie Croft and Marc Sneyd will again be key in the side’s success.
Rising Star: Harry Rushton. I am so excited that this young forward has returned from Canberra Raiders. He comes back to Super League with the experience and confidence of spending two seasons in Australia, surrounded by some of the best players in the world and been guided by the brilliant Ricky Stuart. I’m confident he will prove a tough and ambitious player at Huddersfield Giants.
It’s a big year for: Daryl Powell and his Warrington Wolves. Last year the Wolves were among the favourites to go all the way, instead they spent a huge amount of the season worrying about relegation. The addition of the experienced Josh McGuire, Paul Vaughan and Sam Kasiano will add much needed firepower up front. George Williams partnering Josh Drinkwater in the halves and Matt Dufty at the back will hopefully add some sparkle to their attack. Not sure if it will finally be their year, but I am sure it is a big one!
Grand Final winner: Wigan Warriors. They have retained two of Super League’s most exciting talents in Jai Field and Bevan French, and they have refreshed their front-line centre partnership with Toby King and Joe Wardle. Always a force at home, I think they get their hands on the trophy this season and end the streak of a St Helens side distracted by a World Club Challenge date early in the season.
Relegated: Wakefield Trinity. They’ve lost their best player in Jacob Miller, I don’t think their recruitment makes up for that, and they’re up against a Leigh Leopards side who look determined to stay in the top-flight this time round.
Man of Steel: Throw a dart – injury and form play such a big part in this but my guess would be any one from a shortlist of Wigan’s Jai Field, Adam Keighran at the Dragons who is a fantastic player, Tui Lolohea at the Giants, Edwin Ipape at the Leopards or Jack Welsby at St Helens
Suprise package: Leigh Leopards – a promoted team which stays up is a big story in Super League.
Rising star: Davy Litten. The full-back or winger is held in high regard by everyone at Hull FC. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you will have by the end of the season
It’s a big year for: Huddersfield Giants. They put their money where their mouth was leading into the 2022 season and have done so again ahead of 2023. Ian Watson has had the time and now has the resources to have a real tilt at the title.
The new Betfred Super League season starts on Thursday, February 16 as Warrington Wolves host Leeds Rhinos. Watch 66 live matches, including Magic Weekend, the play-offs and the Grand Final, on Sky Sports in 2023 and stream on NOW TV.