I am not expecting 2020 to differ much from 2019, though I suspect the League Leader’s shield to be a closer fought battle. The relegation battle will likely be just as tight with teams from 8th to 12th also quite close come the end of the season.
1. St Helens
The fact that St Helens have made no additions to their 2019 Super League Grand Final winning side suggests that they cannot be strengthened. You could argue maybe Kristian Woolf for Justin Holbrook is an upgrade but we are yet to find out.
Woolf steps into a coaching role with a team already set in place for Saints to challenge for another Grand Final win.
There’s plenty of experience to go along with the youngsters coming through the club, James Roby and Aaron Smith will likely share the role at Hooker.
With Jack Welsby, Joe Batchelor and James Bentley three young but already established players within the player squad it means the likes of Fages, Lomax, Peyroux and Naiqama could start to worry if their performances are not deemed good enough.
They have two of the best wingers in the league, if not the whole sport, which allowed Adam Swift to leave for Hull FC and a forward pack that sustains relentless pressure from the first minute to the last, it’s hard to see a fault in Saints’ side, but will they be able to adapt to any changes their new coach makes, if any?
Yes, Danny Richardson has left for Castleford Tigers but with the aforementioned Welsby, alongside Fages, Lomax and young Lewis Dodd coming through it was a loss they wouldn’t have minded taking.
2. Wigan Warriors
Despite the turmoil surrounding Shaun Edwards coming in for 2020, it is the job of Adrian Lam to improve on a rollercoaster of as 2019 for Wigan Warriors.
Lam has had a year to cement his playing philosophy into the current crop of Wigan Warriors players, and towards the end of the 2019 season they looked like they could reach the Grand Final.
In my opinion, Wigan have made the most improvement and the best signings during the off-season. George Burgess and Mitch Clark have bolstered the forward pack with Jake Bibby following Man of Steel Jackson Hastings from Salford.
This, alongside a huge array of young players, such as Oliver Partington, Morgan Smithies and Jake Shorrocks that constantly come through the Warriors academy means that Wigan are one of the most prepared going into the 2020 season.
3. Warrington Wolves
The Wolves, more than likely, have the most star-studded line-up ahead of the 2020 Super League Season.
The captures of Gareth Widdop, Anthony Gelling and Matty Ashton, alongside Keanan Brand add an extreme strength in depth to a Wire side filled with household names.
Although Widdop has been ruled out of the opening weekend, the presence of Blake Austin, Daryl Clark and Stefan Ratchford will move the team around the park with ease.
Luther Burrell now has a whole pre-season under his belt, and could surprise many people with how he performs.
Chris Hill, Mike Cooper, Ben Currie, Jack Hughes, and Ben Murdoch-Masila form perhaps one of the most dominant forwards packs in 2020 and with Joe Philbin, Sitaleki Akauola, and Samy Kibula in reserve there is plenty in the Wolves pack.
There is little doubt that Warrington will be challenging for all the major honours once again this season with this squad and a great coach in Steve Price but, will it finally be their year? Only time will tell.
4. Leeds Rhinos
Since the treble in 2015, the Rhinos have struggled to compete at the top level of Super League. However, with a few years of rebuilding it looks like Leeds could once again begin to compete.
2019 started slowly for the Rhinos, which ultimately cost David Furner his job. Richard Agar has come in and somewhat steadied the ship.
The club have made four big signings in the off-season, the most important of which will be Luke Gale, if the half-back stays fit.
Gale’s form will ultimately decide how well the Rhinos do in 2020, which means less pressure will be on Richie Mylers shoulders, who has long been a scapegoat for Leeds’ downfall.
Kruise Leeming and Alex Mellor have joined from Huddersfield, which means Brad Dwyer will have to start fighting for his starting role at Hooker.
Mellor will come in alongside Rhys Martin in the second-row, to give the Rhinos are forward pack with plenty of depth, with Matt Prior also joining from Cronulla.
Prior will link up well with former Sharks team-mate Ava Seumanufagai to complete a formidable front row, will Adam Cuthbertson, Dom Crosby and Mikolaj Oledzki ready to rotate in when needed.
Overall, this off-season has been positive for Leeds in terms of arrivals and departures on the field.
Rob Burrow’s fight with Motor Neurone Disease has rocked the club, but both Burrow and the club have done a huge job in raising awareness. A sold-out Headlingley for JJB’s pre-season testimonial against Bradford Bulls could just mean more fans will turn out to support Leeds this season.
5. Castleford Tigers
Another team relying on a young-half back pairing, Castleford’s season could well come down to how well Danny Richardson and Jake Trueman play together after Luke Gale’s departure to Leeds.
After being included in the 2018 Super League Dream Team, Richardson struggled to nail down a spot in St Helens’ Super League-winning team last season, and at 23, Tigers believe his best is yet to come.
With the huge about of pressure on Richardson and Trueman, 21, utility players Calum Turner, Peter Mata’utia and Jordan Rankin are suitable back-ups in case of long-term injury, despite not being specialist half-backs.
Elsewhere at the club, plenty of faces have departed with Cory Aston, Mitch Clark, Chris Clarkson, Tuoyo Egodo, Will Maher and Greg Minikin all heading out the door. The Tigers have attempted to plug the gap with the arrivals of Tyla Hepi, George Griffin, Derrell Olpherts and Sosaia Feki all becoming Tigers alongside the aforementioned Richardson.
Feki is the big name of the group, having won the NRL with Cronulla back in 2016 and almost 150 NRL games for the Sharks. At only 28, he has plenty left to give for the West Yorkshire side and Greg Eden could see his place under threat with James Clare also in the side.
Michael Shenton will also look to put an injury-plagued 2019 behind, and may feel like extending his contract beyond this season.
The forwards at the Tigers are certainly an ageing group will Grant Millington and Junior Moors coming towards the end of their careers but the emergence of Jesse Sene-Lefao, Alex Foster and Daniel Smith over last 24 months shows that their is plenty in the Castleford tank.
Tigers failed to reach the playoffs last season but I expect them to fight for a top-four spot, and just miss out, so long as the squad stay fit and healthy for long periods of time, and also if Richardson and Trueman produce the goods that all the supporters know that they can.
When it comes to Daryl Powell, I believe that this season must be the year he claims either the Super League title or the Challenge Cup, or a change of backroom staff may be in order.
6. Hull FC
After some disappointing seasons, Hull FC have raised many an eyebrow with the players they’ve recruited in the off-season.
Ligi Sao, a mobile forward with great hands, has joined from New Zealand Warriors. Alongside Tevita Satae, who joined towards the end of 2019 the forward pack at the Airlie Birds is coming along nicely.
Manu Ma’u and Josh Jones are the most impressive signings however. Jones was superb for Grand Final runners-up Salford Red Devils, while Ma’u’s form at Parramatta Eels made them a force in the NRL last season.
The return of Mahe Fonua from Wests Tigers has excited Hull fans due to finishing ability. Adam Swift will join up with Fonua on the wing and looks to be a nice new addition after his spell at Saints’ came to an end. Also, let’s not forget Ratu Naulago, the super fast winger that not many are able to stop.
Jordan Johnstone and Joe Cator have been snapped up after impressing in the Championship but despite their limited experience they will have to step-up in the early stages of the season due to the injury sustained by Danny Houghton.
Most likely, the key the Hull’s success in 2020 will once again be Jake Connor. Perhaps the most naturally gifted player in the squad and, on his day, can be the best player in the league. However, he can become quite frustrated and lets his emotions get the better of him, which means his talent seems to disappear rapidly.
Connor has been gifted the number 6 shirt, and his link up well with Marc Sneyd and Albert Kelly could be the difference for Hull. Sika Manu, Mark Minichiello, Mickey Paea, Chris Green, Jack Logan, Levy Nzoungou, Danny Washbrook and Joe Westerman have all left the club but the replacements are more than capable of push Hull further ahead this season.
7. Salford Red Devils
Could 2020 be even better than 2019 for the Red Devils? An absolutely wonderful season last year for Salford but lots has changed on the field in Ian Watson’s squad.
Reigning Man of Steel, Jackson Hastings, has headed to Wigan Warriors, as well as Josh Jones, George Griffin, Derrell Olpherts, Jake Bibby, Logan Tomkins, Josh Wood and Daniel Murray all exiting the club.
However, Watson believes that his squads, in terms of character, are better prepared for this season than they were last year. Kevin Brown has come in to replace Hastings, but he is far from the player in was three years ago in the 2017 World Cup Final.
He is 35 years of age, and is susceptible to injury so lots of pressure on ageing shoulders.
Other signings include Sebastine Ikahihifo from Huddersfield Giants, Dan Sarginson from Wigan, and Luke Yates from relegated London Broncos.
These three players, individually, put in great performances in 2019, and with Chris Atkins, Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams and Connor Jones also coming in, Watson could potentially perform miracles again at Salford but I don’t see them making the Grand Final, or even the play-offs in 2020.
8. Catalans Dragons
Well, where do we start with the Dragons? Israel Folau is a hugely talented player on the field but can he keep quiet long enough to make an impact.
New South Wales’ half-back James Maloney and the talented Josh Drinkwater will undoubtedly lead the Dragons round the park with more assertanty than in previous seasons, with Drinkwater recently leading Catalans to the 2018 Challenge Cup title.
Former Wigan duo Sam Tomkins and Michael McIlorum have been joined by Sam’s brother Joel and Tom Davies alongside the ever improving Lewis Tierney.
Despite the exits of Kenny Edwards and Jodie Broughton to Huddersfield and Halifax respectively, the additions of Jordan Dezaria and Gavin Marguerite from Toulouse Olympique will certainly improve the Dragons standing in 2019.
Maloney, Folau, Sam Tomkins, and Josh Drinkwater are four players that know exactly how to play, and individually lead a team, but it will come down to how well these four individuals can pull together, especially away from the Stade Gilbert Brutus, to lead the Dragons to further glory.
A small 27-man squad may be a concern for the Dragons but the likes of Sam Kasiano, Remi Casty and Sam Moa can certainly make up for lack of depth, if they stay injury free.
9. Wakefield Trinity
A number of ins and outs at Wakefield have meant that once again Chris Chester will have is work cut out in 2020.
2019 was a disappointing year by Trinity standards, and bar the same injury-crisis they experienced last year, they should improve on the field.
Tom Johnstone seems to be back fit and healthy in what seems like forever, and David Fifita and Bill Tupou should also be raring to go come Round One.
Trinity have recruited plenty of talent will Super League experience. Ryan Atkins returned at the end of 2019 to come alongside Tupou and Reece Lyne in the centres.
Jay Pitts also returns after captaining London Broncos last season. Alex Walker has made the move alongside Pitts and looks to be Wakefield’s first choice full-back.
Josh Wood, Adam Tangata and loan-signing Romain Navarrete add more depth to an ever decreasing forward pack while Joe Westerman looks to reignite his stagnating career under Chester.
Despite the departures of Chris Annakin, Anthony England, Keegan Hirst, Tyler Randell, Lewis Wray, Luke Hooley and Pauli Pauli. I think the overall talent pool and squad depth will be plenty to keep Wakefield safe and in the middle pack without getting involved in a relegation battle.
10. Toronto Wolfpack
Newcomers into Super League for the first team, Toronto have certainly ruffled a few feathers in the off-season.
FIrstly the signing of cross-code superstar Sonny Bill Williams has brought international media recognition to the sport, with some comparing to David Beckham’s move to the MLS.
Despite being well into his 30s and not having played Rugby League since 2013, his off the field impact will be more apparent.
Then the salary cap situation raises its head again, and you can see why the Wolfpack are asking the question. They have a 23-man squad with Greg Worthington starting the season with a nine game loan at Featherstone Rovers.
The squad they select every week will be extremely predictable and with just Brad Singleton and James Cunningham playing Super League last year, I feel like the Wolfpack will struggle to keep up with the bigger squads.
Ricky Leutele and Gareth O’Brien are certainly playing on the stage that they belong but I just feel like the Wolfpack come up with certainly one of the weakest squads in Super League in 2020.
11. Hull KR
Hull Kingston Rovers have been extremely difficult to read heading into the new season.
Yes they have one of the biggest squads heading into 2020, but with such a large turnover of players, I think they will struggle to link together before it’s too late.
They’ve picked up six young, talented Bradford Bulls players who are ready to prove themselves in Super League but with some many players who can play at half-back it feels like Tony Smith could have too many cooks in the kitchen.
Joe Keyes and Rowan Milnes are experienced from the Bulls with Jamie Ellis and Ryan Brierley coming in from Castleford and Toronto respectively, and also Mikey Lewis and Jordan Adbull will be ready to show what they can do.
Will Maher gets yet another opportunity at the top level after the extremely tall forward had to make do with representing Halifax in the Championship over the past two season, but has racked up 35 games of Castleford over six years of service.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall is the big name signing at the Robins and at only 31 years of age is still chomping at the bit to score freely in the Northern Hemisphere.
The lose of Mose Masoe to a career-ending spinal injury could also pull the squad together and make them perform beyond their limits.
This Hull KR squad is young and hungry, with plenty of depth. Whether it’s enough to not finish bottom of the table is another question but if one man can keep Rovers up it will be the experienced Tony Smith.
12. Huddersfield Giants
Huddersfield have definitely made some exciting signings ahead of the 2020 Super League season with NRL Grand Finalist, Aidan Sezer, being the main attraction.
A certain improvement on the departed Matt Frawley, Sezer will look to keep this Giants side in the top division with his measured and well-organised style that the club have been missing since Danny Brough exited.
Lee Gaskell, who offers a thrilling running-game, will be his half-back partner. Meanwhile Adam O’Brien will have to lead the forwards around the field after the departure of Kruise Leeming to rivals Leeds.
Ashton Golding, who came in the opposite direction, completes the spine of a side who will struggle to compete in 2020.
Darnell McIntosh and Jermaine McGillvary will look to improve on disappointing seasons from their perspectives, as will Leroy Cudjoe, who can now focus on playing at the top-level once again, so long as he can stay fit and healthy.
James Gavet has been signed from Newcastle Knights to add some much-needed steel to a forward pack that never seems to show up when needed.
The Giants young, English talent may once again be what keeps them afloat with Chester Butler being signed to come in along the Senior twins, Innes and Louis, with Jon Luke Kirby, Reiss Butterworth and Oliver Roberts looking to stake their claim for first team spots.
Sebastine Ikahihifo and Alex Mellor have both left for Salford and Leeds respectively, but their boots down seem to have been filled and ultimately, I feel like Simon Woolford will have too much of a job on his hands to keep what is an exciting Giants side in Super League this season.