Super League Preview - The Gambling Times
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Super League Preview

The new Betfred Super League season is upon us and we bring you a preview of the new season and the 2017 campaign promises to be as exciting and dramatic as ever!

Wigan will be out to retain their title while there is a new addition to the league with Leigh back in the top flight following a 12-year year absence.

Ahead of the new season we caught up with title sponsors Betfred with Pete Spencer giving us his thoughts on the campaign and they fancy Wigan once again.

“There has been a huge amount of interest in this, but for us it is hard to see past Wigan once again, they are our quite strong favourites early,” he told TheGamblingTimes.com.

“And people often ask us about Dark Horses and I see a lot of people are describing Castleford as that, but they are just 10/1 to win the whole thing – they have an excellent looking side with Luke Gale around and Zak Hardaker coming in – very impressive. Indeed Hardaker is in the betting for the Man of Steel priced at 20/1 – but at the moment the favourites for that would be John Bateman, Chris Hill, Daryl Clark and George Williams

“Top try scorer has also been an interesting market for us and you cannot see anyone other than Joe Burgess landing that, he is as short as 8/1 to take that – which just sums up how good he is.

“And one other team I would mention is Catalans. Speaking to them recently they have had a brilliant pre-season and spirits are very high with the French side. One to watch for the top-eight for sure.”

And now we have a run-down of each team and how we think they will finish:

Castleford Tigers

Fifth last season for Castleford and Darryl Powell’s men certainly have the potential to challenge for honours this time around. The addition of England international Zak Hardaker (pictured) from local rivals Leeds Rhinos could be the missing piece for the Tigers. Hardaker can be amongst the best on his day and Powell has the knack of getting the best from his charges. The loss of free-scoring winger Denny Solomona to Sale was a bitter pill to swallow although Castleford have bolstered by bringing Greg Eden back to England from Brisbane Broncos. Luke Gale will be the key for Cas. No one set up more tries or kicked more goals than the England man.

Predicted Finish: 3rd – To make Grand Final
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 10/1

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Catalans Dragons

The Dragons looked play-off bound for much of the 2016’ campaign before a late dip in form saw them drop to sixth. Laurent Frayssinous’ men have a new look this time around with the likes of Todd Carney, Glenn Stewart and Dave Taylor all departing. Greg Bird, who enjoyed a successful spell in Perpignan in 2009 is back while former Saints man Luke Walsh will pull the strings for their impressive-looking pack. Luke Burgess, Sam Moa and Mickael Simon have all been brought in to lay for the platform for their exciting backline consisting of the likes of Tony Gigot and fit-again Krisnan Inu.

Predicted Finish: 10th
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 25/1

Huddersfield Giants

Huddersfield were far from their best last season. They reached the play-offs in 2015, but were left fighting for their Super League lives last time around after winning just six of their opening 23 fixtures. Head coach Rick Stone will have his first full season in charge after replacing Paul Anderson and it will be interesting to see how his new-look team cope. Bradford Bulls’s demise has provided much of their recruitment with Paul Clough, Dale Ferguson, Lee Gaskell, Alex Mellor, and Adam O’Brien all making the short trip along the M62. Former Saints man Gaskell will be expected to pull the strings after being one of the Championship’s top performers.

Predicted Finish: 9th
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 40/1

Hull FC

The Black and Whites came close to landing their first-ever League Leaders’ Shield in ’16. Not a lot was expected of Lee Radford’s men, but with Man of Steel Danny Houghton leading the way and Gareth Ellis back to his best the men from East Yorkshire came close to making their first return to Old Trafford since 2006. Talented playmaker Albert Kelly has joined from relegated cross-city rivals Hull KR and he will help fill the void vacated by veteran Leon Pryce. Jake Connor has reinforced their backline following the retirement of long-serving centre Kirk Yeoman.

Predicted Finish: 5th
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 11/2

Leeds Rhinos

The biggest surprise last season was treble winners Leeds Rhinos’ failure to make the top eight. Losing the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kyle Leuluai was too much for the men from Headingley as a woeful Super League campaign saw them drop into the qualifiers. Only the addition of James Segeyaro saved Brian McDermott’s men from a disastrous season as they eventually finished well clear of the dreaded Million Pound game. Segeyaro opted not to return to Headingley meaning they had to bring in Matt Parcell. Leeds struggled for tries in ’16 and with Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow not getting any younger McDermott has a task on his hands to see the giants back in the top four this time around.

Predicted Finish: 6th
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 8/1

Leigh Centurions

Welcome back to Super League Leigh. The ambitious Centurions had been knocking on the top-flight door for a number of seasons before finally kicking it in completely at the back end of last season. They won six of their qualifiers to secure their long-awaited return to the big time. Head coach Neil Jukes did superbly well to build on the excellent work of Paul Rowley, now at the newly-formed Toronto Wolfpack. It’s difficult making the transition from the Championship to Super League full time, but the additions of Glenn Stewart, Eloi Pelissier and Antoni Maria from Catalans Dragons will give them optimism they can challenge the big boys. Ben Crooks and Atelea Vea will also provide much-needed top-flight experience.

Predicted Finish: 7th
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 40/1

Salford City Reds

Salford will be delighted just to be in Super League in 2017. They came within a whisker of being relegated. Ian Watson’s team needed two tries from their last two possessions and an incredible long-range drop-goal from Gareth O’Brien to secure a remarkable golden-point win over Hull KR in the Million Pound Game. If Todd Carney can stay fit Watson has one of the game’s best half-backs. The Australian’s vision and passing are second-to-none, although he missed far too many games for the Catalans Dragons’ liking. Salford only found themselves in the bottom four following a points’ deduction for breaking salary cap regulations and owner Marwan Koukash will be hoping a top-eight finish can be secured this time around.

Predicted Finish: 8th
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 66/1

St Helens

After a slow start to the 2016 season the pressure was firmly on head coach Kieron Cunningham. Saints were well below their best and question marks were being asked. However, the club (one of Super League’s most successful sides) turned things around in trademark fashion to finish just one game away from an 11th Grand Final appearance. Matty Smith is back after a successful spell with arch-rivals Wigan, although a broken leg means he will play no part in the early weeks of the new campaign. Luke Douglas and Ryan Morgan have been brought in from Australia while experienced hooker Tommy Lee should provide excellent foil for James Roby.

Predicted Finish: 4th
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 11/2

Wakefield Trinity

It’s fair to say Wakefield were the surprise package last season. They only just retained their top-flight status in 2015 with a Million Pound Game win over Bradford. Brian Smith didn’t last meaning Chris Chester was entrusted to keep the club up. Not only did he retain their Super League place but they avoided the middle eights altogether with an impressive eighth-place finish. Their Super 8s results were best left forgotten after failing to win a match, however, to reach that point was still an achievement for Chester. Scott Grix, Craig Huby and Kyle Wood have all joined from Huddersfield to add experience although they could still struggle in 2017.

Predicted Finish: 12th
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 100/1

Copyright RealTime Images

Warrington Wolves

Tony Smith’s men rounded off an excellent league campaign by claiming the League Leaders’ shield in 2016. They were the leading scorers last season along with having the tightest defence, however, for the third time in Super League they tasted defeat at Old Trafford. The Wolves enjoyed success at Wembley in the Challenge Cup, but haven’t been able to end long-awaited title success despite being consistent top-four finishers. Warrington do have to cope with the loss of influential playmaker Chris Sandow, but in Widnes signing Kevin Brown they have an experienced replacement. Matty Blythe and Mike Cooper are both back at the club while Dom Crosby and Andre Savelio will add competition for places.

Predicted Finish: 2nd
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 7/2

Widnes Vikings

Widnes comfortably made the top-eight in ’16 and a repeat this time around would be deemed a success. Things have been quiet for Denis Betts’s side on the recruitment front. Tom Armstrong and Tom Olbison have been recruited from Leigh and Bradford respectively, although it’s the loss of Kevin Brown to rivals Warrington that will hurt the most. Widnes received a fee for his services and Brown took a pay cut to leave, but the one-time Huddersfield and Wigan man has been virtually impossible to replace. The Vikings have an excellent production line and Betts’s youngsters could well see extended playing time in 2017.

Predicted Finish: 11th
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 100/1

Wigan Warriors

Let’s start with the reigning champions. It doesn’t seem two minutes ago the Warriors were lifting the Grand Final in October with a tense 12-6 Old Trafford success over perennial bridesmaids Warrington. It’s been a busy close season for Shaun Wane’s men with regulars Josh Charnley, Dan Sarginson and Matty Smith all departing for pastures new although some old faces are back in free-scoring winger Joe Burgess and experienced playmaker Thomas Leuluai. Catalans duo Morgan Escare and Romain Navarrete look a couple of astute additions. Wigan will be fully expected to challenge for honours this season and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them contesting a tenth Grand Final.

TGT Predicted Finish: 1st – Grand Final winners
Grand Final odds with Betfred: 11/4

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