We’ve got some tips ahead of the new rugby league season! The new Betfred Super League season may be over a month away, but excitement is already building ahead of the big kick-off.
St Helens won a third successive title last term, clinching a famous ‘three-peat’ and matching the achievements of the great Leeds Rhinos side who claimed a hat-trick of Grand Finals between 2007 and 2009.
It will take a special team to deny Saints an unprecedented fourth consecutive crown in 2022 and they will start the campaign as the bookies’ favourites.
St Helens to retain the Super League title at 2/1 with William Hill
Kristian Woolf’s side are 2/1 with William Hill to win the Grand Final, with Betfred, Super League’s title sponsors, offering the same price.
St Helens have lost some key men in James Bentley, Joel Thompson, Lachlan Coote, Theo Fages and Kevin Naiqama during the off-season.
Significantly, however, they have brought in five high-quality new recruits in Will Hopoate, Curtis Sironen, Joey Lussick, James Bell and Konrad Hurrell.
Warrington Wolves begin a new era under Daryl Powell following the departure of head coach Steve Price at the end of last term.
The Wire underachieved under Price and Powell, who guided Castleford Tigers to three major finals but lost them all, has been tasked with turning the Wolves into serial winners.
Not since 1955 have Warrington been crowned champions, however, and yet the bookies are backing them to mount a serious challenge.
The French side finished top for the first time and reached a maiden Grand Final last season.
They lost to Saints at Old Trafford, of course, but there was no shame in that.
Steve McNamara’s men have since signed NRL trio Mitchell Pearce, Dylan Napa and Tyrone May and should be stronger than last term.
Wigan Warriors also have a new head coach in Matty Peet and most bookies have them at 6/1 to prevail at Old Trafford next autumn.
But the cherry and whites were also-rans in 2021 and it is hard to see them making the quantum leap to potential champions, particularly with key players Oliver Gildart and Jackson Hastings having jumped ship for NRL side Wests Tigers.
Perhaps the most intriguing contenders of all the big-name sides will be Leeds.
The Rhinos have not won a Grand Final since 2017 when they beat Castleford in a glorious last hurrah for legendary duo Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire.December 23, 2021
Paddy Power and Betfred have them out at 8/1 to win the competition and they may well be worth a punt.
Richard Agar’s side have made four high-profile signings during the off-season in Blake Austin, Aidan Sezer, James Bentley and David Fusitu’a.
All should be regular starting players and will improve a side who went to within 80 minutes of the Grand Final last season.
It is hard to see any genuine contenders beyond that group but Hull Kingston Rovers could be a decent outside bet at 33/1, having reached the play-off semi-finals for the first time last season.
The Robins are commanding respect under Tony Smith and will be confident of further progress in 2022.
Jack Welsby a Man of Steel contender at 16/1 with Betfred
Sam Tomkins joined an elite band of rugby league greats last season when he capped an outstanding season by being crowned the 2021 Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel.
The Catalans Dragons full-back won the award, which recognises the best player during a Super League season, in 2012 during his first spell at Wigan Warriors.
Tomkins’ success in claiming last season’s honour saw him equal legendary former Great Britain internationals Andy Farrell and Paul Sculthorpe in winning it twice.
Ellery Hanley, universally regarded as the greatest British player of all time, is the only man to have won the coveted prize three times.
Tomkins turns 33 in March and is a different type of player to the young colt who would gallop through opposition defences when he emerged at Wigan Warriors well over a decade ago.
Yet his influence on Catalans is clear to see and Betfred have him at 25/1 to win the Man of Steel award again in 2022.
One player who is worth considering is St Helens rookie Jack Welsby.
The homegrown star scored the winning try for Saints against Wigan in the 2020 Grand Final, underlining his talent.
He should continue to get even better in 2022 and Betfred’s offering of 16/1 for the versatile back to win Man of Steel is highly tempting.
George Williams, the England playmaker who joined Warrington Wolves midway through last season from Canberra Raiders, is also a good price with numerous bookmakers, who offer odds ranging between 16/1 and 22/1.
Saints prop Alex Walmsley, who proved himself one of the best forwards in the world during the 2021 campaign, is 33/1 with Sky Bet.
Leeds Rhinos an outside bet to win Super League at 8/1 with Betfred
James Bentley will realise a childhood dream on Boxing Day when he runs out at Headingley for his first appearance in a Leeds Rhinos jersey.
The rugged second-rower has arrived from champions St Helens, who he helped to three Super League titles in the past three years.
The lifelong Rhinos fan could not turn down the opportunity to join his hometown club and will start the friendly against Wakefield.
With Aussie playmakers Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin also named in the starting line-up, it is an early opportunity for Richard Agar’s side to show they can be title contenders this season.
Leeds-born Bentley, 24, said: “Saints wanted to keep me and I was happy there, so it was a tough decision to make, especially given the success we’d had in the past three years.
“But being a Leeds fan, and having the opportunity to play for my boyhood team and potentially win silverware with them, was something pretty special to me and my family.
“As a kid, I went to Old Trafford and Wembley and watched that great Leeds side win trophy every trophy with the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire.
“Now if I work hard, I could have the opportunity to do something similar. That’s the dream.”
Bentley will bolster Leeds’ pack but it is the acquisition of Austin and Sezer, from Warrington and Huddersfield respectively, which has encouraged hopes of a title challenge at Headingley in 2022.
Bentley had an injury-disrupted 2021 campaign but could be a key man for Leeds this season.
Sky Bet have him at 100/1 to win the Man of Steel Paddy Power and Betfred have the Rhinos out at 8/1 to win the competition.
Bentley added: “Saints will be very strong again and will want to create history by winning a fourth successive title.
“But we have a very talented group here at Leeds and, if we can stay injury-free, then we’ll definitely be in with a shout.
“I want to win trophies and I’ve not come here for anything else.”