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First Utility Super League 2014 Season Preview
It’s been a very eventful last few weeks for British rugby league with the announcement of the new controversial restructure for 2015, where after the 23 rounds of games the two leagues of 12 will form three leagues of eight.
Other announcements include a brand new sponsor in First Utility and the agreeing of new TV contract with Sky TV until the end of 2021.
Back for this year is relegation as the bottom two sides at the end of the 27 weekly rounds being demoted to the second tier for 2015.
Defending Champions Wigan Warriors will be looking to retain both Challenge Cup and the Super League title. But they must cope with their early season travel to Australia as they take on NRL Premiers Sydney City Roosters for the World Club Challenge in their own back yard.
Huddersfield Giants will be looking to build on their League Leaders Shield with a trophy, but will face stiff challenges from Warrington Wolves, St Helens and Leeds Rhinos who will once again be up there in the battle for the major prizes.
Big spending Salford Red Devils will be looking to claim a spot in the eight but at the other end of the table most pundits are tipping London Broncos as the firm favourites to be relegated after losing virtually their entire squad in the close season.
Below we will have a look the prospects for all the teams in this year's competition:-
Coach: Francis Cummins
2013 finish: 9th
Out: John Bateman (Wigan), Keith Lulia (Wests Tigers), Jamie Langley (Hull KR), Michael Platt (North Wales Crusaders), Curtis Naughton (Sydney Roosters), Heath L'Estrange (Sydney Roosters), Jobe Murphy (Dewsbury).
Prospects: Could be docked points for going into Administration if that’s the case then it’s a relegation battle but if they stay healthy could challenge for a place in the eight.
Coach: Daryl Powell
2013 finish: 12th
In: Frankie Mariano (Wakefield), Ashley Gibson, Marc Sneyd (both Salford), Luke Dorn, Scott Wheeldon, Michael Channing (all London), Brett Seymour (unattached), Andy Lynch (Hull), Liam Finn (Featherstone).
Prospects: Daryl Powell first full season as coach should cope with the loss of Rangi Chase should avoid relegation.
Coach: Laurent Frayssinous
2013 finish: 7th.
Prospects: Will win most of their home games good signings from the NRL should finish in the play-offs.
Coach: Paul Anderson
2013 finish: 1st.
Prospects: Last year’s League Leaders will be looking to go one better and make a final will be knocking on the door.
Coach: Lee Radford
2013 finish: 6th.
Prospects: New Head Lee Radford faces a tough season but have enough quality to finish in the top eight
Coach: Craig Sandercock
2013 finish: 8th.
Out: Ryan O'Hara (Lezignan), Mickey Paea (Hull), Cory Paterson (Wests Tigers), Michael Dobson (Newcastle), Richard Beaumont (St Helens), Alex Brown (Leigh), George Griffin (London), Lincoln Withers (released).
In: Justin Poore, Ben Cockayne (both Wakefield), Jamie Langley (Bradford), Kris Keating (Canterbury Bulldogs), Michael Weyman (St George Illawarra), Neville Costigan (Newcastle Knights), Jonathan Walker (Castleford), Kevin Larroyer (Catalan Dragons, on loan).
Prospects: We miss main playmaker Michael Dobson, always a difficult trip to East Yorkshire will be a very competitive team.
Coach: Brian McDermott
2013 finish: 3rd
Out: Paul McShane, Richard Moore (both Wakefield), Jimmy Keinhorst, Luke Briscoe (both Wakefield on loan), Thomas Minns, James Duckworth, Alex Foster (all London on loan), Liam Hood (Hunslet), Jordan Baldwinson, Mason Tonks (both New Zealand Warriors).
Coach: Tony Rea
Out: Shane Grady (Dewsbury), Jamie Soward (Penrith), Chris Melling, Mark Bryant, Ben Fisher, Chad Randall (all retired), Luke Dorn, Michael Channing, Scott Wheeldon (all Castleford), Antonion Kaufusi, Chris Bailey (both Huddersfield), Tommy Lee (Salford), Dan Sarginson, Tony Clubb (both Wigan), Jamie O'Callaghan (London Skolars), Michael Witt (St George Illawarra), Alex Hurst, David Howell, Shane Rodney, Michael Robertson, Liam Colbon (all released).
In: Nesiasi Mataitonga (Cronulla), Nick Slyney (Brisbane), James Duckworth, Thomas Minns, Alex Foster (all Leeds on loan), George Griffin (Hull KR), Denny Solomona (Melbourne), Scott Moore (North Queensland), James Cunningham (Hull, on loan), James Greenwood (Wigan, on loan), Saeed Agboke, Harvey Burnett, Toby Everett, Jon Wallace (all Broncos academy).
Prospects: If they avoid relegation it will be a successful season lost too many players and relaying on loanees from other clubs. Interesting how they will go in their new home in North London.
SALFORD RED DEVILS
Coach: Brian Noble
2013 finish: 14th.
Out: Ryan McGoldrick, Adam Neal, Ben Gledhill, Lee Jewitt, Chris Nero (all released), Ashley Gibson, Marc Sneyd (both Castleford), Jodie Broughton (Huddersfield), Jordan James (Wigan), Lee Gaskell (Bradford), Wayne Godwin (Dewsbury), Stephen Wild (North Wales), Jake Emmitt (Leigh).
In: Harrison Hansen (Wigan), Adrian Morley (Warrington), Junior Sa'u (Melbourne), Tony Puletua, Francis Meli (both St Helens), Tim Smith (Wakefield), Steve Rapira (New Zealand Warriors), Rangi Chase (Castleford), Jake Mullaney (Parramatta), Lama Tasi (Brisbane), Jason Walton, Greg Johnson (both Batley), Tommy Lee (London), Gareth Hock (Widnes), Stuart Howarth (returned from loan spell at St Helens).
Prospects: Brian Noble has assembled a new strong squad with plenty of experience last year’s wooden spooners look like top eight finishers for 2014.
Coach: Nathan Brown
2013 finish: 5th.
WAKEFIELD TRINITY WILDCATS
Coach: Richard Agar
2013 finish: 11th.
Out: Frankie Mariano (Castleford), Danny Cowling (Halifax), Liam Kay, Oliver Wilkes (both Leigh), Tim Smith (Salford), Ben Cockayne, Justin Poore (both Hull KR), Kyle Amor (St Helens), Paul Aiton (Leeds), Vince Mellars (released)
In: Pita Godinet (New Zealand Warriors), Daniel Smith (South Sydney), Richard Moore, Paul McShane (both Leeds), Jimmy Keinhorst, Luke Briscoe (both Leeds on loan), Scott Anderson (Brisbane), Matt Ryan (Parramatta), Jordan Crowther, Max Jowitt (both Wakefield academy).
Prospects: Due to financial difficulties lost some key players probably will be in a relegation battle.
Coach: Tony Smith
2013 finish: 2nd.
Out: Lee Briers, Brett Hodgson (both retired), Mike Cooper (St George Illawarra), Garreth Carvell (Bradford), Adrian Morley (Salford), Tyrone McCarthy (Northern Pride, Australia), Rhys Williams (Central Queensland Capras), James Mendeika (Featherstone).
Prospects: A second successive Grand-Final defeat will spur the Wolves on and have enough strength in depth to finally land the big prize. Odds on a top two finish.
Coach: Denis Betts
2013 finish: 10th.
Out: Gareth Hock (Salford), Ben Cross (retired), Frank Winterstein (released).
Prospects: Hoping to improve on last year possibly not strong enough for the eight always good on their I-pitch at home should still be in Super League in 2015.
Coach: Shaun Wane
2013 finish: 4th.
Out: Lee Mossop (Parramatta), Chris Tuson (Hull), Paul Prescott (retired), Sam Tomkins (New Zealand Warriors), Pat Richards (Wests Tigers), Tom Spencer (Leigh), Liam Carberry (Widnes), Rhodri Lloyd (Widnes, on loan), Harrison Hansen (Salford), Epalahame Lauaki (released), James Greenwood (London, on loan).
Prospects: Last years’ double winners will sorely miss Sam Tomkins, Lee Mossop and Pat Richards and have to overcome a visit to Sydney ,early season, for the World Club Challenge but you write them off at your peril.