Stobart Super League Season Preview

It will be all change as the Super League starts its seventeenth season this weekend.

Eddie Stobart - the UK's leading logistic company - has taken over the naming rights for the competition which will see them promoting the Stobart Super League brand on their Lorries up and down the motorway network.

Salford and St Helens will move into brand spanking new grounds at Barton Bridge and Langtree Park.

A name change as Harlequins RL reverts back to their past name of London Broncos.

We see the return, after a seven year absent, of Widnes Vikings who will play on a new state-of-the-art 4G artificial pitch.

But will we see a dramatic climax as we did last year when from nowhere Leeds Rhinos defied all odds to take the big prize at Old Trafford.

So below we will have a look the prospects for all the teams in this year's Stobart Super League:
 

BRADFORD BULLS
Last year: 10th
Coach: Mick Potter
Ins: Keith Lulia (Newcastle Knights), Manase Manuokafoa (Parramatta Eels), Jarrod Sammut (Crusaders), Elliot Kear (Crusaders), Luke Gale (Harlequins), Adrian Purtell (Penrith Panthers), Karl Pryce (Wigan)
Outs: Cain Southernwood (Dewsbury - season-long loan), Patrick Ah Van (Widnes), Steve Crossley (Dewsbury), Andy Lynch (Hull FC), Gareth Raynor (Featherstone Rovers), Dave Halley, Marc Herbert

Prospects: The RFL has bought the legendary Odsal ground, which will give them some financial stability. After three years of not making the play-offs they will look to improve, but they will miss Andy Lynch who has left for pastures new at Hull FC.


CASTLEFORD TIGERS
Last year: 9th
New coach: Ian Millward
In: Grant Millington (Canterbury Bulldogs), Josh Griffin (Huddersfield), Steve Nash (Leigh), Jimmy Grehan (Limoux), Lee Mitchell/Ryan Shaw (Warrington - loan deal)
Outs: Greg Eden (Huddersfield), Willie Isa (Widnes), Nick Fozzard (Dewsbury), Martin Aspinwall (Hull FC), Billy Harris/James Clare (Dewsbury - loan deal), Ryan Brierley (Leigh - dual registration), Richie Mathers (Wakefield - loan), Rob Parker (Salford - loan return), Dean Widders (retired)

Prospects: They have as new coach at the helm in Ian Millward. Suffered heart break at the death last year after being in the eight all season they missed out on the last day, but with their clutch of bright young players and talisman Rangi Chase they should be in the mix for the play-offs.

 
CATALAN DRAGONS
Last year: 6th
Coach: Trent Robinson
In: Louis Anderson (Warrington), Leon Pryce (St Helens), Julian Bousquet (FC Lezignan)
Out: Ben Farrar (Manly), Sebastien Martins (FC Lezignan), Tony Gigot

Prospects: Will make the play-offs, possibly the top four. Two great signings in Louis Anderson and Leon Pryce, they've got their injury problems out wide, even before the season begins. But under Coach Trent Robinson he will make them a difficult side to beat especially in the heat of Perpignan.

 
HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS
Last year: 4th
Coach: Nathan Brown
Ins: Greg Eden (Castleford), Luke George/Aaron Murphy/Tommy Lee (Wakefield), Jason Chan (Crusaders), Tony Tonks (Featherstone Rovers), Dave Orwell/Josh Johnson/Joe Walker/Jack Carvill (promoted from youth team)
Outs: Keal Carlile/David Hodgson/Graeme Horne (Hull KR), Darrell Griffin (Leeds), Danny Kirmond/Andy Raleigh/Kyle Wood (Wakefield), Josh Griffin (Castleford), Greg McNally, Eliott Hodgson, Jamie Simpson

Prospects:  Nathan Brown's last year as coach will be hoping to do better in the play-offs as they faded away at the end last year after having a good early and middle part to the season. Could make the top four again but depends on Half-back Danny Brough their key playmaker.


HULL FC
Last year: 8th
New coach: Peter Gentle
Director of rugby: Shaun McRae
Ins: Wade McKinnon (Wests Tigers), Aaron Heremaia/Brett Seymour (New Zealand Warriors), Jamie Ellis (Leigh), Eamon O'Carroll (Wigan), Andy Lynch (Bradford), Tony Martin (Crusaders), Martin Aspinwall (Castleford)
Outs: Lee Radford (retired, now assistant coach at Hull FC), Craig Fitzgibbon (retired, now assistant coach at Sydney City Roosters), Sean Long (retired, now assistant coach at Salford City Reds), Epalahame Lauaki (Wigan), Danny Washbrook (Wakefield Trinity Wildcats), Sam Obst (Keighley Cougars), Lee Williams/Jack Aldous (York City Knights), Cameron Phelps (Widnes), Martin Gleeson (released), Ewan Dowes (released)

Prospects: A bit of the unknown have a good new coach in Peter Gentle and they've made some decent overseas signings in Wade McKinnon and Brett Seymour, but will need time to gel. Top eight should be no problem will shock some teams.
 

HULL KR
Last year: 7th
New coach: Craig Sandercock
Ins: Keal Carlile/David Hodgson/Graeme Horne (Huddersfield Giants), Lincoln Withers/Ryan O'Hara (Crusaders), Con Mika/Shannon McDonnell (Newcastle Knights), Mickey Paea (Canterbury Bulldogs), George Griffin (Queanbayan Kangaroos)
Outs: Clint Newton (Penrith Panthers), Ben Fisher (Batley Bulldogs), Peter Fox (Wakefield), Matt Cook/Liam Colbon (London Broncos), Shaun Briscoe (Widnes), Mick Vella (retired)

Prospects: Craig Sandercock takes over the reins but already suffered a blow as key players Blake Green and Ben Galea will miss the early part of the season. In around the top eight again, always a difficult trip to Craven Park.


LEEDS RHINOS
Last year: 5th (Grand Final winners)
Coach: Brian McDermott
Ins: Richard Moore (Crusaders), Darrell Griffin (Huddersfield), Luke Briscoe (Hull FC)
Outs: Keith Senior (unattached), Danny Buderus (Newcastle Knights), Ali Lauitiiti (Wakefield), Ben Cross (Widnes), Luke Burgess (South Sydney)

Prospects: Will look to be more consistent in the weekly rounds but nobody wants to face them in the play-offs as they showed last year coming from fifth to win the Grand Final. Could miss Danny Buderus but got some exciting youngsters in Kallum Watkins and Zak Hardaker. Always in the mix for Old Trafford never write them off.
 

LONDON BRONCOS
Last year: 12th
Coach: Rob Powell
In: Matt Cook/Liam Colbon (Hull KR), Mark Bryant/Michael Witt (Crusaders), Craig Gower (Bayonne), Antonio Kaufusi (Newcastle Knights), Shane Rodney/Michael Robertson (Manly Sea Eagles), Kieron Dixon, Julien Rinaldi
Out: Rob Purdham (retired), Luke Gale (Bradford), Andy Ellis/Oliver Wilkes (Wakefield), Mark Burnett (Hull FC), Luke Ambler (Leeds - loan), Danny Ward, Nick Kouparitsas, David Williams, Mark Calderwood, Jack Latus, Karl Pryce

Prospects: Signed some quality players, including the return to League for ex Kangaroo Craig Gower. Gone back to London Broncos name and potentially the best chance of making the eight for some years. Second season for Coach Rob Powell will look to make an impact as Super League needs a strong presence in the capital.


ST HELENS
Last year: 3rd (Grand Final runners-up)
Coach: Royce Simmons
Ins: Lance Hohaia (New Zealand Warriors), Anthony Laffranchi (Gold Coast Titans), Mark Flanagan (West Tigers), Anthony Walker/Josh Jones/Danny Jones/Joe Greenwood/Jordan Hand (Academy).
Outs: Kyle Eastmond (Bath), James Graham (Canterbury Bulldogs), Leon Pryce (Catalans), Matty Ashurst (Salford), Scott Moore (Widnes), Gareth Frodsham (Batley), Tom Armstrong (Swinton), Warren Thompson (released)

Prospects: The bridesmaid again last year. Moved into a brand new state of the art stadium, looking for a seventh successive Grand Final. Will miss James Graham who moves on to the Bulldogs, but signed some quality players. Jonny Lomax a star in the making, definite top three team might go one better this year.
 

SALFORD CITY REDS
Last year: 12th
New coach: Phil Veivers
Ins: Matty Ashurst (St Helens), Shannan McPherson (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Joel Moon (New Zealand Warriors), Ben Gledhill (Wakefield), Jordan James (Crusaders)
Outs: Stefan Ratchford (Warrington), Jack Spencer (Wests Tigers), Rob Parker/Adam Clay (Leigh), Max Wiper (Whitehaven), Ray Cashmere, Mark Henry (retired)

Prospects: Another team with a new Stadium, Salford now have the chance to expand into Manchester. Not the best pre-season, with the bizarre departure of Matt Parrish. But it gives Phil Veivers a chance to make his mark. Lost key player Stefan Ratchford bottom eight team.
 

WAKEFIELD TRINITY WILDCATS
Last year: 13th
New coach: Richard Agar
New assistant coach: Glenn Morrison
Ins: Peter Fox (Hull KR), Ali Lauitiiti (Leeds), Danny Washbrook (Hull FC), Oliver Wilkes/Andy Ellis (Harlequins), Richie Mathers (Castleford - loan), Dean Collis, Vince Mellars (Crusaders), Ben Cockayne (Hull KR), Andy Raleigh/Danny Kirmond/Kyle Wood (Huddersfield), Kyle Amor (Leeds), Matt James (Barrow), Steve Southern (Newcastle Knights), Isaac John (New Zealand Warriors), Paul Aiton/Tim Smith (Cronulla)
Outs: Luke George/Aaron Murphy/Tommy Lee (Huddersfield), Julien Rinaldi (London Broncos), Liam Higgins (Sheffield Eagles), Michael Korkidas (Keighley), Glenn Morrison (retired, now assistant coach), Kevin Penny, Stuart Howarth, Kieran Hyde, Josh Veivers, Jeremy Smith, Ryan Tongia, Kevin Henderson, Jarrad Hickey

Prospects: Looked to be heading out of Super League last year so massive turnaround of players 20 out 17 in. New coach Richard Agar will need time to get his team to gel good experience signings in Tim Smith and Steve Southern.
 

WARRINGTON WOLVES
Last year: 1st (Lost in play-off semis League Leaders Shield Winners)
Coach: Tony Smith
Ins: Trent Waterhouse (Penrith Panthers), Stefan Ratchford (Salford), Chris Hill (Leigh)
Outs: Jon Clarke (Widnes), Louis Anderson (Catalan Dragons), Matt King (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

Prospects: Not many changes from last year, Matt King has gone, but they have made two great signings in Trent Waterhouse and Stefan Ratchford. Top of the tree and missing out on the big prize should drive them on in 2012. A very good bet of making Old Trafford and favourites to lift the trophy.


WIDNES VIKINGS
Last year: Championship (5th)
Coach: Denis Betts
Ins: Ben Davies/Ben Cross (Wigan), Patrick Ah Van (Bradford), Shaun Briscoe (Hull KR), Jon Clarke (Warrington), Willie Isa (Castleford), Scott Moore (St Helens), Hep Cahill/Lloyd White/Rhys Hanbury/Frank Winterstein (Crusaders), Chris Dean (Wakefield), Anthony Watts (Sydney Roosters), Sione Kite (Melbourne Storm), Stefan Marsh (Wigan - loan), Cameron Phelps (Hull FC)
Outs: Richard Varkulis (Whitehaven), Danny Hulme/Chris Lunt (Crusaders), Chaz I'Anson (Swinton), Matt Gardner (Leigh), Greg Scott (Dewsbury), Tangi Ropati (Featherstone), Dave Houghton (Whitehaven), Anthony Thackeray/Steve Tyrer (Halifax), Dean Gaskell, Gareth Haggerty, Shane Grady, Daniel Heckenberg, Danny Sculthorpe, James Coyle

Prospects: Dennis Betts will have his work cut out. Given a three year licence to make their mark in Super League. Everybody's favourites for the wooden spoon. Will win some games at home as result of playing on their new artificial pitch.
 

WIGAN WARRIORS
Last year: 2nd (Lost in play-off semis)
New coach: Shaun Wane
Ins: Epalahame Lauaki (Hull FC), Gil Dudson/Ben Flower (Crusaders), Anthony Gelling (Auckland Vulcans)
Out: Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne), Eamon O'Carroll (Hull FC), Ben Davies/Ben Cross (Widnes), Karl Pryce (Bradford), Paul Deacon (retired), Andy Coley (retired), Jonny Walker

Prospects: The Challenge Cup holders have a new man at the helm in Shaun Wane who will look to stamp his mark on the Warriors. Key man as always is Sam Tomkins. Will be looking to get back to Old Trafford always there and there about at the top end of the table.



Simon Reuben will be reviewing every weekend of the 2012 Stobart Super League season. Keep an eye out every Monday for the Super League review!

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