With the 2021 Super League season just around the corner, we have asked our Sky Sports pundits to gaze into their crystal ball and make some predictions for the coming year.
Phil Clarke, Barrie McDermott and Terry O’Connor have given us their opinions who they think will win the Grand Final, which team could be a surprise package and who they think will be relegated.
They have also chosen the player they think will be named Man of Steel and picked out a new signing to keep an eye on when the action gets under way on Friday, March 26…
- Carney: Signposts for new Super League season
- McDermott: Six Super League things I’m missing
- Wells: My top five signings for Super League 2021
Grand Final winners: Wigan Warriors – They have Bevan French and the returning John Bateman, who are probably the best back and best forward respectively in the competition. Adrian Lam has a strong squad at his disposal and they have a point to prove after that agonising defeat in 2020.
Surprise package: Huddersfield Giants – They have a great coach in Ian Watson, the player who I think will be named Man of Steel in Aidan Sezer, and on top of that they have a good squad overall.
Relegation: Leigh Centurions – It’s going to be tough for the promoted team unless they can find a Jackson Hastings. Could former Gold Coast Titans player Nathan Peats do that at hooker if they sign him?
Man of Steel: Aidan Sezer – Nominated for the award in 2020 and with two bodyguards like Luke Yates and Josh Jones, and a dynamic weapon stood outside him in Ricky Leutele, he will look great this year as well.
New signing to watch: Sione Mata’utia – I have no doubt the former Newcastle Knights second row will produce several man-of-the-match performances and soon become a fans’ favourite for St Helens.
Grand Final winners: Wigan Warriors – I think they’ve strengthened really well. John Bateman will spearhead that team, and they’ve got a nice balance in the halves and a young pack of forwards with the ‘bash babies’ in the middle. Everything is there for them and with the added incentive of last year’s disappointment.
Surprise package: Huddersfield Giants – The squad looks really balanced – it’s got a nice mix of experience, youth speed and skill. They’ve made some top-class additions and have a couple of really nice centres in Jake Wardle and Ricky Leutele. The additions of Luke Yates and Josh Jones are really smart from their biggest and most significant signing for me, Ian Watson.
Relegation: Leigh Centurions – Head coach John Duffy will have an experienced group of players and, as a group of players, this is the first time they’ve been at the top level. They need to get some confidence from the first game against Wigan, but on balance they’re probably everybody’s favourites to go down.
Man of Steel: John Bateman – He’s got the No 13 shirt following Sean O’Loughlin’s retirement, but what he’s doing is taking over Sean O’Loughlin’s presence in the Wigan team. He can play on an edge and he can play in the middle. He’s a strong, resilient character and a very durable player.
New signing to watch: Zane Tetevano – I really like the look of him. For the last couple of years, since Kylie Leuluai and Jamie Peacock retired, Leeds Rhinos haven’t had quite the same bite or steel in the pack. Tetevano is a fit, physical player, he’s loud and has a good character, and everyone at the Rhinos is expecting big things from him.
Grand Final winners: St Helens – The DNA for Saints is that they are a successful outfit year after year and since Super League came into existence in 1996 they’re always there or thereabouts.
Surprise package: Hull FC – They’ve only brought in Josh Reynolds, but that signing along with bringing in Brett Hodgson as head coach could be key to their success this year. With Hull FC, over the years we’ve been disappointed. They’ve won the Challenge Cup back to back, but what we want to see is a consistent side in Super League and I think bringing in Reynolds will free up Jake Connor.
Relegation: Leigh Centurions – If you look at the way they played against St Helens in Tommy Makinson’s testimonial, you know they’re going to come out and bash you, and have some players in there who will try to make the game as messy and physical as they can. What they probably lack is the depth in the squad, the killer instincts from certain players, and you think it will be a tough year for them.
Man of Steel: Jake Connor – I know it’s an outside bet, but I just think he’ll try to find his place in that Hull FC team and he’s an ultra-competitor. I remember the game against Castleford Tigers last year where he ripped them apart and that was the best of Jake Connor. He just needs to be more consistent with his game.
New signing to watch: Greg Inglis – He’s phenomenal – a freak and a ridiculous talent, and he’s probably one of the biggest signings who has come over to Super League in the past 20 years. How Warrington got him and enticed him over here, it’s a job well done by them.
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