As part of the run-up to Super League 2017, we’ll be posing three big talking points surrounding each of the 12 sides as they kick their campaigns off this weekend. Here’s a look at Friday’s game between Castleford and newly-promoted Leigh Centurions.
Can they go one better and make the top four?
Any coach sets out to make his squad better every year and there is no doubt that Daryl Powell has done that. Zak Hardaker, Larne Patrick, Greg Eden, Tuoyo Egodo, Dan Igbinedion and Jesse Sene-Lefao will bolster a team who finished fifth at the end of the Super 8s. The Tigers should be stronger than ever.
How much will they miss Dorn and Solomona?
Luke Dorn and Denny Solomona both made a tremendous contribution to the Tigers in 2016. Dorn has now retired and Solomona left the club in acrimonious circumstances, and how the Tigers react to their loss will be crucial for their season.
Is their star signing guaranteed his preferred spot?
Zak Hardaker is expected to replace Luke Dorn at full-back, but do not overlook the claims of Greg Eden or Ben Roberts for the same position.
Can they keep up their winning ways?
Leigh have developed a welcome winning habit in recent seasons and will aim to continue that on their Super League return. Their home form could hold the key to a top-eight finish and they can be sure of receiving a rapturous welcome from their supporters when they face Leeds Rhinos in their first home game on 17 February.
Have they got the squad balance right?
The Centurions have a nice blend of youth and older heads and there is no shortage of Super League experience in their ranks. New recruits Ben Crooks, Eloi Pelissier and Glenn Stewart will all have a point to prove but Martyn Ridyard, who has been so outstanding in the Premiership, will be watched closely by many pundits and opponents.
Will the club’s faith in what got them promoted ultimately repay them?
Don’t change too much – Kieron Purtill has joined Leigh’s coaching team, but Neil Jukes and Paul Cooke did an outstanding job in 2016 and their supporters will be hoping their success continues, although the coaching staff are fully aware of the size of the challenge that awaits them.