IT’S that time of the year when predictions come in thick and fast for the season ahead.
2023 promises to be an interesting Super League season with St Helens aiming for five Grand Final titles in a row and the rest of the 11 teams trying to stop them.
Here are our five predictions for the 2023 Super League season that may take people by surprise.
1. St Helens will miss out on a five-peat
Considering just how impressive St Helens have been in the past four years, to say they will not win Super League again in 2023 is certainly brave. However, with injuries to the likes of Lewis Dodd, Will Hopoate and Regan Grace, Saints were not unstoppable in 2022 as they had been in previous years. Kristian Woolf’s men were outmuscled by local rivals Wigan in the Challenge Cup semi-final and if Saints are to be stopped from a record fifth title under Paul Wellens then it will likely be the Warriors that will stop them, though Huddersfield and Leeds will be aiming to go one better next season. Wellens, too, will just be learning his trade as a head coach.
2. Leigh Leopards won’t get relegated
They are the newcomers in Super League in 2023, but Leigh Leopards will have what it takes to stay in the top flight. Bankrolled by owner Derek Beaumont, Leigh have brought in the likes of Zak Hardaker, Ricky Leutele, Gareth O’Brien and Oliver Holmes – entrenched Super League quality that will bring that necessary experience to Adrian Lam’s side. The Leopards will be hurt by the exit of Nene MacDonald and Blake Ferguson, but the club has recruited well enough to be able to offset those departures. Leigh’s recruitment hasn’t finished yet, either.
3. Catalans Dragons will miss out on the Super League play-offs
It looks like being a tough start to the 2023 Super League season for the Catalans Dragons due to the World Cup. 15 of their players were called up for the showpiece event at the end of 2022 with the whole squad finally coming together at the Stade Gilbert Brutus this week. As well as that disruption, head coach Steve McNamara still has ‘two or three’ signings to make before the season kicks off – one of which may well be a halfback. If so, those new signings will not have long to gel before the rigours of the new year begins. 2024 will likely be much more prosperous for McNamara and Catalans.
4. Jake Clifford will be in the Man of Steel shortlist
The new Hull FC signing has yet to even take to the field for his new club, but already Black and Whites fans are excitable about the potential of seeing Jake Clifford run the show for them in 2023. Signed from the Newcastle Knights and aged just 24, the halfback has what it takes to take Super League by storm – just as Brodie Croft did in 2022 for the Salford Red Devils. Like Croft, Clifford endured a difficult last year in the NRL and with his sights now firmly set on improving Hull, the Australian will likely fly under the radar for the first half of the season.
5. Warrington Wolves will be fighting for the top four
It was the Warrington Wolves’ turn to finish near the bottom of the Super League table in 2022 after a massive overhaul of the squad that finished 2021 under Steve Price. Since then, head coach Daryl Powell has gone in for yet another rebuild ahead of 2023 with the likes of Josh McGuire, Josh Drinkwater, Sam Kasiano and Paul Vaughan making the move to the Halliwell Jones Stadium for next season. It’s safe to say the Warrington board will not stand for another season like 2022, with Powell facing one of the most under-pressure starts in Super League, but the former Castleford and Featherstone head coach will turn things around.