OPINION | Teams that have been underestimated heading into 2019

It’s tipping season, and with that, journalists are putting their necks on the line as they make their predictions for the year public knowledge.

Having scoured through the thoughts across the game, we got Rugby League World editor Matt Shaw to pick out the three teams he thinks have been hard done by in the pre-season hype.

Super League – Salford Red Devils

I’ve got to admit, I’ve only got Salford down to finish tenth.

However, I’m firmly of the belief the Red Devils have what it takes to finish far, far higher up the league ladder.

The concern with Salford is their depth. With Logan Tomkins and Josh Wood already out and set to miss the start of the year, they’re already short in the pivots.

But if you look at Ian Watson’s first choice squad, there are genuinely few who can better what the Red Devils have.

You’ll struggle to find a better halfback pairing than Rob Lui and Jackson Hastings while their pack looks powerful too.

They’re well coached of course, which also helps.

With the competition looking tighter than ever, there’s a real possibility teams tipped to finish low will upset people, you can throw London into that conversation too.

There is an ‘if’ when it comes to Salford. But if they have a good run with injuries, they’re capable of doing some real damage.

Championship – Sheffield Eagles

I’ve been genuinely staggered by the lack of support Sheffield have received in the tipping so far.

The Eagles, for me, are out and out contenders to make the play-offs this season.

They’ve recruited fantastically well, effectively picking up the top talent from all the mid-table Championship clubs.

But when you put them all together, that’s actually quite some team. On paper, Sheffield is more than capable of mixing it up with the likes of Featherstone and Bradford for a place in the top five.

Mark Aston knows what it takes to have success in this competition and with a stronger squad than he’s had for some time, I’m backing the Eagles to really shock teams.

League 1 – Hunslet

The eye-catching recruitment at Newcastle and Workington has probably seen Hunslet go unnoticed.

But delve into their recruitment dealings and they’ve hired shrewdly. Ben Heaton and Gareth Potts are well respected Championship players and Adam Robinson was part of York’s title-winning squad last year. That’s before Richard Moore, Vila Halafihi and a number of other recruits too.

Newcastle and Workington have recruited well too, there’s no doubting that, but Hunslet are right up there in that regard too and have been completely underestimated.

With Gary Thornton at the helm, they are the dark horses in League 1 heading into the season.