The play-offs is up and running courtesy of a thumping victory for Wigan Warriors on Thursday night – but that doesn’t mean the other four clubs who will be competing in Super League next year should be forgotten just yet.
Hull FC, Hull Kingston Rovers, Salford Red Devils and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats will all carry ambitions of making the top eight next year, and avoiding being dragged into a middle eight featuring the top four sides from the Championship.
And with the end of their seasons only a week old, we thought we’d ask for three reasons to be cheerful from each club going into the off-season. All four clubs have recruited well on the face of it, and next season’s 12-team competition looks like being an incredibly competitive one. So, without further ado, here are three players fans of all four clubs believe are the most exciting heading into 2015.
Jamie Shaul: Shaul is fast becoming one of the most talented full-backs in the game, and he proved to be a real shining light in what was ultimately a disappointing season for Hull FC in 2014. With some impressive recruitment added to talent like Shaul next season, can the Black and Whites finally lose their underachiever tag in 2015?
Joe Westerman: Westerman enjoyed a magnificent 2014, and looks to be set to continue his impressive development next year. Now firmly established as the club’s first choice loose-forward, will he inspire Hull’s pack to greater success next year?
Marc Sneyd: Sneyd overwhelmingly polled the most votes from Hull FC fans – who can’t wait to see the Castleford man don the black and white of Hull next year. Sneyd has been tremendous for Cas in 2014, but will he strike up the same form next year in West Hull?
Hull Kingston Rovers
Macauley Hallett: The young centre is one of the brightest talents on Humberside, and Hallett gave Rovers fans a glimpse of the future after making his debut towards the end of the 2014 season. If nurtured correctly by the club, Hallett could well be a star of Super League for years to come.
Kieran Dixon: The signing of Dixon represents a great coup for Hull KR, who managed to secure the services of the London Broncos winger despite interest from a host of other clubs. If fully over that horrendous knee injury he suffered on England duty last year, Dixon could be the signing of the season next year.
James Donaldson: Donaldson’s departure from Bradford will be a big miss for the Bulls – but Hull KR have an incredible signing on their hands. He will add hard work, determination and sheer grit to a Rovers pack that underwhelmed in 2014.
Salford Red Devils
Kevin Locke: Quite a few Salford fans (well, nearly every Salford fan who responded to us!) selected the Kiwi as one of their three main reasons to be optimistic for 2015. He enjoyed a strong start to life in England and, with a full pre-season under his belt this time around, expect big things from Kevin Locke next season.
Harrison Hansen: Hansen is stepping up to captain next year at Salford, following in the footsteps of his famous father, Shane. Still one of the hardest-running back-rowers in the English game, Hansen’s firepower will be crucial to any success Salford may achieve next year.Michael Dobson: It wouldn’t be a Salford discussion if we didn’t mention a new signing for 2015 – and could Michael Dobson be the answer to Iestyn Harris’ problems in 2015? After a difficult season back in the NRL, Dobson has opted for a move back to England. Few would be surprised if he took the league by storm once again.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats
Danny Kirmond: After a season that saw him inducted into the Super League Dream Team in 2013, Kirmond has endured a difficult year with injuries. However, the Wildcats have ensured that he will be fit for pre-season by sending him for surgery early – that could be a decision that reaps huge rewards for Wakefield’s captain.
Lopini Paea: The former Tongan international has great pedigree, having played in an NRL Grand Final during his time at Sydney Roosters. With James Webster identifying the pack as an area needed to be strengthened next year, he has a great signing on his hands in Paea.
Chris Riley: Riley has hugely impressed during his time on loan from Warrington this year, and the news he had signed permanently represented a great coup for the Wildcats next year. Still one of the most natural finishers in Super League, tries are guaranteed from Riley next season as Wakefield look to push for the eight.