The wait is finally over – Super League XXI is here!
The new season kicks off tonight with a potentially superb game to start the 2016 campaign – defending champions Leeds Rhinos against arguably last year’s most disappointing outfit, Warrington Wolves.
Here’s hoping it will live up to the billing – and if it does, it will join these games as the best openers in Super League history. They are the most memorable Super League season opening games in history – memorable for a whole host of reasons.
29th March 1996 – Super League I: PSG 30-24 Sheffield
PSG and Sheffield were given the honour of kicking off the first ever Super League season – and they didn’t disappoint, that is for sure. The French outfit, cheered on by almost 18,000 people, stunned the Eagles to beat them on a fantastic night for the sport in France – but as we all know, the party couldn’t last forever in Paris, and by the end of the following season, PSG had folded.
20th February 2004 – Super League IX: Bradford 34-6 Wigan
Can Leeds produce as dominant an opening-night display tonight as 2003 treble-winners Bradford did 12 years ago? They were too hot for Wigan on a freezing night at Odsal – with Lesley Vainikolo stealing the show with an astonishing five tries – a record he would surpass the following year, scoring SIX against Hull.
11th February 2006 – Super League XXI: Catalans 38-30 Wigan
Ten years after PSG started the first Super League campaign, another French side were given the honour as Catalans began life in the top flight against Wigan. Their existence has been thankfully a lot longer than their Parisian counterparts, and they also grabbed a famous victory against one of the game’s great names – inspired by a sublime performance from Golden Boot winner Stacey Jones.
6th February 2009 – Super League XIV: Leeds 28-6 Crusaders
Another new side kicked off the Super League season in 2009, as Welsh outfit Crusaders were handed the ominous task of travelling to the home of the defending champions, Leeds. They put up a brave fight but were ultimately outclassed, as two tries from Lee Smith helped the Rhinos to an opening day win against Crusaders.
29th January 2010 – Super League XV: Crusaders 6-34 Leeds
A year after their debut in the competition, Crusaders, who, along with Leeds had the bizarre task of starting a summer season in January, started Super League XV. True to form the game was played in and amongst a huge snow blizzard, but over 10,000 people packed in to watch the Rhinos start their year with a bang.
5th February 2015 – Super League XX: Widnes 22-22 Wigan
The RFL’s new era kicked off 12 months ago with a bang – and had it not been for Patrick Ah Van being sent off, Widnes could have snatched a victory. They did remarkably well to fight back and draw 22-22, after Ah Van was dismissed in the first half for a high tackle on Josh Charnley.