What conclusions can we draw after the first two weeks of the new Super League season?
To start with, we can say with a very high degree of certainty that Warrington Wolves have turned a corner after their two opening wins of the season.
I was at Huddersfield on Friday night, and it’s fair to say that their win there was probably more emphatic than the final score might suggest, given that the Giants scored two late tries.
Daryl Powell was under great pressure before the season started, but he now sits on top of the Super League table looking down on every other club.
It’s early days, but it’s easy to sense a massive change in the atmosphere at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, not least among the supporters, who endured a miserable season last year but on Friday night they were out in force at the John Smith’s Stadium and they shouted their team home.
Having said that, we have to be cautious about any claims that the Wolves will enjoy a stellar year in 2023.
After all, they won their first three games in the 2022 season before the wheels fell off and they then lost their next five matches, including two defeats by Wakefield Trinity.
So things can turn around very quickly.
But, having said that, I just can’t see that happening this year. Powell now has the players that he wants on the field, they look much more balanced than last year’s squad ever did and they are clearly doing the business for him. I can only see that changing if he has major injury problems.
The other clubs that clearly seem to be on the rise are the two Hull clubs, which is a great thing for Super League and Rugby League in general.
Hull FC drew a marvellous attendance of 15,383 for their opening home game against Castleford and they followed that up with victory against Leeds at Headingley on Friday. And don’t their fans love them to win at that particular venue? They face a testing trip to Perpignan to face the undefeated Catalans this Friday, but who is to say they can’t return with a victory?
Meanwhile, in the east of the city of Hull, Hull KR, who were given very long odds by Betfred before the start of the season, face a potential banana skin when Leigh visit them on Friday night.
Leigh are a much better team than any other club that has recently been promoted to Super League and they will be a genuine threat to the Robins on Friday night. If Hull KR register their third straight victory, after a superb win at Salford on Thursday night, then we will all have to sit up and take notice.
Hull is one of Yorkshire’s biggest cities, and meanwhile, in the Championship there are a couple of other Yorkshire cities that are making a mark.
Sheffield Eagles, who are now at last fully settled in their Olympic Legacy Park home, are lying in third place with Bradford Bulls fourth, both of them with six points out of a possible ten.
Both of them had good victories at the weekend, with the Eagles winning in London and the Bulls inflicting a first defeat of the season on Toulouse.
That was a remarkable result. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but we can all hope that defeating Toulouse is an indication that the Bulls are at last recovering from their many years of non-achievement since those heady days at the start of this century when they were Super League kingpins.
Is the NRL in rude health?
Last week the NRL revealed that it had posted a record operating surplus of A$62.9 million for the 2022 season, an increase of almost $20 million on the previous year.
Those are impressive figures on the face of it, although an operating surplus isn’t quite the same thing as a profit.
But the NRL’s total revenue increased by $18.7 million to a record revenue of $593.8 million, while operating expenditure dropped $17.1 million, which is nine per cent lower than in 2021.
Those figures include the running of two NRLW (Women’s) competitions during the 2022 calendar year, along with an expanded international calendar.
Those figures are way in excess of what the game can generate in this country and I genuinely hope that we can begin to close the gap with the help of IMG.
The great thing for us is that we seem to be making a start in doing that, to judge by the encouraging crowds we’ve seen in the first two rounds of the Super League competition.
This article features in Martyn Sadler’s ‘Talking Rugby League’ column in this week’s League Express. To take out a subscription, go to https://www.totalrl.com/league-express/