The Garry Schofield Column: My predictions for Super League Round 11

YOU’VE got to take your hat off to Wayne Bennett.

Neil Warnock might have finally retired from football management at 75 – or so he says! – but Wayne, having overseen the seemingly successful entry of the Dolphins into the NRL, is set to be coaching South Sydney Rabbitohs when he reaches that age next year.

As I have written numerous times, I wasn’t a fan of the way England or Great Britain played under his control.

But there’s no denying his impressive record (seven league titles Down Under) or his continuing ability to get a tune out of his players.

Now Souths have, as was very much expected, axed Jason Demetriou after an awful start to this season on top of failing to make the play-offs last time around, Wayne is being lined up for a second spell at the helm, having been in charge from 2019 until 2021.

It looks like he’ll take the reins back at the Bunnies next season, and while Blake Solly, their chief executive, has played down trying to prise Sam Burgess away from Warrington before his contract ends next year, I’d be very surprised if they haven’t been seriously considering trying to do just that to make him Wayne’s second-in-command.

We all know the chances are that Sam will end up at Souths at some stage, and as someone who knows the club so well, I think he’ll see them as his spiritual home.

Taking the top job from next year might be too soon, but by working with Wayne – and the pair know each other well – he’d be getting ever more ready to succeed him in the hot seat, perhaps in 2027.

One thing is for sure – Souths are a great club with a fine tradition, and it would be good to see them challenging for the top honours once again.

The fact that a number of Super League coaches have been linked at least says something positive about our game.

It would be no surprise to see Adrian Lam or Wille Peters return to Australia at some point, but I’m not sure about Steve McNamara, who seems to like the French lifestyle and would love to guide Catalans to a Grand Final success after being beaten finalists twice in three years.

As for Jason Demetriou, who cut his coaching teeth with Keighley, could he return to the UK?

It would have to be a big job to tempt him, and both Hull, who are still seeking a successor for Tony Smith, and Leeds, where Rohan Smith is under pressure, are those.

Will Lewis handle the pressure?

AS FOR Lewis Dodd’s likely move to South Sydney Rabbitohs from St Helens, I say go for it!

I’ve consistently advised bright young British players to, if given the opportunity, head to Australia to work with and test themselves against the best, and also enjoy the lifestyle.

Lewis has potential, absolutely no doubt, but also work to do on his game, because as yet, he hasn’t in my view really kicked on from the World Club Challenge of 2023, when Saints beat Penrith Panthers.

At 22, he is still developing, and the move to Souths could be the making of him – and I really hope it is.

But what he’ll have to do is learn to cope with the increased pressure, which is on all players, not just from their club, but also the media and supporters, and being in the spotlight.

The Aussies love a good halfback, but they also expect a lot from them.

A boost for Salford

TALKING of halfbacks, what a shame to see Warrington’s Leon Hayes suffer such a nasty injury.

He’s going to be out for the remainder of the season due to an ankle break and dislocation.

I’d really enjoyed watching his development under Sam Burgess, who wasn’t worried about pitching a 20-year-old into the fray – just the way it should be.

Leon was keeping the far more experienced Josh Drinkwater out of the team, and his partnership with George Williams was coming along nicely.

Now it’s had to be put on hold, but I’m sure Warrington will take good care of him and make sure he gets the best treatment and rehabilitation programme available.

I notice they’ve given both him and another bright prospect, 19-year-old second rower Adam Holroyd, contract extensions to 2027, and it’s great to see that faith.

At the other end of the age range, Marc Sneyd might be 33, but he’s still doing great job in the halves for Salford, and his two-year contract extension makes sense.

On his day, he’s the best kicker in Super League, both from the tee and the hand, and coming after coach Paul Rowley’s decision to reject overtures from Hull, it’s another boost for the supporters.

My Round 11 predictions

I MENTIONED Hull earlier on, and the changes behind the scenes there are ongoing with the departure of chief executive James Clark.

I’ve got to know him through making return visits to my old club, and I have to say I’m sorry to see him go, not just because he’s a good bloke, but also because I think he has done his job well.

Hull chairman Adam Pearson has pointed out the way James navigated the club through the extremely choppy waters caused by the unique challenges of the pandemic and has got them back on an even keel.

On the pitch, recent years have been disappointing, and that’s putting it mildly, but I think that’s mostly down to the players.

Adam and James have done their bit by supporting various coaches, with another to be appointed, and with Richie Myler settling in as director of rugby and the suggestion of new investment in the club, hopefully we’ll start to see an upturn in results.

We’ve seen some sign of activity with the capture of John Asiata from Leigh for next season, and I’d be surprised if there weren’t more announcements forthcoming.

As I’ve said before, a strong and competitive Hull team benefits the game as a whole.

I was at Warrington to see the Black and Whites beaten again on Friday, with the hosts looking far stronger when they decided to step things up. But at least they have a chance to end a dismal sequence on Sunday, when I expect them to beat London Broncos by 24 down in the capital.

Warrington’s home clash with Hull KR on Thursday is a great way to kick-off round eleven, and having accounted for Wigan and St Helens in successive matches, I’m going for Rovers to complete a notable hat-trick by ten.

Wigan bounced back from that defeat by Rovers to see off Catalans and go top of the table with a game in hand on their nearest rivals, and I reckon they will win by 16 at Huddersfield on Saturday, with Catalans responding with a 28-point success over visiting Leeds.

On Friday, I fancy St Helens by 18 at Castleford and Salford by ten at Leigh.

First published in League Express newspaper, Issue 3,429 (May 6, 2024)

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