After being inundated with applicants, we are delighted to present to you our first ever fan panel, consisting of avid supporters of all 12 Super League clubs.
First up are the supports of Warrington, Leeds, Hull FC and Huddersfield, who all get up and running on Thursday.
But what can everyone expect of the four clubs? Over to our panel…
Warrington Wolves v Leeds Rhinos
Warrington Fan: Peter Thomas
Warrington are heralding the start of a “new era” in 2018. With the departure of many players and moreover Tony Smith, it’s right that things had to change. 2017 was a horrendous year, finishing 9th. But it was nothing they didn’t deserve. They looked vulnerable in defence and at times without direction in attack. For a team that has been formed around free-flowing rugby and entertaining the crowds, there was little to cheer. But that’s done – and a new period can begin, we hope.
First up is Leeds at home, a team that we are looking to emulate. They struggled two seasons ago, then went on to win it all in 2017. What better way to test our development therefore than against the reigning Grand Final Winners and a test it will be.
Although Leeds have suffered personnel changes of their own, they have recruited well, taking in Dwyer from Warrington, and also another Wire old boy in Myler. Leeds play the same sort of expansive game as Warrington, but with a little bit more grit at times.
For Warrington, of course I’m looking forward to seeing all of the new signings, and what appears after the World Cup to be a rejuvenated Kevin Brown. How the halfbacks click is the key to any attack. There needs to be solid work, but also a degree of flair. Ingredients that were missing last year.
Defensively too Warrington need to noticeably improve. If you reduce conceded points, there is less pressure going forward. Try line defence, and the defence out wide need steel.
From what I’ve seen pre-season there’s a lot to look forward to this year. Of course, the players and coach should be given time to settle in, but in sport patience runs thin quickly. More than anything I want to see an attitude shift, a new determination to nil teams, and score heavily. I want to see effort and commitment, and with these the good results will follow.
Prediction: Warrington 14-8 Leeds
Leeds Fan: Tom Gilfeather
Leeds head to Warrington in what is a highly unpredictable matchup. As a Leeds fan, it’s hard not to remember 2016 following the defeats of the massively influential Danny McGuire and Roby Burrow after last year’s Grand Final. Incidentally, the 2016 season started with the exact same fixture. However, I’m fully confident the Rhinos have learned from that experience and will ensure it is not repeated. Wire will equally be smarting from a tough 2017 and will have a point to prove.
There is plenty to be excited about for Leeds going into this game and the rest of the season. I really hope being appointed as captain encourages Kallum Watkins to be a bit more vocal and with his mercurial talent that can only mean good things. Likewise, I am intrigued as to how our new halves pairing of Myler and Moon will play out. I certainly think that if Myler can adapt his game in much the same way Danny McGuire did then he will certainly prove a great signing against his former club and into the future. I’m excited to see Brad Dwyer be given a chance against his former club and the competitive debut for Nathaniel Peteru. I’d also like to see Liam Sutcliffe really nail down the left centre spot as I feel he’s often been a victim of his own versatility at times.
This game is largely up in the air as far as predictions go. Of the two first-team pre-season games, Boxing Day against Wakefield and recently against Castleford, one was over a month ago and the atrocious weather made it hard to draw anything meaningful out of the game at the Jungle. Warrington are another unknown quantity going into this season and they will be looking to bounce back from a well-below-par 2017. Despite home advantage and a new coach for Wire, I think Leeds might just edge this one.
Prediction: Warrington 10-16 Leeds
Hull FC v Huddersfield Giants
Hull FC fan: Sarah Mackenzie
By this time in the year I am looking forward to getting back to the KCOM and watching some rugby!
It’s a new season with new hopes and dreams. This year we are in the fortunate position to not have a big turnaround of players, although I’m sure Ellis and Fonua will be big misses. I’m excited to see Faraimo play and see what he can do with more game time. His performance against Catalans was really good and if he can keep that standard up he will definitely prove an ample replacement for Fonua, both in attack and defence.
We have some upfront go forward missing in Watts but with the addition of Mickey Paea and Dean Hadley returning I think we will be well able to cover for him. With the next two weeks in Australia it is vitally important that we pick up the two points and to do this we need to make sure we keep Rankin and Brough quiet. If they can’t control the game there is every chance Brough will become frustrated and start giving away penalties.
Huddersfield have some good strike power in McGillvary and Mamo but if we can stop them getting the ball in good positions we should run out victors. Both teams have the capabilities to score points and after a good season last year they will both be on the lookout for an improvement in placings. However, I think first home match in front of a large crowd with a send-off to Australia for the Black and Whites will be enough to tip the scales in our favour.
Prediction: Hull FC 36-18 Huddersfield Giants
Huddersfield fan: Mark Wilkinson @Wilko2205
You’d expect me to say this, but I think the Giants can be real dark horses this year.
After two below-standard seasons, few are expecting us to do well, but we’ve got a good squad with some big names like Mamo, McGillvary and Ikahihifo, and some real grafters who don’t always get the credit they should, like Lawrence and Hinchcliffe.
If we want to succeed this year, we need to start well, and the KCOM will be a big test for us in that regard. Hull have really improved in the past few years and a lot of people are backing them to finish near the top of the table, so if we can get our first win on the board against them, it will be a huge statement of intent. Sneyd can control a game with his right boot and they’ve got a big, tough pack. On a cold, probably-rainy Thursday night in East Yorkshire, that’s likely where the game will be won, so if we want the two points we’ll need to match them down the middle and nail our kicking game.
Fortunately, Brough and Rankin were in top form in the pre-season games, with most of our tries at Wakefield coming from their kicks. On top of that, our forwards more than held their own against Trin’s huge pack, with Ukuma and Clough putting in really good performances. And while he didn’t play in that game, we know what a difference Ikahihifo can be.
The big concerns from the pre-season games were our high error count and our defence on the wings, with Wakey getting some very soft tries out wide as a result. With Faraimo and Talanoa on the lining up for Hull we’ll need to tighten that up if we want a win. In our last trip to Hull we picked up eight tries, and while I’m not expecting another scoreline like that, I’m quietly confident that we can surprise a few people and get the win.
Prediction: Hull FC 16-24 Huddersfield Giants