HULL KINGSTON ROVERS V WAKEFIELD TRINITY
Hull KR fan: James Deighton
Back in 2007, almost to the exact day, current Wakefield Trinity head coach Chris Chester sent Ben Cockayne under the posts in the 79th minute of our first ever Super League game. I have never seen a crowd erupt like the East Stand did that night.
Now 11 years later, after leading Rovers to a Challenge Cup Final, Chezzy will be welcomed back to KCOM Craven Park with open arms. His players not so much, but following a fifth-placed regular season finish Danny Kirmond’s men cannot be taken lightly. They’ve recruited well in the off-season, especially up front and with Rovers’ smaller pack in height but not heart, Trinity will be strong up the middle.
Rovers’ recruitment has certainly been a talking point this pre-season, or some might say lack of, however how can anyone complain about the acquisitions made? Including mid season signings, the Robins have brought in some serious experience. To name just a few there’s Ben Kavanagh, Justin Carney, Lee Jewitt, Mose Masoe, Tommy Lee and this halfback from Leeds Rhinos. This halfback from Leeds Rhinos has to be the signing of the season right? Proven by his end of season performances, Danny McGuire is still extremely capable of guiding a team around the park and single-handedly winning games. Nevertheless, his unselfish acts are what will lead Tim Sheens’ side to victories this season.
The Red and White pack must muscle up against Wakefield and if they do so, I believe our backs will get the chance to flourish. Our strike threats in the centres (Minns and Heffernan) will undoubtedly get on the scoresheet and the self-proclaimed Eagle’s goal kicking will be the difference.
Prediction: Rovers by 2.
Wakefield fan – Callum Wood
I have never been more excited for it to begin, and what a way to start our campaign by playing the newly promoted side Hull KR.
I feel a bit of revenge is needed after losing to them the last time Hull KR got promoted into Super League but they certainly won’t be an easy pushover. One certain thing I am excited to see is our new signings in our squad: Pauli Pauli, Justin Horo and Ryan Hampshire are three players who will catch a few eyes to see how they play with the rest of the squad.
But a player who seems like a new signing is Tom Johnstone who I am excited to see back in action on Friday after a long-term injury and I’m sure he will definitely perform for us. One thing I would like to see is both Pauli Pauli and David Fifita on at props at the same time just to see how they play together and see how much damage they can do up the middle.
In Hull KR’s case I am intrigued to see how Danny McGuire plays with his new teammates and whether it goes well or not, he will be one to watch on Friday night.
Overall I am quite optimistic on the squad we are taking Hull although it never is an easy place to go but I think that we will just get by and come home with a win.
Score Prediction: Hull KR 14-24 Wakefield Trinity
SALFORD RED DEVILS V WIGAN WARRIORS
Salford Fan – Louis Hawke
The start of the Super League season is upon us and what a way to start for the Red Devils, a home clash against Wigan Warriors.
Salford opened their 2017 season against the Warriors and the result wasn’t too kind for the Red Devils, who were on the end of a 16-26 defeat. This year Salford have lost high-profile names such as half-back Michael Dobson and the man mountain Ben Murdoch-Masila. The recruitment front hasn’t been world class but Salford have managed to bring the likes of Jack Littlejohn and another big Ben, Ben Nakubuwai.
Wigan’s squad for the clash at the AJ Bell Stadium isn’t their strongest but the depth in their squad is enough to make this tie a classic. Wigan, on the other hand, have brought back centre Dan Sarginson and recruited Gabriel Hamlin from South Sydney Rabbitohs, although they’ve lost hooker Michael McIlorum, Anthony Gelling and Lewis Tierney, they still manage to hold a strong pack which will again, be contesting for major trophies this season.
Hopefully Salford can get their 2018 account up and running with a win against the Warriors but it won’t be an easy battle!
Score prediction: Salford Red Devils 18-24 Wigan Warriors
Wigan Fan – Sean Lawless
There’s a lot of internal and external pressure on Wigan this season for reasons that we are all aware of. There’s an expectation to play a more exciting brand of rugby as well as to win silverware – no pressure then!
I expect Wigan to be really pumped for this game and to try to lay a platform for the rest of the season. At times during the Leigh friendly, Wigan’s new-look “spine” was exciting and vibrant. Hopefully that will be the case for the full 80 minutes on Friday.
Wigan are likely to be missing Joe Burgess and Sean O’Loughlin for the game, so a perfect opportunity for Liam Marshall to perhaps right a few wrongs from the back end of last season and to recapture his scintillating form of early 2017.
Liam Forsyth is included in the squad after an impressive assist on Sunday against Swinton for a Jack Higginson try. Forsyth started on the wing in that game and will be pushing Liam Marshall for a starting spot against Salford.
I expect a Wigan win and I expect a controlled, professional performance. The first game of the season can be low-scoring due to the lack of match fitness and I would expect this game to be won by Wigan around the interchange period. Whatever bench Wigan pick on Friday, it already looks to be much stronger than most of the 2017 season and it could be the time for Wigan to press home an advantage.
Morgan Escare coming from the interchange is a very exciting thought and I think his presence on the field on Friday could give Wigan the edge to earn the two points, before they fly to Australia on Saturday.
Score Prediction: Salford Red Devils 10–24 Wigan Warriors
ST HELENS v CASTLEFORD TIGERS
St Helens Fan: Kev Pender (RedVee)
If St Helens fans had been given the choice of first-round fixtures we’d have undoubtedly picked a home tie, just probably not one against the outstanding team of last year. The Tigers will be smarting after their Grand Final defeat and will be looking to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.
As it is a first round fixture I’m realistic enough to think we won’t be served a game similar to the play-off semi-final at the end of last season. I expect a close game with a few errors as both teams try to impose their respective styles onto the game but encounter a bit of rustiness.
I’m intrigued to see how our younger players start this season. The likes of Regan Grace and Morgan Knowles have shown great promise and I really hope to see them kick on this year to fulfil that potential.
It’s been a while since Saints had an embarrassment of riches in key positions such as halfback. While Justin Holbrook’s decision of halfback partnership is a huge story, it has been dwarfed by the excitement surrounding Ben Barba.
Barba has created a buzz around the town not felt since Jamie Lyon pulled on the red vee. With a full pre-season under his belt it’s going to be fascinating to see how he handles the weight of expectation and the focus he receives from the opposition.
Instrumental in both defence and attack, it remains to be seen if Castleford can fill the Zak Hardaker sized hole at fullback Ben Roberts has been named as his replacement and it’ll be interesting to see how quickly he adapts to the role. Roberts will certainly maintain the attacking side of Hardaker’s game, but I’d hope that the defensive side of his game will be tested.
That said I expect Castleford to still challenge with the kind of free-flowing attack they’re becoming famous for. Daryl Powell will have integrated his new signings into the team ethos and I’ve no doubt they will attack Saints with the same gusto as last season.
Score Prediction: St Helens 18-10 Castleford Tigers
Castleford fan – Mike Preston
Wow, what a game to get the 2018 campaign underway for Castleford Tigers.
Two of my fondest memories in recent years are the Ben Roberts drop goal as the hooter sounded in 2015 and the dramatic semi-final last season. However, both games were home games and we all know we haven’t had anything to shout about away at St Helens for a very long time.
I want to see us regain our winning mentality. Many rugby league fans have questioned the choice of Ben Roberts in the number 1 jersey, I think if he proves his fitness he will be an outstanding attacking fullback, the question is his ability under the high ball and his positional sense at the back. I’m excited by James Green who has impressed pre-season, he is strong, aggressive and always looks to offload. I think giving him a one-year deal and telling him to go out there and prove himself is genius by Powell.
We all know St Helens have an outstanding squad, Warmsley, Roby and Barba are standouts and rightly so. But it was Luke Thompson and Morgan Knowles who really impressed me last year. They’re a quality defensive outfit and cause plenty of damage around the ruck.
Score prediction: St Helens 16-24 Castleford Tigers