We can all now say that another whirlwind Super League Campaign has finished, and what a ride it was.
Firstly, we must say congratulations to Leeds Rhinos on their remarkable grand final success, given the position they were in 12 months ago.
However, there were 11 other sides at the start of the year all hoping that their name would be etched onto the Grand Final Trophy come September, and each one of those sides has experienced highs, lows and some dramatic moments along the way.
We are going to take a look at each of the 12 top-flight teams and see how they performed during the 2017 campaign.
There’s no better place to start than with Daryl’s Powell’s side. For much of the campaign, they were the runaway winners, scoring over 200 points more than any other side in the opening 23 rounds of the season.
On paper, their squad looked like it had a good mix of youth, experience and flair, yet no-one would’ve foreseen that the Tigers could barge their way to the Grand Final in the attractive manner that their fans became accustomed to.
Despite the controversial nature surrounding Rangi Chase’s departure from the club, the Mend-A-Hose Jungle side were able to take that in their stride, with Man of Steel winner Luke Gale stepping up to the plate, alongside the likes of Ben Roberts, Zak Hardaker, Greg Eden and co, who all showed their class week-in, week-out.
One might wonder whether the announcement of full-back Hardaker’s omission from the Grand Final squad, for an apparent failed drugs test, might have caused significant disruption to the camp on Grand Final week.
However, they were ultimately outclassed on the night by a slick Rhinos side fighting to provide the perfect send-off for Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire.
Nevertheless, the Tigers were far and away the best attacking side in the league, and, if they can perform with the same intensity next year, they will be hoping that they can go one better.
Castleford Grade- A
Every season, it always looks like the Dragons are going to be dark horses to claim silverware, and every season, it seems that they become more and more underwhelming.
Lets not forget that their side contained former NRL stars such as Greg Bird and prop forward Sam Moa, as well as a wealth of experienced French and English talent in their ranks.
Despite this, the Dragons endured another season of hardship, eventually ending up in the Middle 8’s and having to save their skins in the Million Pound Game at Leigh Sports Village to seal Leigh Centurion’s fate.
The Perpignan side’s star men never really seemed to get going, especially away from home where they looked extremely fragile and never capable of closing a game out.
Last season moderately good showing was based on the Stade Gilbert Brutus being a fortress for them; a stadium and occasion which struck fear into visiting players. However, nine defeats at home throughout this campaign have highlighted that this is no longer the case.
The Dragons limped their way to retaining their Super League status on the last day, and they will be hoping that there is no repeat of this kind of lacklustre, mediocre season next time around.
Catalans Grade- D-
In contrast to past seasons, the Giants have largely gone under the radar, despite securing themselves a spot in the top eight, and finishing the season with some decent results, most notably a 46-18 away victory over Challenge Cup winners Hull FC.
However, their season petered out with five defeats in the last six, form not too dissimilar to their early season performances, where they picked up just two wins in their opening 12 matches.
A shock Cup exit to minnows Swinton Lions at the John Smith’s Stadium will not have gone down well with the locals, yet some of their mid-season performances showed glimpses of a side which could cause serious problems if everyone was firing on all cylinders.
The only problem was that, for most of the campaign, they were not.
Rick Stone will know that his main task over the off-season will be trying to find a way for the Giants to cope when influential half-back Danny Brough isn’t playing.
If they can find another play-maker who not only compliments Brough’s skills, but also provides the Giants with another attacking spark, they will undoubtedly be aiming for higher in the table come 2018.
Huddersfield Grade- C
If you would’ve asked Hull fans at the start of the season whether they would be satisfied with back-to-back Challenge Cup trophies and a semi-final play off spot, where they would run the eventually champions so close to the end, I’m sure most would’ve bitten your hand off.
It wasn’t really a case of FC not being able to produce the goods and claiming a spot at Old Trafford. It was simply that Leeds showed more desire on the night at Headingley and ultimately deserved their appearance at the Theater of Dreams; but only just.
The KCom stadium outfit looked close to the finished package this year; they had the perfect combination of attacking panache and level-headed game management at the right times, through stand-out stars Albert Kelly and Marc Sneyd.
Their forward pack, filled to the bring with hungry young forwards and more experienced veterans like Gareth Ellis, paved for way for the outside backs to show what they could do, but ultimately it was not enough in this campaign.
The main challenge for Lee Radford’s troops will be replacing influential winger Mahe Fonua, who is on his way back to the NRL, with another top quality finisher, and I’m sure that will have already been identified by their senior management.
The inclusion of Kelly and Fonua in the 2017 Dream Team it indicative of how well FC performed in this campaign, and we wholeheartedly expect them to be fighting at the top again this time next year.
Hull FC Grade- B+