With the Betfred Super League season fast approaching we look at St Helens’ prospects for the 2018 campaign.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
James Bentley (Bradford Bulls)
Matty Fleming (London Broncos), Tommy Lee (Hull KR), Greg Richards (Leigh Centurions), Adam Walker (Wakefield Trinity)
Castleford Tigers (H), Catalans Dragons (A), Huddersfield Giants (A), Salford Red Devils (H), Warrington Wolves (A)
WHAT TO EXPECT
While St Helens haven’t strengthened their squad like many of their rivals, they can still consider themselves as one of the favourites to lift the Super League trophy in 2018. The addition of Ben Barba halfway through 2017 was a big capture for the club, and with Reegan Grace’s emergence as one of the most exciting young talents in the sport they boast one of the strongest playing squads in the competition. After a poor start to 2017 under Keiron Cunningham, Justin Holbrook took the club to within a point of the Grand Final, as they were beaten in a classic semi-final clash with Castleford Tigers. Their Golden Point defeat at The Jungle will be all the motivation Saints need to go one better this time around.
James Roby has been key to St Helens for over a decade, with the hooker setting the club’s standards on and off the field ever since his debut in 2004. He is still one of he best hookers in the division, and can hugely influence his side’s chances of victory when he is at his best. Roby will set the platform for Saints to build on, and with a big and powerful forward pack running off him they will be hard to stop down the middle in 2018. Don’t rule them out on the edges though, as Grace, Barba, Mark Percival, Tommy Makinson and Adam Swift will cross for plenty of tries between them.
With only one signing made ahead of the 2018 season, Holbrook will be relying on his current crop of players to deliver silverware in the up-coming season. Barba could still be considered as a ‘new’ signing, having joined midway through 2017, and his NRL experience and ability to spark something from nothing will be huge for St Helens. James Bentley has joined from Bradford Bulls after an impressive debut season, and could become a shrewd acquisition. The 21-year-old back-rower scooped the Championship Young Player of the year award as he scored 18 times in 27 appearances, and will be looking to break into the Saints’ first team.
The Super League draw has thrown up the perfect opening fixture for St Helens, as they will look to gain revenge for their semi-final defeat to Castleford in Round 1. This time they will take the Super League runners-up and League Leaders’ Shield winners at home, before a trip to Catalans Dragons. It’s a tough start, but gives Holbrook the chance to see if his players are up to the task of challenging for the title, with their first five ending with a visit to Warrington Wolves.
Top Tryscorer – Reegan Grace
Top Pointscorer – Mark Percival
Club Player of the Year – James Roby
WHERE WILL ST HELENS FINISH?
After going agonisingly close to reaching the Super League Grand Final last time out, Saints have reason to be optimistic about 2018.
St Helens to finish second after the Super 8’s, and be Grand Final winners.