With the Super League season just days away, @RLLatest make 21 fearless predictions ahead of the 2018 campaign.
Man of Steel: Luke Gale was more-than a worthy winner last year, but his struggle to compete under pressure will see him lose his title this year. St Helens’ fullback Ben Barba will win the award this year, after his first pre-season at the club.
Top try scorer: After missing the majority of the 2018 season, Wakefield’s Tom Johnstone will return in style and lead the try-scoring tally board.
Top tackler: For the third year running, hooker Danny Houghton will crown this title with James Roby coming a close second.
Best recruit: There has been plenty of transfers in this year’s off-season, but only one can be crowned best recruit. Tyrone Roberts will lead Warrington Wolves to a top-4 finish, and will be a stand-out in 2018. Catalans’ David Mead comes at a close second.
Worst recruit: On contrary to the best, there were also a handful of bad recruits in 2017. Tommy Lee was our predicted man last year, but this year this will sadly go to Luke Burgess, who, despite is famous name, will fail to make much of an impact at Salford.
First red card: He received the most red cards last year, and this year he will receive the first. You guessed it, it’s Hull FC’s very own Liam Watts.
First coach controversy: Despite several signings ahead of the 2018 season, Denis Betts will find himself in heated debates during the year, before being sacked and focussing on England and their test series.
Best moment: Last year fans were spoiled by top moments, including last minute finishes and Castleford’s classy performances. However, Hull KR’s shock victory over their inter-city rivals FC at the Magic Weekend will be a stand-out.
The strugglers: Widnes come at a close second, but it’s the Catalans Dragons that will struggle in 2018. Despite their signings of Wigan pair Lewis Tierney and Michael McIIorum, amongst others, they will fail to completely compete for anything in 2018 and will find themselves once again in the bottom four.
The shockers: There will be several shocks across the season, but one team that will shock their opponents will be Wakefield Trinity. Their halfback partnership of Liam Finn and Jacob Miller finished in style, and their recruits add strong depth into their squad. Chris Chester will see himself planning for the Super League Semi Finals.
The performers: Despite the loss of Zak Hardaker to a drug ban, Castelford Tigers have made several quality signings and will continue to perform well in 2018 and entertain in-almost every fixture, with Greg Eden’s top class finishes to Luke Gale’s right boot.
Slow starters: Huddersfield were our chosen side this year, who did in fact struggle. This year Hull KR, led by Danny McGuire, will struggle at the start of this season. They open their season against Wakefield, and then will face Leeds, Catalans, Salford and Castleford. This could see them struggle to claim any points.
Best youngster: There’s no doubting the talent that’s rising in the Super League. However, 2018 belongs to Danny Richardson. The youngster has the skills to prove his confidence, and when given the chance he will shine in the league.
Captain of the year: James Roby will lead his side to a successful 2018 season after being named captain from Jon Wilkin, and will take the award.
Coach of the year: Justin Holbrook has had his first pre-season with the Saints side, who only signed one player ahead of the 2018 season. The halfback choice and the team consistency will lead to their success and their coach to claim the title.
League Leaders Shield: This year will be a tough tight battle for the top four, and only one point will see one team lift the League Leaders Shield. That team? St Helens.
Grand Final: St Helens will make 2018 their year. Ben Barba, James Roby and Matty Smith will shine and they will defeat the Warriors at Old Trafford.
Challenge Cup: Challenge Cup will be more competitive than ever, with the trophy becoming more and more important. Leeds Rhinos will have a good run, but it will be the Wigan Warriors who will lift the trophy at Wembley.
World’s Best: Leeds Rhinos will travel to Australia to face NRL Champions Melbourne Storm at the AAMI Park. Both sides have lost essential players, including Leeds’ Danny McGuire (Hull KR) and Melbourne’s Cooper Cronk (Syndey Roosters). However, it will be a year for the Australians.
‘So close, yet so far’: The ongoing joke of always being their year will be on display once again, and Warrington Wolves will find themselves closer than ever, but will fail to lift a trophy in 2018. They will have a good run in the Challenge Cup, but the fresh squad, alongside new coach Steve Price, will not get close enough.
Game of the opening round: The game of the opening round will be the opening game. Warrington Wolves host Leeds Rhinos, both squads with big changes ahead of the season, and this will be a true test for the year.
Agree? Disagree? Follow us on Twitter, @RLLatest.