After their 2018 season ended with only the League Leaders Shield to show for it, St Helens will be looking to go one better and win a major trophy this year.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Joe Batchelor (York City Knights), Lachlan Coote (North Queensland Cowboys), Wes Naqaima (Wests Tigers), Joseph Paulo (Cronulla Sharks).
Ben Barba (North Queensland Cowboys), Rob Fairclough (Swinton Lions), Ben Morris (Rochdale Hornets), Matty Smith (Catalans Dragons), Jake Spedding (Barrow Raiders), Jon Wilkin (Toronto Wolfpack).
Wigan Warriors(H), Wakefield Trinity (A), Leeds Rhinos (H), Salford Red Devils (A), London Broncos (A).
WHAT TO EXPECT
After easily being the best team over the course of 2018, St Helens’ season ended trophy-less after two bitterly disappointing performances in semi-final defeats to Catalans and Warrington respectively. Once again Saints’ season can only be classed as a success if they win at least one major trophy.
There are many positives to take 2018 though. Both Luke Thompson and Tommy Makinson will be full of confidence after their performances against New Zealand. Thompson showed that he can mix it with the worlds best forwards as he was named in the World XIII. The return of Alex Walmsley makes for a formidable front row pairing and there is strength in-depth with Luke Douglas, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Kyle Amor, Matty Lees and Jack Ashworth vying the other two available spots. 2019 is set to be a massive year for the 23-year-old with a Lions tour on the horizon. It will be interesting to see if Thompson can back up last years form.
Much of last years success was down to Ben Barba but they have made a shrewd acquisition in former North Queensland Cowboy Lachlan Coote. Coote brings over a wealth of experience and it can be argued that he’s a more rounded full back than Barba as he has better defensive capabilities. He also takes a lot of pressure off young half-back Danny Richardson with his left-footed kicking game. Centre Kevin Naqaima has replaced Ryan Morgan who is on loan at London for the season. Naqaima brings more of an attacking flair than Morgan who can be described as solid if unspectacular. He has experience playing across all of the back line positions therefore brings versatility. The Fiji captain also brings passion. His tears when representing his country shows how much the game means to him so he definitely won’t be playing in Super League for a final career paycheck.
Saints start the season with two very tough fixtures with an opening fixture against rivals Wigan followed by an away fixture to Wakefield. If they can get victories in these two games then it would not be surprising to see them go on a winning run similar to last season as they face Salford, Leeds and London in the three following games. Their toughest period comes at Easter. They face Warrington before their tradition Good Friday derby away to Wigan. They then face Hull FC at home on Easter Monday followed by another home fixture to Catalans.
Top Tryscorer – Mark Percival
Top Pointscorer – Danny Richardson
Club Player of the Year – Luke Thompson