The 2020 Super League season gets underway at the end of January and thanks to the influx of talent coming from Australia and other sports, this is expected to be the most exciting season yet. Dave Kuzio goes through the teams he believes will be causing the headlines in 2020.
The Steve Prescott Man of Steel award is the most prestigious individual awards a player can win in rugby league. This determines the best player in Super League over a whole year. Here Dave Kuzio takes a look at the leading contenders that should be in the running in 2020.
Leeds Rhinos have not been challenging for the title in the last two years, but could things be about to change for the eight-time Grand Final winners?
Wigan Warriors are the most successful English team in the history of rugby league, but do they have the right squad to be crowned champions in 2020?
Warrington Wolves have not been crowned champions since 1955 and every year it is joked that “It’s their year”, well 2020 might finally be the year they break this massive hoodoo.
The BetFred Super League is the number one competition for rugby league in Europe. The Super League was first invented in 1996 following the switch the summer months. The first two seasons saw the original format of first past the post being crowned as champions.
Two years later in 1998, the format changed to involve a play-off system, which we still have to this day, culminating in the Grand Final which is staged at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground in October.
The first ever Grand Final saw Wigan Warriors defeat Leeds Rhinos to win the trophy with a narrow 10-4 win in the pouring rain. Leeds Rhinos are the most successful team in terms of the Grand Final, they have won the title a staggering eight times. Their last success was in 2017 when they beat Castleford Tigers 24-6.
St Helens are the next in line with seven Grand Final victories, they are the defending champions following their 23-6 win over Salford Red Devils in 2019. There have only actually ever been four winners of the Grand Final. Aside from Leeds and St Helens, Wigan have been crowned champions on five occasions, while Bradford Bulls – who are now in the Championship- have won the title four times.
The format for the play-offs has changed over the years. In 1998, it started out as a top five playing off to find the two finalists. It was then changed to a top six format in 2002 and that stayed in place until 2009 when the top eights were introduced.
The controversial Super 8s and Qualifiers were introduced for the start of 2015 season. This saw the league split in two after the regular weekly rounds. The top eight would keep all their points and then play a series of matches to determine the top four and they would then play-off in the semi-finals for a place in the Grand Final.
The bottom four teams would have their points scrapped and they would face off against the top four teams in the Championship. After they had all played each other, the top three would be in Super League for the next season. The teams in fourth and fifth would then battle it out in a Million Pound Game to see who would get that final Super League spot, the loser would be relegated.
That has since been replaced with the original format we saw in 1998. The top five have the opportunity to make it to the Grand Final. Fourth and fifth face each other in an elimination match, second and third will also meet each other with the loser getting another chance. The league leader will have a week off before joining the remaining three times.
Super League was created to try and shed the ‘M62 corridor sport’ image it had created. The first year of Super League in 1996 saw the French side Paris Saint Germain gain entry in to the tournament. They only lasted two seasons, but the expansion didn’t stop there as Catalans Dragons become the latest French team to join Super League in 2006.
The Dragons remained the only non-English team to take part in Super League – that is until now. Canadian side Toronto Wolfpack, who were founded in 2016, have won three promotions in four years and be battling it out with the big boys in 2020.
Rugby league gets a lot of criticism because of their eagerness to continue with the Grand Final rather than have the best team crowned champions, like they do in football. But for some reason, it works in rugby league and after all these years it would not seem right if there was no Grand Final.
History Of Super League Grand Final Winners
The Challenge Cup is the second major trophy up for grabs in rugby league, with the final being played at Wembley Stadium.
The first ever Challenge Cup Final took place in 1897 when Batley defeated St Helens at Headingley, Leeds. The first one to ever be played at Wembley Stadium was in 1929 when Wigan ran out 13-2 winners over Dewsbury.
The next 16 years saw Wembley share the final with other venues across England, including Odsal, Central Park, Fartown and Headingley. Wembley became a permanent fixture from 1946 until 1999 when the old stadium was rebuilt.
The Challenge Cup spent seven years on the road at Twickenham, Murrayfield and the Millennium Stadium. The first final back at the new Wembley was in 2007 when St Helens beat Catalans Dragons 30-8. Warrington Wolves are the current holders after they won the trophy for the ninth time when they defeated St Helens 18-4.
Wigan Warriors have won the Challenge Cup more times than anyone, They have 18 titles to their name, they also hold the record for the most successive final wins as they won every final from 1988 up until 1995. A feat that will probably never be bettered.
The Challenge Cup Final used to be played in May during the winter seasons, but since Super League was formed the final usually took place on the August Bank Hoiliday. For 2020, that will change as the final will now be played in the middle of July.
The National Rugby League (NRL) is the number one competition in Australia. It features 16 teams, 15 from Australia and one from New Zealand.
The NRL was formed in 1998 and since then there have 12 different winners of the competition. The only teams yet to win a Grand Final are Parramatta Eels, New Zealand Warriors, Canberra Raiders and Gold Coast Titans.
Sydney Roosters are the most successful team in the history of the NRL. They have four titles in their trophy cabinet and are the only team since the competition was formed to win back-to-back championships.
Melbourne Storm have officially won three NRL titles, however they did win five altogether. Their successes in 2007 and 2009 were stripped after they were found guilty of breaking the salary cap and their accomplishments were taken off the official records list.
The Roosters claimed their fourth title in 2019 when they defeated Canberra Raiders 14-8 at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney. The NRL Grand Final is usually played in the first week of October.
State Of Origin
The State of Origin is a three-match series between Queensland and New South Wales. This series is normally referred two as Australian’s greatest sport rivalry. This is a matter of pride as you are representing your state of birth.
Before State of Origin became official in 1982, the interstate matches were one sided affairs with NSW taking the glory. At that time, players were selected by which team they played for rather than where they were born. From 1982, that rule changed and that meant Queensland could pick all the players who were eligible by birth rather than their club.
In 1980 an interstate game was played under the rules we know today.Many people thought the idea was a flash in the pan, but Queensland won the game 20-10 and it proved that Queenslanders wanted to play for their state. This eventually saw the State of Origin series officially launch in 1982.
Queensland have won 23 State of Origin series’ while New South Wales have won 15. The Maroons managed to win a staggering eight successive series’ from 2006 to 2013 before the Blues ended that dominance.
New South Wales are the current holders of the State of Origin shield and they have won their last two series’. They will be going for a third successive series win for the first time since 2005 when the 2020 series starts in June.