St Helens will be looking to make it a hat-trick of Super League Grand Final wins this season, BettingPro.com’s rugby league expert picks out his top tips and explains why he believes a different name will be on the trophy this year.
St Helens made it back-to-back Grand Final wins with the lasty play of the game against Wigan Warriors in what will go down as one of the greatest finals ever.
Now being a Wigan fan, this is exceedingly difficult to review seeing as I still haven’t watched a replay of the final. A last second try from Jack Welsby saw Saints pip Wigan to the title, and you do not know how hard it is to write that.
The new Super League season will start on Friday, March 26 with a double header at Headingley with Saints taking on Salford Red Devils at 6pm, while Super League new boys Leigh Centurions will take on fierce rivals Wigan at 20:15.
There will be two more double headers in week one with Wakefield Trinity taking on Leeds Rhinos and Catalans Dragons facing Hull Kingston Rovers on Saturday, while Hull FC battle Huddersfield Giants and Castleford Tigers do battle with Warrington Wolves on the Sunday.
One team who will be missing in 2021 is Toronto Wolfpack after they withdrew during the 2020 campaign and have been prevented from re-entering the competition. They will be replaced by Leigh Centurions after they were voted in after a lengthy application process.
Once again, I am asking the question ‘Can anyone stop St Helens?’ And this year, I do believe someone will.
Super League Tips – Grand Final Winner: Wigan Warriors @ 5/2 Betfred
Wigan Warriors will still be gutted at the way they lost the Grand Final last season, but I believe 2021 will the year Adrian Lam and his men finally win the big one.
This will be Lam’s third season in charge, and considering he was only meant to be in the job for 12 months he’s doing a good job. He won his first piece of silverware last season as Wigan finished top of the ladder after the weekly rounds, but it’s the Super League title he wants to get his hands on.
The Warriors may have lost Sean O’Loughlin to retirement, while Joe Burgess, Ben Flower, Joe Greenwood and George Burgess have all left the club, but they have re-signed John Bateman from Canberra Raiders and they have also signed Jai Field from Parramatta Eels.
All eyes will be on Bateman to see if he is the ideal replacement at number 13 for O’Loughlin, while Field will be eager to prove to the many doubters in the UK that Wigan should be putting faith in players like Harry Smith instead of going to Australia.
That defeat in the Grand Final will spur the Warriors on, and I am backing them to write the wrongs of 2020 and win the Super League title for a sixth time.
Super League Tips – To Finish Bottom: Hull Kingston Rovers @ 9/2 Sky Bet
It would be easy to just go ahead and back Leigh Centurions to be relegated this season because that seems the norm when it comes to newly promoted teams.
I honestly believe – and this is hard for a Wiganer – that Leigh will survive in Super League. John Duffy is a good coach and with players like Jamie Ellis, Ben Flower, Ryan Brierley, Tyrone McCarthy, Joe Mellor and Lewis Tierney they have a talented squad, and they should be good enough to avoid the drop.
So, who will be relegated?
I am going for Hull Kingston Rovers. They struggled last season, and after Toronto Wolfpack dropped out of the competition, they ended up finishing bottom of the pile with just three wins all season.
They have recruited the likes of Ryan Hall, Korbin Sims and Brad Takairangi, but have lost Ellis, Brierley, Harvey Livett, Mitch Garbutt and Nathaniel Peteru, and I just have a feeling they will struggle.
Before Rovers fans start to hate on me, a few years ago I predicted that Castleford Tigers would finish bottom and they made it to the Grand Final – so there is a little bit of hope for you all.
Super League Tips – Steve Prescott Man of Steel Winner: John Bateman @ 14/1 Betfred
The Steve Prescott Man of Steel award is awarded to the player believed to have had the most impact throughout the Super League season.
In 2019 the way voting changed a many felt that the players were not taking it seriously and just voting for their mates at other clubs. Voting is now done by a panel of former players with points handed to the best three players in each game.
Paul McShane is the reigning Man of Steel winner after a strong season at hooker for Castleford Tigers, and there is a lengthy list of contenders capable of snatching that honour away from him.
It was nice to see a hooker win the award, as most of the time a flair player seems to be chosen for awards like this one. I am backing another forward to get his hands on the award in 2021.
When John Bateman left Wigan at the end of 2018 to join Canberra Raiders, we all felt he was already on top of his game. He then proved he had another level as he took the NRL storm and we thought he would never be seen in Super League again.
Due to having a young daughter in the UK, and Canberra unable to offer him better terms, Bateman has re-joined the Warriors and will be eager to prove he is one of the best forwards in the world. He has the unenviable task of wearing the number 13 shirt following Sean O’Loughlin’s retirement, but the Bradford-born player thrives on pressure and this could actually make him a better player. That is why I am backing him to win the Man of Steel award.
Super League Tips – Regular Season Top Try Scorer: Bevan French @ 8/1 Sky Bet
Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley led the way last season with the most tries in the regular season.
The 25-year-old raced over for 14 tries to finish top of the pile, and although I have no doubts he will get plenty of four-pointers again in 2021, I don’t think he will finish top for the second year running.
My money this year is on Wigan’s sensational full-back Bevan French. The 25-year-old former Parramatta Eels star has set the Super League on fire since joining the Warriors in 2019, and he ran in 12 tries during the weekly rounds last time out.
His elusive running and freakish turn of pace makes him a nightmare for defences, and I expect him to have a fine season again and top the try scoring charts before the play-offs get underway.