Adam Cuthbertson: No hype, just eight months of guaranteed excitement ahead

I THINK this is going to be a great Super League season.

Friday, 2nd February 2018, 5:00 am
Luke Gale is beaten by Ben Barba.

I know everyone talks it up at this time of year and there’s always a lot of hype, but I’m really excited about what might happen over the next eight months.

Castleford were outstanding last year and they are going to be up there challenging again, but if I had to pick out one team as being the leading threat it would have to be Saints.

That’s based on the form they were in at the end of last year, the fact they’ve had a full pre-season under their coach, who improved them when he took over last year, and the squad they’ve got.

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Ben Roberts.

Benny Barba, at full-back, is going to be finding his feet, they have got some good juniors who are a year more experienced and they have a big pack.

If they start this season the way they finished the last one they are going to be a massive threat and a team to contend with.

Cas are going to be good again on the back of what they have created there, but losing Zak Hardaker is a big blow for them.

Whether Ben Roberts can slot in there and make the No 1 jumper his own, only time will tell. Cas have got skill all over the park and size, but in terms of cohesion, full-back is a big part of the game so it is important they get that right.

Danny McGuire.

It’s not easy backing up after finishing top of the table, for two reasons.

One, you are there to be shot at and everybody raises their game when they play you. And two, it’s sometimes hard to hang on to players for salary cap and other reasons.

Two years ago we lost some important players and didn’t cope very well. Last year Warrington struggled because the systems they were using under their old coach weren’t working any more and they didn’t do anything about it until it was too late.

It was a learning curve. We were better for it last year and I am sure Warrington will be this season.

Ben Roberts.

Wigan are going to be underdogs this year, which is a strange situation for them. A big thing will be how they cope with the loss of Micky McIlorum and Anthony Gelling, who were two huge players for them.

It’s tough to replace players like that, but I won’t be writing Wigan off. They always seem to be up there, whoever turns out for them.

We saw that in 2016 when they had a heap of players on the sidelines and still managed to win the Grand Final.

Hull are a bit like St Helens in terms of how dominant they can be. They’ve proved their quality by winning the Challenge Cup back-to-back, but always seem to come up a tad short in Super League.

Danny McGuire.

If they play to their potential they are a threat to anyone though.

They just ran out of steam a bit in the semi-final against us last year, fortunately, but they’ll be in or around the top-four.

Picking a couple of dark horses, I think Wakefield and Salford will be good again. Wakefield were fantastic last year , until they dropped away in their last few games.

They’ve got a strong squad and I think they will be in with a shout of the semi-finals this time and so will Salford, who were really consistent for most of 2017 before hitting a bad patch late on.

So who’s going to struggle? I actually don’t think there’s a bad team in Super League this year, but I do think it will be tough for Hull KR just because they are playing at a higher level.

Leigh came up last year and started quite well, then fell away. It’s doing it week-in and week-out that’s hard.

Danny Mags is a fantastic signing for them, but the rest of their team will have to step up and follow his lead.

There’s not a lot between most teams in Super League in terms of ability or fitness and everybody’s quite consistent, but it’s management that makes the difference when it comes to winning semi-finals or finals.

It is a long, hard season and how you handle that at the back end of the year is what counts.

The teams that cope best with injury-prevention and re-hab and manage to keep their players fit and fresh will be the ones still in the mix come October.