Carl Ablett: Eleven players to watch out for in new Super League season

Zak Hardaker.
Zak Hardaker.
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HAPPY new season! I think everybody’s probably a bit fed up of previews of the year by now so I thought I’d start 2017 by looking at who I think will be the key player for each of our 11 rivals.

There’s a lot of half-backs, which is natural as that’s a pivotal position, but everybody knows the back-rowers do the real work and I’ve managed to squeeze a couple of those in there as well.

Paul Aiton.

Paul Aiton.

Castleford Tigers: Zak Hardaker.

I think Cas will go well. They’ve got a strong squad and have made some smart signings, including Zak.

We all know how good he can be, especially if he recaptures the form he showed two years ago.

I’m still in contact with him and I know he’s in a good place. I think he will fit in well there and have a big year.

Gareth Ellis.

Gareth Ellis.

Catalans Dragons: Paul Aiton.

This is a tough one because you never know what you are going to get from Catalans.

It will be interesting to see how Luke Walsh and Richie Myler gel at half-back and Greg Bird is a good signing for them, but Paulie is a top player and they looked at their best when he was fit last year.

Huddersfield Giants: Leroy Cudjoe.

I think making Cudjoe captain was a smart move. A few of the Leeds boys have played with him for England and they rate him very highly.

I don’t think he gets the recognition he deserves, but he was very consistent last year in a tough season.

He’s strong, big and has good footwork.

Leroy and Jermaine McGillvary are a dangerous combination and whoever’s opposite them has to play well.

Hull: Gareth Ellis

Gaz is an outstanding leader and he had a big year for Hull in 2016.

I don’t think they are quite the same side when he’s not on the field, but if he is they are a threat to everyone.

He is their lynchpin, he sets the standards for them and holds everything together.

The next step for Hull is a Grand Final appearance and Gaz will have a big influence on how near they get.

Leigh Centurions: Glenn Stewart.

He has got bags of experience at the highest level and did a good job for Catalans.

He is going to be a leader for them as they adjust to Super League and I think they will need him to be at his best if they are going to push for a top-eight spot.

Salford Red Devils: Todd Carney.

He has got masses of talent and experience and it will be interesting to see how he fits in with Robert Lui and Michael Dobson.

He has got the ability to run a game, dictate the tempo and get the team around the field. If he plays well, they will be a tough team to defend against.

St Helens: Jonny Lomax

It was good to see Lomax get back to fitness and form last year and I thought he was very good for England in the Four Nations.

He is elusive and good on his feet and I think with a good pre-season under his belt he is going to be a major influence for them.

Wakefield Trinity: Jacob Miller.

They have three quality halves in Liam Finn, Sam Williams and Miller.

It will be interesting to see what combination they go with, but I rate Miller. He is good on his feet and when you play against Wakey you know if he has got the ball you have to shut him down because he’s got a very good pass and he’s a threat close to the line.

Warrington Wolves: Daryl Clark.

The way Warrington play they rely a lot on Daryl and he was very good last year.

They like to play around the ruck a lot and Daryl will be at the forefront of everything they do.

Widnes Vikings: Joe Mellor.

There’s going to be a lot of weight on his shoulders after Kevin Brown left the club.

He has shown up really well over the last couple of years and it’s a good opportunity for him to kick on now.

Wigan Warriors: George Williams.

I thought he was phenomenal last year. There was a lot of pressure on him as a young Wigan lad coming into their team in a key position, but he handled it really well.

Tommy Leuluai will come in and direct them around the field, but George has an outstanding running game, he’s tough to defend against and I’d expect him to kick on from last season.