IT IS good to see a few unfamiliar faces up near the top of the Super League table.
After four rounds it is still very early days, but you do begin to get a picture of which teams had a good pre-season and who struggled, because of players having operations and that sort of thing.
With 23 games still to play nobody is going to get carried away at this stage, but every team wants to get off to a good start and be in the mix at this point in the campaign.
The two teams that have probably been the biggest surprises so far are Castleford and Widnes, who both have a 100 per cent record.
They are both playing really well and to me they look like teams who don’t boast any real superstars, but are a tight unit, with a good spirit and who are working really hard for each other.
We will get a close look at Widnes tonight, but I am delighted for Cas and Daryl Powell. The big question is can they sustain their early-season form and I think they probably can. They have got a good squad and I think a few people were fooled when Rangi Chase left at the end of last season.
Rangi was such a crucial player for them and the architect of everything they did, but sometimes a player like that leaving can have a positive effect on the rest of the squad and it brings out the best in other players.
Cas have recruited well and everybody else has stepped up now Rangi’s no longer there. They have got some good halves and two very good young hookers in Daryl Clark and Adam Milner and they also have real competition for places, which I think is spurring everybody on.
They had an incredible win over Wigan last weekend and that will give them a real confidence-boost.
I know some people were tipping them as a team likely to be in the relegation battle this year, but I never saw that and I think they will be a top-eight team for sure if they can carry on the form they’ve started with.
I also want to say well done to Wakefield Wildcats, who got off the mark with a big win over Catalan Dragons last Sunday.
They have a large ex-Leeds contingent and I am pleased for them. They’ve been through a tough time, with so many players leaving and others coming in just before – or even after – the season started. It was bound to take a while, but looking at their squad they have got some good players and I think once they gel, they will be a pretty strong team. Putting 50 points on Catalan was a good indication of that.
It is worrying times for Catalan after four straight defeats. I think it would be a real shame if they got relegated this year, after all the hard work that’s been put in over there. That’s the way the system works, but I’ll be surprised if they don’t pull well clear. Obviously pressure is mounting on their coaching staff and players, but I think their squad’s too good to be in the danger zone for long.
I would also expect Wigan to be up at the top come the business end. They haven’t had a good start, but the World Club Challenge takes its toll – especially with the travelling to and from Australia – and I’ve no doubt they’ll hit form sooner rather than later.