I write ‘unfortunately’ because I know in years gone by I could pontificate about my predictions for the season ahead knowing they could be long forgotten – in my mind, at least – within a couple of days.
Unless, that is, an irate coach pinned up an offending article in the dressing room to let it breathe a little longer (did once happen with a football club I covered).
Now, however, with the behemoth of the internet, everything is there in black and white forever. And not even a scrap or whiff of vinegar to be tasted or smelled.There is no escape.
Anyway, excuses already in, and mitigation not far behind, here are my 2021 season predictions.
Firstly, though, isn’t it nice to be starting in sunshine?
It has taken a pandemic to make it happen – and it clearly comes at a cost in terms of cramming in fixtures later – but the season beginning on March 26th…? Let this happen again. And again. Please.
Thought went into this weekend and it feels right for the future, too, even if the Six Nations did still manage to gatecrash the kick-off slightly with last night’s delayed and rearranged France v Scotland contest.
Down to business. Is it foolish to predict anyone other than St Helens, Wigan Warriors or Leeds Rhinos for the Betfred Super League title?
History suggests so. They are the only clubs to win it in the last 15 years.
Add Bradford Bulls to that equation and they are the only four clubs to prosper in a quarter of a century.
Nevertheless, just as every week sees a losing side get closer to a win, so every year sees trophyless clubs get closer to silverware; it must end soon (check notes to see if wrote this last season).
All of that said, I still don’t think it will be Warrington Wolves’ year, with or without the great GI and even given it’s Steve Price’s last campaign as coach.
Gareth Widdop struggled last year, as did Blake Austin, and although Daryl Clark continues to fire – good news for England in this World Cup year – I cannot see any reason to get on them for a Grand Final win.
If we avoid the aforementioned trio for a moment, and just look at other possible contenders, I feel Castleford Tigers could yet achieve it.
A lot has to fall into place for that to happen; namely, Jake Trueman, Danny Richardson and Paul McShane staying fit and healthy for the majority of the campaign and Niall Evalds – their much longed-for specialist full-back – to be as good as everyone has been saying he is in training.
Given what he has invested into the club in these last eight years, it would be a perfect send-off for Daryl Powell to lift that trophy at Old Trafford and banish the eventual nightmare of 2017.
Of the other likely lads, Huddersfield Giants must feel confident of pushing into that top-four given the level of their recruitment.
Ian Watson knows how to get the best out of teams and he could work wonders there. In contrast, Brett Hodgson only has one new signing at Hull FC but that is Josh Reynolds. Can the pair of them help a clearly talented squad find that much-needed consistency?
They have potential. Still, most people are plumping on Saints.
It is hard to argue otherwise. But it’s over to the main protagonists now. Good luck one and all.
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