With the recent World Cup occupying the minds of rugby league fans over the close season, as well as England’s brave attempt to conquer the southern hemisphere just falling short in the final against the Aussies, attention now turns to the start of the domestic season.
Salford Red Devils had an impressive season last time out, in what proved to be the last under owner Marwan Koukash. The season saw a run to the semi-final of the Challenge Cup, only to suffer a narrow defeat to Wigan and the club holding 4th place at the end of the regular season.
Unfortunately, Salford ran out of steam and a disappointing Super 8 stage saw the club slide from the last play-off spot to finish 7th. Now under fan ownership, and numerous ins and outs, a transitional season is beckoning, though the signing of Jack Littlejohn from the NRL could prove shrewd business if preseason form is anything to go off.
Success this year is likely to be proving the bookmakers wrong though with a top 8 finish and avoiding the dreaded Qualifiers.That is exactly where the Toronto Wolfpack intend to be come September however.
After expectedly sweeping all before them in their debut season in League 1, a sterner challenge awaits the Wolfpack in an increasingly international Championship. Their match against Toulouse has been added to the Super League magic weekend – the first time a Championship fixture has appeared at the annual rugby league extravaganza.
Playing all 11 away games back to back in the first half of the season will be demanding, but anything otherthan a top 4 finish and a shot at promotion to Super League will be seen as a failure for the ambitious Canadian outfit.
With Leigh Centurions and London Broncos looking to bounce back to the top division and clubs such as Featherstone and Halifax eyeing another top 4 finish, they won’t have it all their own way.
Could this be the year more than one club earn promotion in what is likely to be a very competitive round of end of season qualifiers?
What odds on the ‘Million Pound’ game promotion shoot out being held in North America come October – the RFL certainly hope so for interest across the Atlantic. The Wolfpack have other ideas and will be aiming to secure promotion before then, with the opening game trip to Leigh will give us an early indication.