Holy shit! One minute I’m moping abouth the end of the World Cup, and having to make do with Ice Hockey and the NFL for my contact sport fix, and the next minute it turns out that Super League restarts in a week! How the time flies! Admittedly, it’s starting a week earlier than usual so both Harlequins and Leeds can play Manly over the next few weeks, and really the season properly kicks off in two weekends time, but sod that. Once the ball is kicked-off at Headingley next Friday, the season’s begun again,
Of course, this season is more interesting than most because it is the start of the Brave New World we now live in, or the Licence Era as it has also been called (by me, just now). We got a little taste of this last year, but now we know that none of these sides will be relegated at the end of the season. It will be interesting to see if this has the effect of allowing more British youngsters to have starting opportunities, which was one of the main reasons behind the switch to licences. There were signs that this might be the case last season, and it was particularly nice to see a club like Harlequins (long known as a side of backpacking Aussies) bringing through their own talent.
What also makes this season really interesting is the introduction of two new teams (which also has the positive side effect of evening out the fixture list so teams only have to threepeat with one other side now) in Salford City Reds and Celtic Crusaders. Salford have of course done this whole Super League thing before, and have mostly been encamped in the nether regions of mediocrity (they have only made the playoffs once), but they have some emerging talent coming through. For Celtic though, this is a whole new ball game, and the Rugby League watching public will be looking to see if they can compete with the big boys. They will also have the added pressure of being expected to introduce a new breed of Welsh superstars who have been missing from the game ever since Rugby Union went fully professional. Of course, given that Harlequins have only really started doing this after 25 years, I think it’ll take a while before we get a plethora of Welsh talent back in the game, but at least the opportunity for it to happen has now been made easier.
Apart from that, a lot of the questions are the same: Who can stop Leeds and Saints? Are Wigan about to hit the big time again? Will Warrington finally stop under-achieving? How small will Quins’ crowds be? What does the ref think he’s doing?
Anyway, over the next week or so I’ll have previews of each team and their chances. I should be doing two a day, but obviously there’s scope for that to go horribly wrong. And I may even get around to answering some of the above questions…