Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Part Two of my Review

It’s fair to say that the review of my preview took slightly longer than I thought it would yesterday, so I’ll try to condense my thoughts into more manageable bites here!

7. Warrington Wolves

My prediction: 5th

I identified that James Lowes was not ready to coach at the highest level in Super League but paid too much respect to the team’s ability on paper.

New coach Tony Smith has transformed the attitude at Warrington, and they are already becoming a more consistent side, even though they have a long way to go. The Wolves are still over reliant on the erratic but individual brilliance of Lee Briers, although Tony Smith has generated more consistent play from the whole side which makes Warrington as dangerous a side as any outside the top two, although it will be next year before we see them at their best.

8. Wigan Warriors

My prediction: 4th

I identified Tim Smith as a key player, and the fact that he was dropped for a part of the season illustrates why I got this wrong! Wigan have shown what they are capable of, but they have on the whole disappointed. Their forward pack is playing well below expectations, and their backline comprises players who are not reaching their potential.

Looking forward, Wigan’s comeback against Hull KR showed great spirit coming as it did following the suspension of Gareth Hock and the speculation of Brian Noble’s future. Add in the superb way that Brian Noble has handled talented youngsters Sam Tomkins and Sean Ainscough by relieving them of the pressure that has killed the career of several talented youngsters and Wigan are a far more dangerous side than their position suggests.

9. Hull FC

My prediction: 7th

Hull won their first five games, but aside from two close victories over Salford, have lost ten of their last eleven games! What has gone wrong? An injury crisis hasn’t helped, but the main issue is the fact that their halfbacks have the incision of a butter knife. Their average points per game of 19 is way too low to be a strong competitor in Super League, and whilst they do have some good players to come back from injury, I’m not sure I see the talent in the halves to mount a serious challenge this year.

10. Castleford Tigers

My prediction: 13th

I did not rate Castleford at the start of the season, and I probably still underrate them now. That said, they have lost nine of their last eleven games. Their backline has a long way to go although Richard Owen and Michael Shenton have high potential, and their forwards would appear to lack the necessary bite. However, with Rangi Chase in exceptional form, and the wily Brent Sherwin nearing a return from injury, it would be a foolish man who rules them out of the top 8 race.

11. Catalans Dragons

My prediction: 9th

The French outfit struggled at the start of the year, and a lot of this may be related to new coach Kevin Walters acclimatising to Super League. I haven’t seen the Dragons as much as most other teams, but the third worst defence in the league points to a deficiency which requires a fix. After all, the Dragons have both the size up front and the creative talent and finishing ability to trouble even the league’s best defence, but if you concede 31 to your 30, it becomes a bit of a waste.

12. Bradford Bulls

My prediction: 3rd

Now this one I could write an essay on.

Firstly, when I made this prediction, Bradford had signed Greg Bird and he would have offered a creative presence that the Bulls sorely lack.

However, look at Bradford’s first choice pack. Andy Lynch, Terry Newton, Sam Burgess, Steve Menzies, Glenn Morrison, David Solomona. Bench: Jamie Langley, Wayne Godwin, Nick Scruton, Matt Cook / Michael Worrincy.

In my mind, that was and is the best pack in Super League, especially the back three. However, David Solomona and Glenn Morrison have missed most, if not all of the season. As has Wayne Godwin, and Sam Burgess has moved around to cover for the losses, reducing his impact.

What that proves, is how big injuries can be. That, and a three quarter line that frankly, is amongst the worst in Super League. Rikki Sherrife and Michael Platt are two of the most error prone backs in the game and Chris Nero is a back rower out of position.

It really grates me when the usually silent crowd at Odsal get on Steve McNamara’s back. McNamara is a quality coach who is doing a very good job on very tight resources and who can not be blamed for the way injuries have disrupted their preparation. With the right recruitment, including some finishing ability out wide and creative ability in the halves, the Bulls could be a top side next year.

In the meantime, continue to lay Bradford in double figures against Leeds and St Helens, and I’ll gladly take your money all year long.

13. Salford City Reds

My prediction: 12th

Not much to say here. Salford have performed to expectations after a poor start. The drama concerning Richie Myler’s future won’t help, but the City Reds are a solid team who have produced some good performances this season, but lack the overall skill to be a contender for the top 8 at the moment.

14. Celtic Crusaders

My prediction: 14th

I finally get one right!!! Still, the Crusaders have shown ability this year, but need to build on this in the way Catalans built upon their first year. Wins over Bradford and Wigan are as good as anyone could have hoped for, and hopefully the game will continue to grow in Wales. No-one said it would be easy, and it hasn’t been, but there is hope for the future.

So, there you have a brief overview of the season so far. Obviously, my long term predictions have been shown to be suspect, but if you held a gun to my head and made me predict the finishing positions of the teams, I would have to go for.

St Helens, Leeds, Hull KR, Harlequins, Huddersfield, Warrington, Wakefield, Bradford, Wigan, Castleford, Catalans, Hull FC, Salford, Celtic. But be warned, my long term predicting isn’t great!

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