Monday, 29 June 2009

A review of my preview.

Part One.

I mentioned that I would try to run through some of the basic notions that underpin my approach to trading in Rugby League. For anyone relatively new to the sport, it might be a good idea to briefly run through how the teams have performed this season as against their expectations and to try to give you a brief overview of the teams.

At the start of the year, I came up with a brief preview, which on the face of it, looks pretty poor! However, if you can understand why such predictions were made, then that will help you to understand where the teams are now, and where they are headed to, so in the current league order, allow me to take the p.

In current league order.

St Helens

My prediction: 2nd.

I didn’t so much place Saints second, as Leeds first, and there is little argument that these are the top two sides in Super League. My biggest concern with Saints was the strength of their squad, and that was justified. However, this season has seen an incredible crop of youth emerge with not just the potential to become great players, but with the mental ability and appropriate technique to contribute now.

If you look at Saints’ squad, you can see that Kyle Eastmond, Chris Dean, Gareth Frodsham, Gary Wheeler, Andrew Dixon, Matty Ashurst, Tom Armstrong, Johnny Lomax and Jacob Emmitt have all played.

Of those, only Kyle Eastmond would have been a recognised name to all but the keenest of RL fans, and whilst Gary Wheeler and Gareth Frodsham had been seen to have potential, it has been the emergence of the likes of Ashurst, Lomax and even Chris Dean that has been the most surprising. The youngsters have filled in with very little drop off which is an outstanding achievement, whilst Mick Potter has handled their development very well, by not over burdening them or setting expectations too high.

With Sean Long and Keiron Cunningham improving like fine wine, Matt Gidley, Leon Pryce and Jon Wilkin producing consistently excellent performances, and James Graham and James Roby living up to their standards there is no doubt that Saints are at the top of the class, although there is still a long way to go before the champions of Super League XIV are to be crowned at Old Trafford.

Leeds Rhinos

My prediction: 1st

Brian McClennan’s reputation seemed to be on the rise following Leeds’ 2008 Grand Final win, and I thought that his experience over the relatively untested Mick Potter would be the difference between the two top sides in SL at the end of the year.

However, McClennan’s star has dimmed and Leeds have not looked at their fluent best all season. Pinpointing the Rhinos’ problem is difficult. They are still clearly the 2nd best team in the competition, the 1b to Saints’ 1a, and the Rhinos have the potential to turn it around.

If they do have a weakness, it would be in their forwards, where overseas recruit Greg Eastwood was denied entry to the country, and where aside from Jamie Peacock, they lack a player who can be relied upon to make the hard yards throughout the course of the game, and if you can’t get down the pitch, it doesn’t matter who your creators are.

Hull KR

My prediction: 6th

Hull KR evidence what was wrong with my preview on the whole. For a long time, there have been an established top 4 of St Helens, Leeds, Bradford and Wigan, and maybe I was too deferential to their claims whilst ignoring others’. I recognised that Hull KR would be amongst the best of the rest, and their superb early start including a draw at Bradford and a win at St Helens confirmed this.

Again, they are lead by an excellent coach, and what has been most noticeable, has been the performances of back rowers Ben Galea and Clint Newton who have really impressed. KR’s impressive list of prop forwards including the evergreen, battle hardened Mick Vella and Nick Fozzard have also helped to set the platform for Michael Dobson, who has proven to be a perfect fit for Hull KR.


My prediction: 11th

I said that I thought 5th to 11th was too close to call and wanted to place the Giants higher but could not find room for them. Truth be told, I did not see the excellent job that Nathan Brown would do, and the former Aussie hooker’s best worse has been with Scott Moore, who has improved ten fold from last year. Moore’s potential, (he debuted in style against Wigan at just 16 for St Helens) and the skills of fullback Brett Hodgson have helped to ease some of the pressure from Luke Robinson, who is clearly at his best when he is liberated from organisational duties. Add in some excellent forward displays from Eorl Crabtree and the underrated Simon Finnigan and Stephen Wild, and it is easier to understand the Giants’ current league placing.

However, the Giants have looked to freeze on the bigger stage, and there must be some doubt as to whether they are just a good side who excel against lesser sides, or a side who are capable of challenging at the very top.


My prediction: 8th

Harlequins have been the feel good story of Super League. I anticipated their talented youngsters developing further under some excellent coaching, and that has clearly come true. The Quins are no longer a side full of Aussies coming over for a pension but are a team made up of talented youngsters, with some very good British players who know their way around Super League.

In terms of possible weaknesses, the Quins don’t have the biggest squad, and will really miss captain Rob Purdham and halfback Luke Dorn who are both out for several weeks still, but the Quins are a club with the arrow firmly pointing up.


My prediction: 10th

Like Huddersfield, I thought that Wakefield could do much better than 10th, but struggled to place them higher. Wakefield have an excellent coach and are traditionally very fast starters, and they won seven from their first ten, only falling to St Helens, Leeds and Hull KR. Since then, their form has been dropped off which probably represents their long term potential more accurately.

However, you have to admire Wakefield’s fighting spirit given the fact that they have achieved so much despite the off season death of Adam Watene and the death of Liam Walker in an academy match. Under John Kear, the Wildcats are capable of beating anyone, but they are equally capable of losing to anyone.

Coming tomorrow: A review of 7th to 14th.

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