Ahead of the 2021 season we’ve asked fans from all clubs (with varying success!) for their thoughts ahead of the big kick off. So from the South of France to the South Stand at Leeds we’ve gathered their thoughts on what went right or wrong for them last season, their recruitment, their predictions and more.

Our thanks to each and every fan who has taken the time to respond, click on each tab to find out what they expect from 2021!

 

First of all tell us a little about yourself
I’m 25 years old and have watched Warrington for well over a decade. I’m currently a season ticket holder and get to quite a few away games – I live in Leeds so the Yorkshire away games are all pretty local. I’ve never been brave enough to play rugby league – football and snooker have been better for me! I write You’ve Got A Loose Wire, my blog all about Warrington, with focuses on the rest of the league and the NRL too. I also contribute to the excellent What Would Brian Bevan Say? podcast.

Sum up last season as a Wire – what went right, what went wrong, any surprises or disappointments?

What went wrong? How long have you got?! The season was split into three parts. We had an awful start, a really good middle, and a shocking end. Defensively we were pretty good but the main problems were in attack – our coach doesn’t promote offensive rugby so it’s difficult for us to score a high number of points. Blake Austin and Gareth Widdop didn’t fire like people would’ve hoped and the suspension to top scorer Tom Lineham was a big miss. Youngster Matty Ashton had a brilliant first year and Stefan Ratchford, Toby King, Ben Currie and Mike Cooper all had good seasons. But overall it was another year of abject failure.

Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?
Sad to see Toronto go because they were ambitious and had a lot of support behind them. But was it ever going to work logistically? I’m not sure. Leigh are a decent club, no complaints from me.
How do you think the Wolves will go in 2021? 
I’m not particularly excited about Warrington’s chances this season. Steve Price is a great guy but an average coach and the squad hasn’t been strengthened anywhere near enough. Any kind of improvement on last season would be seen as successful, I guess, so anywhere in the top 3 and at least one final appearance is what would be needed for it to be a good season. But more of interest for me is some of the off-field stuff – who will be appointed as coach? What will happen to the 14 off-contract players? Getting that right will be as big as on-field success this year.
If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans? 
He should’ve been gone at the end of 2019. To somehow cling on for 2020 and then for 2021 is nothing short of a miracle. Announcing his departure at the end of the season so early means there is always a chance that he could go mid-season but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Who do you want to replace Steve Price?
Powell would definitely be my first choice. Plays attractive rugby and has always overachieved on a small budget at Castleford. Also, I’m a big fan of Jake Trueman and I think getting Powell as coach could aid Warrington’s hopes of getting the young half-back. I wouldn’t say no to Shaun Wane but I think there’s a few too many Wigan connections in the squad already.
Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made? 
Once again, Warrington’s recruitment has been nothing short of terrible. Greg Inglis is a rugby league superstar but it’s a huge gamble – he hasn’t played for two years and the early signs aren’t great (not ready to play Round One). Robbie Mulhern and Rob Butler are pretty average signings, all in all. The forwards department is still far too light and extremely reliant on Mike Cooper. We needed a starting quality prop and a quality second rower to go next to Ben Currie (I’d have liked to have seen Jack Hughes at 13). Personally, I’d have moved heaven and Earth to get rid of Austin and replace him with a younger, better half-back. One who turns up in big games. So, yeah, it’s pretty much the same squad that has failed in the last two years. Disappointing recruitment window again.
Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?
Gareth Widdop. It looked for all money that he was leaving, he ended up staying. He’s said himself that he didn’t play as well as he can do last year but is more settled now and completely focused on rugby. He was the best player on the pitch in the pre-season win over Leigh.
Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?
Youth is not something Warrington have done well with in recent years. But I’ve been impressed with Eribe Doro, a forward, in his appearances so far.
Predictions:
Top 6: Wigan, St Helens, Hull FC, Warrington, Leeds, Huddersfield.
Grand Final/Champions: Wigan/Saints final… can’t call a winner.
Challenge Cup: Think Warrington may win the cup, we tend to do well in that competition.
Relegated: Between Wakefield, Leigh and KR for relegation. I’ll go for KR.
If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?
The on-field call. I feel like I say this on a weekly basis. The on-field referees are being forced to guess on whether it’s a try or not. The whole purpose of the video referee is to be used when the on-field referee doesn’t know. Scrap the on-field call, and ask the video referee to make the decision without having their mind made up for them already by the on-field referee.

 

First of all tell us a little about yourself

I’ve Been watching Wakefield for about 22 years, followed them home and away for nearly all of that time. I run the Trinity Fans Facebook group too after the last one got abandoned by the previous regime. In terms of playing, I managed about 5 open age games before realising I was too soft so now I play Try Tag Rugby!

Sum up last season as a Trinity fan
Pretty poor really, we just couldn’t find a way to win even when we were competitive. Eventually heads went down and it became a real slog to try and pick up points. Hull KR saved our blushes by being even worse but all in all it was a season to forget.
Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?
I really wanted the Wolfpack to work out, but I think based on what happened there wasn’t really a case to keep them in at the end  A shame because for a while it looked like they were building something quite special at the Lamport.  Leigh were probably the fairest and most sensible choice but I have to admit to being pretty underwhelmed. I’d have preferred to see a Toulouse or maybe even a York with their new stadium, but can’t really argue with Leigh.
How do you think Wakey will fare in 2021?
I’m really not sure, we’ve been poor for a couple of years now despite having a decent team on paper. We’ve just not managed to get everyone firing at the same time and its cost us. I think a successful season would be if we were pushing for the last playoff spot towards the end of the year and got to the Semis of the cup. Though if I was having a bet, I’d say we’ll finish 10th ahead of Leigh and HKR, and probably quarters of the cup.
If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans?
Yes – there’s already a lot of doubt that Chester is the man to bring us up the table, I think he’ll start the season as one of the favourites to get the boot first. Hopefully the additions of Andy Last and Willie Poching will take some pressure off Chris and it won’t come to that though – good lad is Chester and I really hope the local lad succeeds.
Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made?
Recruitment hasn’t been ideal with Covid etc. but Mason Lino coming in at Scrum half could be the guy to finally get us ticking, not seen much of him but he comes with a reasonable record in the NRL and looks to have a great kicking game.  I still think we are light at prop which could cause problems if we get injuries and I think this could bite us in the backside later in the season.
Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?
I think Max Jowitt at Fullback could finally produce a memorable season, he’s been getting better and better in recent years and I fancy him to grab the headlines this time round, if we can find a way to exploit his passing skills
Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?
James Batchelor hasn’t quite lived up to his potential so far, but he’s another one who is developing year on year and now at 22 I think he’s ready to start more games and show what he can do.
Prediction time:
Top 6 – Wigan, Saints, Leeds, Wire, Hull, Huddersfield
Grand Final: Leeds vs Wigan
Champions: Wigan
Challenge Cup: Saints
Relegated: Leigh
If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?
I think we need to find a way to speed up the ruck in SL to similar to how it is in the NRL.  I’ve been watching a lot of NRL during lockdown and it’s so refreshing to see the defenders clearing the rucks without any nonsense or too much wrestling etc.

First of all tell us a little about yourself
I’ve been Hull FC home, away, over sea, Australia, the lot since my dad first took me to the Boulevard in the late 90s. Been running the fanzine ‘Up the Cream’ since 2015. We are in-print, but we also have a website and podcast. It’s good craic. Just can’t wait to get back to games…
Sum up last season as an Airlie Bird. 
What went right? The opening round performance at Leeds was good, as was the play-off display at Warrington, but that’s about it. Having assembled the ‘best squad ever’ the season was underwhelming to say the least. Too many big defeats ultimately cost Lee Radford his job. That was a dark night back in March, the last time we fans have been through the turnstiles. Getting your head around watching on the television post-lockdown was weird. Hate not being there, as do we all. Then to be the first club to contract covid and all the finger pointing, to answering fixture rallying calls at the eleventh hour, to being eighty minutes from a Grand Final despite a Jekyll and Hyde defence and questionable attack. Yeah, 2020 was mental. Proper mental.
Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?Leigh are a proud rugby league foundation club, yet they are not a metropolitan powerhouse that the hipster expansionists demand for our comp these days. However, they have a squad that can be competitive, and the decision to allow them into Super League was based on which club would be best prepared given such short notice, right? If so, I can accept that. If not, well talk about hypocrisy. Let’s not forget good old Derek threw all his toys out his pram a couple of years ago when Leigh had no chance of going up again in the Qualifiers. Players were shown the door quicker than Bevan French runs a hundred metres. So, if Leigh are here for anything other than their playing squad, then it stinks.
Toronto. Bloody hell. On one hand you’ve got unpaid bills, players worrying about finances, and a bloke reportedly turning up to his clubs D-Day meeting via his cars hands free set up. Then you’ve got Lamport Stadium, five figure crowds, beer tents, and potentially the whole North American market. Tricky one. Again, what stinks is other clubs holding the power to vote them out, yet their replacement was chosen by an independent body. It’s all nothing new. Just another example of rugby leagues ability to turn a swan into an ugly duckling. The administration of the game is horrendous.
How do you think FC will go in 2021? 
Hull spend a lot of money on the cap and you have to say that over the years we have underachieved. We should have won the comp in 2016. That was a massive missed opportunity, similar to Castleford in 2017. But we can’t dwell on the past. Times have changed. Wigan and St Helens are the benchmark again, the Grand Final last year was nothing short of sensational, and it’ll take a lot to get even remotely close to that level. That said the minimum expectation for me is a play-off spot. We have a new coach in Brett Hodgson and it might take some time, but with Jake Connor at fullback and with Josh Reynolds alongside Marc Sneyd, he’s got some sharp tools to work with. Hull are capable of a top six finish, and perhaps a cup run too. I just want to see us play some good rugby, and avoid the sort of humiliating big defeats that make you want to crawl under a rock.
If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans?
It’s Hull FC. Win and we’re going to Old Trafford. Lose and coach gets hung, drawn and quartered. There’s no in-between.
Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made?
Another forward would have been nice, but I actually like how the club are putting trust in good young players like Joe Cator, Jordan Lane and Jack Brown. Our one new signing Josh Reynolds is a huge one. He arrives with more pedigree than recent Aussie acquisitions that now call Super League home. Sure, he’s had a couple of tough years at Wests Tigers, but he’s still a superb player and he’s come to Hull with bags of enthusiasm. He just gets it. He’ll be a huge hit with our fans this year.
Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?
Jake Connor. Towards the back end of last season he moved to fullback and was nothing short of outstanding. He’s one of the most naturally talented players in Super League. He’ll play in a dinner jacket and put tries on a plate this year.
Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?
Jack Brown. Our squad is thin and when the injuries bite it’s players like Brown who will have to answer the call. It’s easy to expect too much from a young player, but he’s impressed me every time I’ve seen him.
Prediction time:
Top Six: St Helens, Wigan, Warrington, Hull, Leeds, Catalans.
Grand Final: Repeat of last year. Three peat is on for you Saints. Get excited.
Cup: Wigan
Relegation: Leigh
If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?
The lack of internationals. It’s a whole different ball game, but it’s the best way to grow the game. England haven’t played in two and a half years. Covid or no Covid, that’s shocking.

First of all tell us a little about yourself

About a decade ago I started casually following the club, keeping an eye on scores here and there, mainly because my dad’s watched Huddersfield for decades. Around 2012 I started watching a few games, in 2013 I got my first season ticket and I’ve had one every year since!

Sum up last season for the Giants.
It started great, it’s hard to remember now but we were arguably the form team before lockdown – but that just made the second half of the season even more disappointing. Our return fixture against Leeds summed up the whole season nicely – dominant for the first hour, suddenly we’ve got no bench and a halfback with a broken thumb. Before you know it, we’ve collapsed and suffered the first of several one-score losses.
Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?Leigh weren’t the most inspired choice and I get why people were left underwhelmed, adding a second Wigan team to replace a North American one. But the more I think about the more I’d reluctantly say it makes sense, of all the candidates they were best placed to step in at the last minute and be at least a little competitive. Long term I’d love to see the likes of Toulouse in Super League but with so much uncertainty around travel rules, it was probably a year too early.
I am sad to see Toronto go, but unfortunately also think it was probably the right decision. The debate around it seems to be watered down to “is expansion good”, but it was much more complicated than that. I think the game does need to expand, and building a profile in more countries can only be a good thing, but that doesn’t mean desperately handing the keys to anyone “because Toronto”, and there were some serious question marks over the proposed takeover.
How do you think Huddersfield will go in 2021? 
My takeaway from our friendly against Leeds was a lot of really good individual efforts but some rustiness as a team. That was to be expected really, we’ve got a new coach and a big turnover of key players, plus obviously the nature of friendlies means that the team on the field will change every 5 minutes. It might take a few rounds for us to really click, but when we do I expect us to be a tough side to beat. When you look at how many games we lost by one score last year, you realise we’re talking fine margins to move us up the table. So play-offs are the minimum expectation, and I’d love to see us have a good cup run
If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans?
Probably, it’s rugby league, we’ll be seeing #WatsonOut minutes after our first loss. But as I said above, I think it might take time for us to really hit our stride as a team, so I’d hope that after years of fast turnaround with coaches, we give Ian enough time to build the side he wants
Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made?
Overall I’m really happy with the new signings on and off the field, there’s a few international caps and bags of experience even though it’s a relatively young group. 5 of our 8 newcomers (Leutele, Yates, Jones, Greenwood & Ashworth) have either won silverware in recent years or at least played in a major final with younger players like Cogger, Cunningham and Ashall-Bott the exact kind of young players you want propping up the main side. The only concern is we’ve sacrificed size for fitness, with a lot of prop/second-row players and few out-and-out props.
This might not be the answer you’re looking for – but honestly our best signing will be Greg Brown. Fitness has been our biggest issue for the last 5 years, we brought in a top S&C coach for 2020 and looked a different side. He left the club during the COVID hiatus and suddenly we were back to old ways. Brown was one of the major reasons we were so competitive in the early 2010s, and a huge factor in how Salford were able to reach finals with a relatively small squad. If he can keep players fit, it will make the difference for us.
If you’re after a player though, there’s a lot of competition but I’d say Josh Jones. He was in great form for the friendly and has plenty to prove after a quiet 2020.
Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?
I could say Josh Jones again, but I’m gonna move past the new signings and say Lee Gaskell. Sezer will be the first name on the teamsheet, but Gasky will need to be at his best to keep his place in the side with Jack Cogger in the mix. When he’s in form and he gels with Sezer it’s great to see, but he had a bit of a stop-start 2020 so hopefully the competition at 6 will keep things interesting
Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?
Ashall-Bott will get his chance from the outset with Golding set to miss the first two months. But I think Oliver Wilson will be out to make a name for himself this year. With so few out-and-out props in the side, he’s got what it takes to push his way into the team and put in some big performances
Predictions:
Top 6 (alphabetical, not by position): Huddersfield Hull Leeds Saints Warrington Wigan
Grand Final: Wigan and Saints
Cup: Giants? Yeah let’s say Giants
Relegation: I see Wakefield and Leigh as nailed on bottom 2, and Leigh seem the obvious choice. But if Beaumont throws enough money at the right mid-season signings, Wakey could face the drop
If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?
For me, the biggest issue in the game is its constant short-termism, so I’d love to see some long term plans put in place. International calendars, league structure, everything. Let’s get that cancelled Aussie test booked in, with more games planned against Scotland, Ireland and France. Changing the 2021 league structure (for non-COVID reasons) should be unthinkable, but maybe 2022 could be planned in such a way that allows for a 14 or 16 team league in 2023.

First of all tell us a little about yourself

My name is James and I live in South Lincolnshire where I run the old RLFans sang.et.or site which is now at http://ukcatalansdragons.blogspot.com. My Father in Law used to own a holiday home just south of the border from Perpignan which is how I got into the club about 12 years ago.

I mainly watch us away of course, along with my Wife and 2 daughters. It’s a pain London not being in Superleague any more from our travel perspective. I play touch rugby down here in the sunny South as its the closest thing to league they do in this Union stronghold. I am in my late 40s so I am not too bothered about having loads of contact, I just want to get my hands on the ball and imagine I am Thomas Bosc. The closest I get is having his name on the back of my shirt!
Sum up last season as a Dragon. 
Last season was a total bust for a whole host of reasons. Folau was a PR disaster and his signing was never going to work, there is too much bad blood towards him. As a parent who has told my kids the importance of inclusion and diversity we took the year off buying merchandise and wouldn’t have gone to watch the team play. We had to do our bit and send out our message that his social media content was not ok.
On the park we did well to get to the playoffs but after beating Leeds had totally run out of legs by the match with your team.
It would have been a tall order had we not been hopping on and off a plane for 2 months, but the state some of the lads were in was a factor. We were lucky that you coasted the last 10 minutes!
Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go? 
Yes. Expansion is key to the game growing and evolving.
I know that’s not a popular view in the heartlands. I get that. Plenty of people have been skeptical of a lad born in the Huntingdonshire fens wanting to play, watch and write about the game. But do what you’ve always done and get what you always get is a relevant adage here. Whether Toronto were right or not we appear to now be saying that New York and Ottawa are more than likely not welcome.
We have such an exciting sport which is still family focused and still attractive to watch (think of Premier League soccer for comparison), so share that with other people. They might make the experience even better. As for Leigh, maybe… I don’t know who I would have picked.
How do you think your team will go in 2021? 
The financial pressure on the club means I will be happy mid-table. But if that means we don’t waste money on crap old Englishmen or Aussies then I am happy. Correntin Le Cam and Romain Franco are two players who can make it in Super League. 100%. So it’s up to the club to give them game time.
No more Lucas Alberts for me. Play them and stick with them. The French talent we have spoilt and wasted by putting an old Brent Webb or Willie Mason on the park ahead of them is a complete joke.
We might do something in the cup, but it seems our Wembley run in 2018 has used up our luck for the next 10 years!
I won’t mention that any more to you as the semi final will probably still rankle with you.
If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans? 
He has to be. For me there is nowhere to hide and hasn’t been for years. McNamara is a polarising coach and you either love him or hate him.
But. The players he has had at his disposal mean one trophy isn’t enough. You look at the resources that Catalans have had and he has not made the best of them. I have to stress that it is my opinion and mine alone.
Secondly the patterns of play and the style have gone backwards under him. We are boring to watch and predictable to play against and that is on the coach. When we used to throw the ball about a bit more and go at teams from all areas of the pitch we might have still taken a few hidings, but at least we were entertaining.  Now I dread going to the likes of your place, Wigan, Wire as I know we will play percentages until the penalties overwhelm us and we fall away on the scoreboard.
It’s really frustrating.
Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made (and why)? 
We need a centre of course now that Folau and Mead have gone. Whare coming in is a good signing but we need someone else to play there. I think it will end up being a cut priced Tony Gigot!
The two forwards Dudson and McMeeken I am a bit meh about to be honest. It doesn’t make me think we will be swashbuckling in our play.
Which ONE of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?
Feel free to hate on me for this but it has to be Sam Tomkins.
He is our main strike threat and has a world cup team to try and get in. Other than that it’s the youngster Le Cam. He scored a try in our French domestic league the other week and being over 2 metres tall was tackled what looked like a long way out. But, by the time he’d fallen and extended his arm he was over the line!
Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season? 
I want to say Romain Franco from the domestic side. He is fast, strong and has a bit of devilment in him. He knows where the try line is as well.
Does Tom Davies still count? He was a real plus last season when he got fit.
Predictions: 
Top 6: Saints/Wigan/Wire/Hull FC/Leeds/Huddersfield
GF and Champions: Saints and Wire in the final. I have to say Saints right ?
Challenge Cup: Leeds will win the cup of course, they always seem to.
Relegated: I think Leigh might cause a shock and stay up which spells disaster for Wakey.
If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?
More exposure. 100%. This game cannot remain Britains best kept sporting secret. It could be all that it is and so much more if people backed it and stood up for it. Whoever takes over the running of Super League, whether its their own person or Ralph Rimmer has to make that number 1 priority.
Put the sport, its players and its fans front and centre. Get that right and the petty stuff that divides fans and clubs now will seem far less significant.

 

First of all tell us a little about yourself 

Hello, I’m Lawrie. I’m a Leeds Rhinos season ticket holder and I’ve been a fan of the Loiners since 1993. I try to go to most away games and love a good mini bus piss up for an away day. I run the @Loinersview twitter account and we occasionally do podcasts as well.

Sum up last season as a fan

Tough, was heartbreaking not going to Wembley but was good to see us lift a trophy. Overall it was an alright season and we started to see groundwork set after a few seasons of chaos we finally look a decent team

Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?

Honestly I think its a tragedy that the sport didnt look to help out Toronto and the benefits that having a sport in a big city would bring. The decision to bring Leigh in is simply “meh”

How do you think your team will go in 2021?

Ideally top 5 and Challenge Cup Semi Finals and giving some more game time to our youngsters

If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans?

Leeds fans are always wanting & craving success but Richard Agar is doing a good job at Headingley for me. As long as we are competitive and and not towards the bottom he will be ok.

Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made (and why)?

We’ve made a few interesting signings for 2021. Zane Tetevano is a monster of a signing with lots of NRL experience and plenty of go forward. King Vuniyayawa is a a bit of a random 1 year deal signing so not too hopeful there and then we have Kyle Eastmond, honestly I’m delighted at as Robert Lui needs some competition….

Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season? 

Zane Tetevano. A NZ international who has started 2 of the 3 last NRL Grand Finals, could be huge in 2021

Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?

We have quite a few to keep an eye on but Jack Broadbent a young centre (who can play in most back positions) could make a big impact on the Rhinos squad and given Ash Handley is out for first month or so of Super League that could open a door for him

Predictions: 

Top 6 in order; Saints, Wigan, Wire, Leeds, Dragons, Hull FC.

GF: Saints vs Wigan with Saints winning.

Challenge Cup: Wigan to win CC

Relegated: Wakey to be relegated

If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?

NRL to buy Super League, imagine being run by professionals for a change.

First of all tell us a little about yourself 

Hi everyone and best wishes for the new Rugby League season. My name is Paul Whiteside and I’ll try my best to give you my views from a Salford perspective. I’ve been a season ticket holder at Salford since I was about five years old. My dad, Andrew starting going to the matches with his older brother Jeff in the late 1960s. Jeff was a good young player, quite a bit bigger than my dad and he began to make a name for himself at local club Folly Lane. A few clubs in the First Division wanted to sign him and after consulting with his younger brother he decided to join Swinton. He played against Salford in 1975, he went up against the great Maurice Richards who was his opposite winger. Tragedy struck in March 1976 when he got badly injured in an A-team game against Rochdale Hornets. After two months in a specialist hospital in Southport he passed away.
I think this made my dad love the sport even more and I formed a very tight bond with him over Salford RLFC and Rugby League at a very young age. You need a very thick skin though and it’s been tough over the years to keep the faith with little success. It soon became a way of life going to the match together and it means so much. My dads loyalty rubbed off on me big time. I’ll do anything to get to matches, sneaked out of three weddings, slept in train stations and airports. It’s a sense of pride just being there playing your small part.
About five years ago I went on the Devil in the Detail podcast and got hooked. Since then I’ve become an ever present along with Rob Parkinson. I report on Salford matches for the podcast, Salford City Radio and the Salford RLFC supporters trust. I do a lot of writing to including previews, match reports and nostalgia. For the past few years I’ve been writing a book called Heroes, Heart Break and Hope. It’s about my families journey with the sport of Rugby League.

Sum up last season as a Salford fan. 

Last season was certainly a bit surreal. I had a great trip to Perpignan just before the lockdown with my dad and our friend James Hoskison. The result ended in defeat against Catalans but we had a great time.
I was very lucky when the season returned in August to be able to attend the matches with my media pass and carried on following and reporting on Salford. The Challenge Cup was awesome. The wins over Catalans and Warrington are games I’ll remember fondly for a long time. The trip down to Wembley was very bittersweet. I’d dreamt about watching Salford walk out at Wembley with my dad so being sat on my own in the press box with lots of people I didn’t know wasn’t what I had in mind. I lived every second of the match though, I was up and down out of my seat cheering and barking instructions to the players, not that they could hear me! Perhaps losing that match was meant to be. That’s what I’ve thought and it’s comforted me a little. Next time we get there with all our support it will be special and maybe we will get that glorious old Trophy.

After Wembley the season ended with a decent run of form before the news of Ian Watson leaving to coach Huddersfield. I’d got to know Ian having done lots of interviews with him after the matches. I was gutted with the news but life goes on and now we begin a new era in 2021.

Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?

I bought flights for me and my dad for Toronto last year and Air Canada have given me a credit note to use in the future so you never know. It’s somewhere I was really looking forward to going. It was disappointing the way things went for the players and supporters. In my opinion I wouldn’t of promoted anyone from the Championship. I would of let them battle it out this season for promotion. I think it was a bit false to parachute a team in. Having said that I admire Leigh as a club. I’ve got some good friends who are involved there and I really hope they have a good season and prove the critics wrong.

Leigh are a club steeped in history and it’s good to see them back.

How do you think your team will go in 2021?

I am really happy with the squad Salford have put together it’s probably the strongest we’ve had for a long time. Salford have the foundations of a very good side now and there is no doubt the club has made great strides over the last few seasons under the previous regime. Richard Marshall seems the perfect man to lead this club forward. He’s already become a big favourite with the supporters and seeing him join the Supporters Trust solidifies the bond he’s started to forge with the club.

The pre season victory over Wigan has given everyone involved with the club a huge boost. I know these matches don’t count for points or prizes but they can help build structures and confidence. Salford’s desire, organisation and fitness in that match were remarkable. I’d love to see us finish in the playoffs. I think it will be a tough ask with all the other teams looking strong. If I had to make a prediction I’d say sixth place and another Wembley trip that would make me a very happy man.

If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans?

If we’re not successful I don’t think Richard Marshall will be under great pressure he needs to be given time. I don’t think our supporters are that fickle either. We understand the game and apart from the ‘Koukash’ years, coach’s always get a fair chance at Salford.

Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made (and why)? 

Recruitment has been exciting. Dec Patton is a clever player and Danny Addy seems a real worker. Elijah Taylor could be a real gem in the pack and I am expecting him to form the cornerstone of the side. Mark Flanagan was the glue that held our side together in recent years and now he’s retired Elijah could take that role. Joe Burgess was a real wow signing and if he can stay fit he will add pace to what already looks a speedy three quarter line. Harvey Livett is another player who’s always impressed me and he’s a player at the right age too.

Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season? 

The story of young Connor Aspey having a successful trial with the club and signing a professional contract has delighted the supporters. Sponsored by the supporters trust Connor is a player with a huge future. If he gets the chance he’s a player to watch out for. Sam Luckly is a big forward signed from Newcastle and he’s a player who I think will make a huge impact.

Here are my predictions:

Top 6:
St.Helens
Wigan
Leeds
Warrington
Catalans
Salford

Champions is a tough one, I think Wigan and St.Helens look the strongest so toss a coin between those two.
I’d love to see Salford win the cup so I’ll put my head on the block and back us.
Relegation is a tough one, I’d like to see Leigh survive so I’ll say Wakefield to drop down.

If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?

If I could change one thing it would be to bring the sport back together. It’s far to parochial at times. One governing body looking after the sport. I feel this is important. I want all the clubs to survive and the amateur game to flourish it’s very important. I love my club but love the sport.

First of all tell us a little about yourself

I’ve followed HKR for 23 years home and away! Spend 4 seasons at the scholarship / 19s before leaving on loan In 2016 to Newcastle Thunder before a injury hit run in UK/Australia! Stopped playing in 2018 and started commentating and hosting a weekly show for the club before Covid hit! Recently started a podcast “Red Robin Podcast” since January 2021 which has hit the ground running and had some great guests and listeners already! (plug!!!)

Sum up last season as a Robin

2020 as a Hull Kingston Rovers fan ran close to the year itself! (appalling) – we started off with a bang against Wakefield with Ben Crooks scoring 4 in round 1 and the following week saw a very spirited performance against our rivals from the west side of the river hull which gave us robins hope and optimism for 2020 after the heart-breaking trail match which saw Mose Masoe play his last game in RL (I was commentating on that game and still for the life of me get understand how a tackle which looked so ordinary could have caused the injury it did! Recruitment in 2020 saw plenty of journey men sign for the robins who funnily enough have now gone on to pastures new just 12 months later! Just 3 wins in the league which included one against Salford’s B team just 4 days before the red devils ran Leeds close in the CC final proves how low we have sunk in recent years! Two signings that impressed me was Jez Litten (on loan in 2019) and Elliot Minchella who ill be vice-captain for the East Hull outfit in 2021. Both JL and EM are instrumental to out future success and both have bright futures in the game if they carry the form on this season.

Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?

The Wolfpack situation and the state of the game of Rugby League speaks volumes! Going into 2020 with just 23 players on the book which included a certain Sonny-Bill back pocketing 50 grand a week for 25 minutes work! I believe the expansion of the game is vital moving forward and I truly believe this great game is a mockery compared to our cross-code kick and clap partners – which fits in nicely with another Lancashire town in Leigh Centurions joining the top flight replacing the Wolfpack! Leigh had their chance in 2017 when we suffered relegation and I can’t stress how strongly I believe that the wrong decision was made! Toulouse would have gave the SL a French derby which would have gained thousands of supporters in both Perpignan + Toulouse and they also have some cracking players which include former Robins Mitch Garbutt, Junior Vaivai, Saints GF winners Joseph Paulo and Dom Peyroux and two stalwarts in Jonathon Ford + Mark Kheirallah. Having two French teams in the comp also gives away supports a variation of away days with many people booking their holidays around their club! Lets see if Leigh can stay in the top flight this season, Wakefield, Salford and unfortunate ourselves will be praying the Centurions have the same fate as 2017!

How do you think your team will go in 2021?

All fans are optimistic and both FC + ourselves at Rovers are up there for expectations of our clubs! For Hull Kingston Rovers the past 8 seasons have been very inconsistent with nothing but a 50-0 Wembley defeat to shout about (and a promotion with a SL squad in 2017!) as much as I want my club to make the playoffs and compete with Wigan, Saints, Warrington and the like, I just cannot see it. Our last playoff game was in 2013 at Langtree Park which shows our downfall since we lost Dobson, Briscoe, Newton, Galea and the prime Cockayne and Murrell show! Building blocks are massive at HKR and our off field development is outstanding with Paul Lakin taking over from Neil Hudgell to start a “new era” for the Red men in 2021 and getting out of a constant battle against relegation is a must! We must beat the teams around us which is always a struggle for the Robins, we beat Wigan one week then 7 days later concede 40 against Wakefield!

If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans?

When Tony Smith was announced as head coach after the departure of Tim Sheens, something changed at Hull KR. A man who coached England and has won everything in the British game was now at the helm but so far…… he’s become trapped in this Hull KR curse of injury’s, leaky defence and inconsistent performance’s! with assistants Danny McGuire, David Hodgson and Stanley Gene, Smith must drive rovers forward and start the season with a bang, we cannot afford the win the first game then lose 7 and find ourselves at the foot of the table by round 10 with relegation the only thing worth fighting for! Once fans return, if rovers are having another poor season, TS may find himself following Sandercock, Chester and Sheens in the constant batch of coaches who cannot bring HKR into the top half of Super League! (McGuire to be Head coach by 2023!)

Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made (and why)? 

Recruitment is vital with any club and HKR have got it wrong for so many years. Too small, too weak, bang average. You could say that sentence about many HKR teams over the past 8 seasons and 2020 was no different! We’ve gone much bigger in the pack with Brad Takarangi, Albert Vete and Korbin Sims heading to East Hull from the land down under with England’s greatest ever winger Ryan Hall also heading to HU9 reuniting with Smith and Danny Mags. Youngsters Muizz Mustapha and Luis Johnson also bulk the pack and aim to land starting spots with tough competition from George King, George Lawler, Dean Hadley and Matty Storton (not forgetting Minchella and BT AV KS) – when I write this piece, Rovers are 8 days away from the round 1 clash against Catalan and us fans and in all honesty probably the coaching staff, still haven’t a clue who starts 6 + 7. The two main positions in Rugby League IMO! The partnership of Hull born lads Jordan Abdull + Mikey Lewis is the way most fans want TS to go come game day but we also have Takarangi, Litten, Dagger and fringe players in Joe Keyes + Rowan Milnes who can slot in the halves! We must cement a partnership early doors and cannot afford to mix and match like we did last season. Realistically I think TS will start with Abdull and Takarangi just like he did last week in our trial match against Cas which worries me as the 40 minutes they played together, Rovers looked like a Sunday league team!

Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season? 

One player to watch in 2021 for Hull KR is former Paramatta utility Brad Takarangi, a real coup for the robins fighting off Ian Watson’s Huddersfield for his signature. A strong runner with hands of a half back. The Eels kicked to Takarangi whenever they could due to his agility in the air and Hull KR need to do the same, he will be key player for Tony Smiths men this year and will be leader on the field, whatever position he plays. With 178 NRL games and caps for New Zealand and Cook Islands, Takarangi will be vital for Rovers in 2021.

Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season? 

Jez Litten is the bright spark in this side. I played with Jez at West Hull back in our amateur days and he can change a game in seconds. Nimble, fast and a brilliant rugby league brain are all quality’s a hooker needs and Jez has it all, we saw it against Wigan last season when he played the full 80 and ripped the Warriors apart down the middle of the park!. When we signed him on loan in 2019 with a future permeant deal from Hull FC I was shocked but also extremely excited and happy that he finally saw sense and moved from West to East (even his dad Deano, a great bloke but a massive Black and White now sits in the west stand as has a soft spot for the red and whites!) Him and Matt Parcell work great together and Jez will be our 9 for years to come! Watch this space!

Predictions:

Top 6 – League leaders : Wigan / 2nd : St Helens / 3rd : Warrington / 4th – Hull FC / 5th – Catalan Dragons / 6th – Huddersfield Giants)

CC – Wigan Warriors

GF – Saints v Wire (Saints winners)

If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?

The coverage. We know how good the game is, I just want other people to see it as well! We have so many positives within our game that gets overshadowed by shoddy decisions from the blokes who run the SL and the RFL. I hope to god whoever replaces Ralph Rimmer can expand and grow our game which will hopefully increase viewership numbers and sponership deals which will enable our great sport to spread its wings away from the M62 corridor and become a elite sport worldwide (a long way to go from this ever happening!)

Up the robins!

 

Tell us a little about yourself….

I’ve been a Cas fan since turning 6 years old. My dad had been trying to get me into rugby for a while, and finally got the breakthrough when he sat me down to watch Cas vs Leeds in the playoffs in 1999. Only issue was that he was (and for some reason remains to this day) a Rhinos fan – so how I turned out like I did remains one of his biggest questions in life. I haven’t minded one bit though, and generally consider Leeds to be my second team, as with Cas for him. Even if we do hate each other a bit when the rugby’s on.

Never had a season ticket, though I might as well have got one a few seasons ago when I lived in Allerton Bywater. Since being an adult and being able to take myself to games I’ve mainly lived/worked at the other end of Leeds, which has made it hard getting to a lot of games given they’re all on Thursdays now.

I used to play – I was mainly a winger, but dabbled all over the pitch (hooker, centre, half-back). I was never very good at league to be honest – my main talent for rugby was as a 9 in union. Stopped when I went to uni as I took up videogames and internet sarcasm instead. Not involved in any other RL media – I used to dabble in some of the blogs, but stopped because I was having more and more demands on my time after uni, and just prioritised what I thought was more important to me.

Sum up last season as a Tiger fan. 

Well, as a fan of rugby league I hated it to be honest. It felt like one botch-job after another. I think the only event that the RFL really got right was the grand final – the pre-match show was excellent and the game, thankfully, was brilliant. Overall, though, that season doesn’t count. Sorry, Saints.

As a Cas fan, it started off with a lot of promise, but everything changed when the fire nation (Covid) attacked. The win against Saints pre-lockdown left me thinking that there could actually be something in this year for Cas- but for a variety of reasons we just couldn’t get going after the restart. There was a lot of noise about being shafted by refereeing decisions, and not only from my own bitter account – but I think Cas have had a major problem for years where they can’t manage hot-tempered games, and usually end up on the wrong end of the decisions because of their own ill-discipline. We’ve made some excellent additions in the close-season – if we can get a handle on our temperaments then I feel quite optimistic for this year.

Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?

I’m obviously delighted for the Leigh players, staff and fans – but I think they were absolutely the wrong choice for Super League. I’d have preferred London or Toulouse – going back to Leigh feels like taking an exciting expansion opportunity and ditching it for the same introspective old-guard ideals that are killing this sport.

I discussed an option on my account at the time whereby SL could still promote Leigh, but alongside London and Toulouse. Those three are then exempt from relegation for  one year, with the lowest out of the current crop going down. This means that in 2022 we have a Super League with four current Championship teams, and no Hull KR – and the current deadwood is forced to make some serious decisions about how to keep relevant when there’s an actual relegation scrap on. In a 14 team league, I’d even consider having two relegation spots (you could even make 12th/13th a play-off like the million pound game to generate interest).

Basically, we need to expand out of the M62 or we’re going to die. I think we could see some difficult changes over the next ten years – and as a Cas fan I say that with a worried heart.

How do you think your team will go in 2021?

Cas are going to win the treble, obviously.

2021 will be Daryl Powell’s final season in charge, and this club owes him silverware. I want to win something, frankly. And I don’t just mean the Adam Watene trophy this time. I think if we let Daryl Powell bow out with anything other than silverware, I’m going to look back on this season with disappointment.

If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans?

I know you asked this only an hour before the news about Daryl broke, so I’m going to let you off…

Genuinely though, I’ve seen some comments on Twitter saying that the fans are going to start getting on Daryl’s back if we have a poor start to the season – saying his heart isn’t in it etc. I think that’s bollocks. Sport can be horribly reactionary at times – I think Cas fans need to take a second to remember that Daryl is a Cas lad and fan, and think about everything he’s done for the club and the state it was in when he took over. His head, heart and balls are in in it, I’m sure of that.

Who should succeed Powell?

I’ve sane Shaun Wane’s name thrown around a lot, and while I think that’s hilarious…. no. James Ford is a serious shout for me – plays excellent rugby, clearly enjoys a project, and there’s the Cas connection there that always seems important when it comes to Castleford. I think you need someone that understands the place and connects with the community – when that happens, this can be a very special club indeed.

Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made (and why)?

I’m happy, yeah. I think one more quality forward addition would have been preferable, but given Cas’ predisposition towards injury crises I think we could do with two first-team squads just to cover it.

Best signing for me is Niall Evalds – fits out play style perfectly and we haven’t had a proper full-time fullback since Jordan Tansey. There might have been one since then, but I forget his name. Basically, my hope/expectation for Niall is that he makes us better in attack and defence – no pressure! #SeriousAnalysis

Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?

All of them, Cas are fucking brilliant. You can mainly watch Niall Evalds if you want to, though.

Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?

This is a huge year for Jaques O’Neill  – that lad has a heck of a lot of potential, and given our reliance on Paul McShane he has a huge role in preparing to be his long-term replacement. I have every confidence in JON though.

Predictions:

Heart says Cas to win the lot. Head says fuck you, Cas are still going to win the lot.

In all honesty, if I were to call it, I’d say something like this. And I’m not just being nice because this is a Saints forum:

1. Saints
2. Wigan
3. Leeds
4. Wire
5. Cas
6. Hull FC

There might have been some bias thrown in there somewhere….

Champions will be Cas

Relegated: I can’t see anyone other than Leigh being relegated – even though I hope KR go down. We just need something new to happen.

Cas will also win the cup – which I actually do think could happen, given it’s Daryl’s swansong….

If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?

I mentioned it in the expansionist bit – we need to shake up some of the deadwood in the league. Expand a bit, seriously drive the marketing towards rugby league being an alternative to both football, and to elitist sports that value what school you go to over raw young talent. There’s a serious market for something like that – it’s why Darts has taken off so much. We have a brilliant product, we need to get it out there more.

First of all tell us a little about yourself

Never played the game but got into it through school friends. My first game watching Hull KR was a Challenge Cup tie at The Boulevard in February 1978, which was lost 7-9 to a last minute try having had Colin Tyrer and Phil Lowe sent-off (whoever said the pain of losing to your nearest and dearest eventually goes away was telling fibs!!). But obviously it didn’t deter me so here I am about to start my 44th year of the rollercoaster that is supporting The Robins. I’ve been a season ticket holder for most of that time since and travel to as many away games as possible with my wife in those halcyon days when we could go to games. Hopefully it won’t be much longer for us all to wait

Sum up last season as a Hull KR fan.

Rovers finished bottom and only escaped relegation thanks to the demise of Toronto managing only 3 league wins (plus a last minutes win against Leigh in the Cup) all season so 2020 was certainly high on the disappointment scale. Losing Mose Masoe in devastating circumstances after 3 minutes of the opening friendly at Wakefield impacted forward power for the rest of the season yet the opening couple of rounds gave some cause for optimism before a mauling at Leeds set the tone for rest of the games before lockdown.

The resumption was a revelation – some enterprise play shown against Warrington which gained plenty of plaudits, hammering Wigan and then taking Saints to Golden Point raised our hopes. But this is Hull KR we’re talking about and another hammering against Leeds, this time in the Cup, effectively ended our season and I think it’s fair to say a few players, who perhaps already knew they wouldn’t be at the club in 2021, and with nothing to play for with relegation scrapped, put the “cue on the rack” for the season. Too many games towards the end of the season were lost by half-time (in many cases before the end of the opening quarter), and an absolute shambles at Wakefield meant most fans were relieved that the last 3 games weren’t able to be completed due to an outbreak of COVID at the club.

Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?

I was surprised that Leigh were given the nod given as from the outside there seemed to be better options. I think if we weren’t in the situation we were due to COVID, then I would have expected Toulouse to replace Toronto so that Super League could still claim they were expanding. However, I also think that having reached the Championship Grand Final, Featherstone could have been promoted. You could also build strong cases for London and York but it was a difficult decision which was never going to get universal agreement. If Leigh are competitive in 2021 then the decision will be seen to have been vindicated. On a personal level we were disappointed to see Toronto go as we’d booked to go. On the day we should have been visiting Niagara Falls having been to the game on the Saturday, we had to make do with eating fish and chips on the seafront at Bridlington – very pleasant but not quite the same as visiting Niagara Falls!!

How do you think the Robins will go in 2021? 

As the saying goes…the only way is up!! I’m not expecting relegation to be scrapped in 2021 so a minimum goal has to be not finishing 12th. Hardly ambitious though! Rovers supporters are sick to death of scrapping around the basement and just want the team to be competitive in games for 80 minutes and win a few games to ensure league safety as soon as possible. For me finishing 7th – 8th would be a realistic sign of progress given the quality of players brought in and hopefully this stability will then help with recruitment for 2022.

If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans?

I still find it hard to believe Rovers have a Coach with the quality of Tony Smith. He’s made some tough decisions on the squad to mould it in his own image (such as releasing Craig Hall that hasn’t been universally popular with the fans). However some genuine quality has been brought in and as long as the fans see the team regularly being competitive (mainly sorting out defensive frailties), then I think most fans are still prepared to give Smith the benefit of the doubt. The unknown factor is what will happen if/when the Club is sold. Neil Hudgell is continuing to fund despite taking a step back from the Board, but a new regime may want to go in a different direction. But that’s all hypothetical and for the time being, Tony Smith is the Coach and so as long as results are going in the right direction, I expect that the fans will continue to support him.

Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made (and why)?

Yes! Considering where Rovers finished in 2020, to bring in the quality they have has been a great achievement. For the last few years the fans have been crying out for more forward power and to bring in Korbin Sims and Albert Vete from the NRL was great statement of intent. Add to these young talent Luis Johnson (who impressed in a loan spell at the club in 2019) and Muizz Mustapha (highly rated at the Rhinos) who will hopefully be part of the club for a number of years. As for Ryan Hall…what else can you say? Yes, he’s entering the twilight of his career, and he’s probably wanting to prove a point after his stint at the Roosters, but his presence on the field will be like having an extra forward and a help to gain territory. The best signing in my opinion however has been Brad Takairangi. The question is where Tony Smith will play him. He’s been given number 11 which suggests the forwards and at 6ft 4in and 108kg, he’ll add even more power, yet he’s also got the pace and guile to play at half-back and can also play in the centres. Which brings us to the one area that has been the subject of most debate amongst Rovers fans in the off-season. We have 4 half-backs but there’s some concern that there isn’t a lot of experience there (Jordan Abdul is the most experienced) and that’s why there’s some thought that Takairangi should play there to bring some experience or the club should have signed a more experienced specialist half-back. In the recent friendly against Castleford, Takairangi started in the halves but when he swapped to the forwards in the second half, and Mikey Lewis came on, the attack looked much better.

Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?

Elliot Minchella. Probably our most consistent player in 2020 which made him a fans favourite and winning the Players’ Player of the Year shows how highly he’s regarded by his team-mates. He’s been appointed Vice Captain for 2021

Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?

Mikey Lewis. What he currently lacks in experience, he makes up for in enthusiasm and unpredictability. His MOM performance in the Golden Point defeat to Saints gave an indication of his potential and having someone like Danny McGuire to learn from, he’s got a great future ahead.

Prediction time:

TOP 6

1. Saints

2. Wigan

3. Warrington

4. Leeds

5. Huddersfield

6. Catalans

GRAND FINAL – Saints vs Warrington

CHAMPIONS – Saints

CHALLENGE CUP – Warrington

RELEGATED – Wakefield

If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?

Extra fixtures such as Loop Fixtures and Magic Weekend. Call me old-fashioned but what’s wrong with playing each team once at home and once away? Because the extra fixtures are based on previous season’s finishing positionings, it’s effectively a lottery which can end up giving some teams an advantage or disadvantage depending on who they play. It also makes it monotonous for fans seeing the same teams. I understand the financial considerations, so why not increase Super League to 16? As the process to find the replacement for Toronto showed there are some ambitious clubs in the Championship who are building strong teams. However as that process also showed, the question of distribution of the Sky pot amongst more clubs is another whole kettle of fish…

 

First of all tell us a little about yourself

Name is Nathaniel and I am Huddersfield Giants season ticket holder. This is my 13th season as a season ticket holder and I go home and away supporting the team. I have helped the club in the last 2-3 seasons doing the social media for the academy and scholarship on a voluntary basis. I would love to do that on a daily basis but don’t have the qualifications etc. I played as a kid but stopped when I was 16 and not played since. Love rugby as a whole and would watch any rugby over everything else.

Sum up last season as a Giant.

Last season is a weird season to try sum up. I think Super League, the RFL and the clubs all deserve credit for being able to finish the season. I thought Salford were the surprise package and did really well to make the cup final. The Grand Final couldn’t have finished better and it’s made everyone even more excited about this season. As a Giants point of view it was a disappointing season. Before the lockdown break we were flying high in the league and playing really well. We then threw away a game against Leeds on the 1st day back and our season went downhill from there. We had some good moments too but not making the 6 team playoff was disappointing.

Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?

I never really had an opinion on Toronto and was never sure or not if it was going to work. I wished it had more time to see if it would but it is what it is. Leigh was the correct option for me. Toulouse wouldn’t have been right with restrictions due to covid. Not sure York and Newcastle are ready yet. Bradford don’t deserve it just yet. London or Leigh was the option for me and I enjoyed the away days to Leigh so I’m ok with Leigh being promoted.

How do you think Huddersfield will go in 2021?

I never set myself expectations as Giants normally don’t meet them and I feel disappointed at the end of the season. However this year I say we must make the top 6. We have 0 excuses not to make them. We have got a top coach in who has been backed by the owner and we have signed 4-5 very good Super League players as well as keeping hold of our marquee half. Cup is lottery but hopefully we can have a decent cup run this season as it’s been a while since we went deep in the cup.

If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans?

We have a new a coach this season so I reckon it will take time so he shouldn’t be under any immediate pressure but depending on how bad the season is will affect that. We should be aiming playoffs so if we end up fighting relegation or struggling at the bottom then he will automatically under pressure.

Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made (and why)?

We have signed very well this season. I feel the signing or Watson and him bringing Greg Brown back to the club with him is best signing we could make. We had our best years with Brown as our S&C coach so to have him back is great news. Playing wise we have signed very well too. Jones, Greenwood, Yates and Leutele are very very good signings. We have good squad depth this season which is good incase injuries occur. Our best signing for me player wise could be Josh Jones. If we get the Salford version then he will be threat for us all over. Personally a massive fan of Joe Greenwood too so really pleased with that one.

Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?

Jake Wardle – this is the year this lad shines. I honestly believe if we can keep him fit and firing then he won’t be far away from England selection for the World Cup. Jake has everything in the locker for a top world class centre. His feet and hands are immense so it’s time to expect big things from him for this year.

Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?

Young player to keep an eye out for is Louis Senior. He’s the same age I think as Jake but Louis will step in when one of our wingers can’t play and he never ever lets us down. He has a try scoring instinct and he’s overall game is getting better and better. Another one but he may not details is Aiden McGowan. He made a brilliant try save tackle against Leeds in our friendly win and he will grow confidence from that and hopefully have a brilliant season.

Predictions:

Top 6 for me is difficult, I feel Wigan and Saints are guaranteed top 6 but then 4 places need splitting between 6 teams. Warrington, Catalans, Leeds. FC, Giants and Cas will all battle out for the last 4 spots with 2 missing out. Salford will sit behind them. Then KR, Leigh, Wakefield fighting out relegation.

My top 6, I’ll go for Saints, Wigan, Giants, Warrington, Leeds, FC in any order. Wigan LLS, Wigan GF and Saints the cup. Relegated will be Leigh.

If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?

I would make every game televised, every game then can have video ref and the sport can grow to a bigger and wider audience.

First of all tell us a little about yourself
My name is Russ and I’ve been watching the Wire since the late 70’s. I have a season ticket at the HJ and also go to most away games.  During the close season I retired from shift work so intend to up my away game count. I love the Wire and think about my club every 8 seconds.
Sum up last season as a Warrington fan
Last season the Wire finished 3rd in the league and then fizzled out to Hull FC in the play offs. Of course I was desperate for the club I love to win the Grand Final but all in all season 2020 was about our great game surviving intact and being ready to bounce back. I can’t name too many season highs from 2020, I suppose nilling Saints at the HJ in game 3 was as good as it got. A major disappointment for me was the form of Gareth Widdop, him and Blake Austin never really clicked and I’m hoping it was nothing more than 1st season adjustment for Gareth after being in the NRL. However I don’t think Gareth settled last year and there were reports of him wanting to go back to the NRL.
Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?
One of the Super League 1st casualties to Covid was Toronto. I wasn’t overly impressed by their addition to Super League and felt it was an expansion too far. However that said we were due to play in Canada in July and if the fixture had been allowed I would probably have gone.  Toronto have been replaced by Leigh who are a far more traditional RL club. However it should be noted with trepidation that Leigh had to borrow players from Warrington to fulfil Chris Hills testimonial fixture. This serious lack of players is a massive concern considering not a whistle has yet been blown for season 2021.
How do you think the Wolves will go in 2021?
For 2021 I think both the club and fans will be putting all our eggs in the Grand Final basket. Even our Chairman Simon Middleton is on record as saying winning the GF is our 2021 focus. I think nothing less than a Grand Final win will be sufficient for us Wires. The last time Wire were Champions 98% of the people reading this were not born.
If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans?
Our Coach Steve Price has already announced he is leaving the UK and heading back to Australia citing family reasons. I think (but don’t know) that he was tipped the wink by the Club that they wont be renewing his contract so perhaps he decided he would jump before he was pushed. Steve Price has not been popular with some Wire fans but he has taken us to 3 Finals, with the Challenge Cup win against Saints being the stand out game of his tenure. Steve gave his all to our Club and we owe him a debt of gratitude.
Who do you want to replace Steve Price?
With regards to our new coach for 2022, for me its got to be Shaun Wane or bust. Last thing we want is an up-and-coming coach who’ll need time to settle in and get his team around him. Some are saying Daryl Powell but he has had one great season with Cas in 7 years. Admittedly he didn;t have the resources at Cas that he will at Wire.
But I still say Shaun Wane or bust.
Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made (and why)?
Our most notable recruit for 2021 is the mercurial Greg Inglis. Greg has been one of the greatest players our game has ever seen, at this point I don’t want to say any more other than my fingers, legs, ears and eyes are all crossed for what he could do for our team. Our biggest loss from last season’s playing staff is the wrecking ball Ben Murdoch Masilla. He’s gone to the NRL & I don’t know where too because when a player leaves the Wire I pay them no heed. Sad I know. We’ve had no other major changes in our squad, Robbie Mulhern has come in from Rovers and Rob Butler from London.
Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season? And who’ll be your stand out young player?
I’ve got 2 names for you all to watch out for this season. Firstly Ben Currie, Ben had an injury free 2020 and I think he will get back to his magnificent best in 2021 and he’s a good outside bet for Man of Steel. My other player is Matty Ashton, who broke through in 2020 and I think he’ll kick on in 2021 and be our young player to watch out for.
Predictions:
My top 3 for 2021 is
1st, Saints
2nd Wire
3rd Huddersfield.
With Leeds, Catalans and Wigan all to make the 6.
I think the Saints will beat the Giants in the Challenge Cup.
For the big one………………. Saints will play Wire at Old Trafford and the Mighty Wire will be crowned Champions.
2021 WILL be the year of the Wolves.
If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?
If I could change one thing for the new season I’d extend the current 7 day concussion ruling to 10 days. Player wellbeing for their future must be paramount.

First of all tell us a little about yourself

Watched Catalan for over 10 years since a visit to Perpignan. No season ticket, but go to most away games as Drac the Mascot

Sum up 2020 as a Dragon

Had high hopes with the signing of Folau but the travel and missed games took their toll and the season ran out of steam. Enjoyed my time on the Fan Zone for most of the games, but in the end, I was looking forward to the season ending as the virus took its toll on the entire competition

Toronto have gone, and are replaced by Leigh. Were Leigh the right choice in your opinion? Were you sad to see Toronto go?

Shocking call to bring in Leigh. If Toronto couldn’t be salvaged, had to go with Toulouse to continue the growth of the game in France. If the overseas aspect was the problem, would love to have seen York given a chance rather that go back to the same old same old

How do you think the Dragons will go in 2021?

I think it will be a tough season. The loss of some big names, including the captain will be tough to overcome. The uncertainty of covid travel and the loss of some home games with the farcical opening rounds mean that mid table consolidation is probably a realistic aim. Not getting dragged into a relegation fight is the minimum.

If you’re not successful will your coach be under any pressure from the club and/or fans?

No pressure for the coach, hands tied this season

Are you happy with your recruitment this year – is there anywhere you feel you need to improve? Who’s the best signing you’ve made (and why)?

Looking forward to seeing how Mike McMeeken goes, but would still hope to bring in one or two more

Which one of your clubs players is the one to watch out for this season?

Looking forward to Ben Garcia stepping up as captain. Big shoes to fill but a player who has really come on in the last few years.

Which of your young players is most likely to make a name for themselves this season?

Arthur Morgue showed a glimpse of his talent last season, this could be a big year for him

Prediction time:

Top 6, no shocks. 1. St Helens, 2. Warrington, 3. Wigan, 4. Leeds, 5. Hull FC, 6. Catalan – Grand Final, St Helens v Wigan for the 10000th time

If I gave you the opportunity to change just one thing about Rugby League immediately. What would that one thing be and why that over anything else?

No rule changes and both NRL and Super League work together to grow the sport