The 2019 Super League season kicks off on 31st January, with fans of rugby league gearing up for another eight months of action. We've taken a look at some of the outright odds ahead of the upcoming campaign.
Grand Final Winner
The bookmakers are struggling to separate two clubs when it comes to the odds for who will win the Grand Final of Super League XXIV. The first of those and slight favourites is St Helens who are best priced at 7/2 with Paddy Power. Last season Saints finished the regular season top of the table after blowing away most of their opponents, but when it really mattered they buckled under the pressure in the semi-finals. They also lost in the last four of the Challenge Cup, but those disappointments could make their young squad better this time around. Justin Holbrook has a strong squad at his disposal, but the loss of last seasons Man of Steel Ben Barba could be a big one.
Last seasons beaten finalists Warrington Wolves are the second favourites and they are best priced at 4/1 with Betway. Steve Price's men were so close in both major competitions last season, also losing in the Challenge Cup final and have now lost three of the last five Grand Finals making them very much rugby league's nearly men. Could this finally be their year when they end a 64-year wait for the Super League title? Well the bookmakers seem to thing they have a strong chance and the big money addition of Blake Austin from the NRL certainly shows that they mean business.
The value bet could be with the reigning champions Wigan Warriors who have an eye-catching price of 11/2 with Sky Bet. Whilst they start the season with a -2 points deduction, they have the knowhow to win titles as they have proven over the last six seasons by winning the Grand Final on three occasions. Few seem to fancy Wigan after they lost coach Shaun Wane after last season, but then few would have expected the success they achieved last season after a dismal 2017 so they should never be written off. They have also signed Zak Hardaker from Castleford Tigers who could prove to be an outstanding piece of business, the 2015 Man of Steel winner certainly has a point to prove after a recent drugs ban.
Top 5 Finish
The play-offs places have been extended to include five teams this season, opening up the possibility for different clubs to make it. After the big three (St Helens, Warrington and Wigan) bookmakers are strongly fancying Leeds Rhinos to be in the play-off shake up with a price of 4/9 with William Hill to finish in the top five. However, those odds may be a little too short considering the Rhinos finished last season down in 9th place and the fact that their opening four matches of the campaign are away from home including trips to Wigan, Warrington and Saints. It could therefore be a while before they get up and running, leaving them chasing but with the well-respected Dave Furner as their coach and an influx of talent from the NRL at their disposal the eight-time champions cannot be written off.
Castleford Tigers are also odds-on to make it into the play-offs at 5/6, also with William Hill. They have been a strong side in the last two seasons, reaching the Grand Final in 2017 and again making the play-offs last season before losing at the semi-final stage. That makes them certain contenders for the top five this season, but with key man Luke Gale set to miss the majority of the campaign with injury the odds may be too short.
We see value in two teams finishing the top five, the first of which is Catalans Dragons. They made history last season by winning the Challenge Cup and have added to their squad well ahead of this season, with full-back Sam Tomkins their stand-out signing. 6/4 to make the top five looks a great price for the ever improving French outfit, particularly if they can sort out their away form.
The other team we like the look of for a top five finish, also priced at 6/4, is Wakefield Trinity. The West Yorkshire outfit finished last season's Super 8s in fifth place after a fine end to the campaign, and that was their second fifth place finish in as many seasons. Whilst that was not previously enough for a play-off place it now is, meaning their price looks pretty appealing. Chris Chester's men have certainly overachieved in Super League of late, but you have to take them seriously now after two strong seasons and some good signings during the off-season.
To Finish Bottom
London Broncos are clear favourites to finish bottom of Super League XXIV, best priced at 1/4 with Betfair. They are back in the top flight for the first time since 2014, with few expecting them to gain promotion through last seasons Qualifiers. It looks a real tough ask for them to stay up and the odds are stacked against coach Danny Ward, who has largely stuck with the squad which got them into the Super League rather than making wholesale changes.
Salford Red Devils are the other club that are tipped to struggle with the bookmakers, with odds between 5/1 and 7/1 for them to finish bottom. Their squad is nowhere near as deep as some of their rivals and after an 11th place finish last season more of the same may be in store this time around. However, we think that their superior experience over London Broncos will keep them from finishing rock bottom.