30 January 2018

SLP Show Update

As you may have now heard in our 2018 Preview Show (which you can listen to HERE, or HERE if your an iTunes person, and you can also get it on the League Cast Android app or YouTube), sadly my co-host Tom is leaving the show at the start of our fifth season of existence.

If you missed it, here is his heartfelt goodbye message:
Although Tom would be the first to agree that without me we probably wouldn't have much in the way of content or structure each week, without Tom there would probably never have been a Super League Pod.

He put the idea of doing some sort of podcast out to me and a couple of months later, during a drive over the Pennines to Odsal and back, we started to come up with doing one about rugby league. Eventually, SLP was born. It's been a great deal of fun doing the show with him for four years - we'll always have Captain Scarlett - and it's been a real enduring force in our friendship, whilst the ups and downs of our intertwining lives went on around it. I'll certainly miss doing the show with him and I'm not sure SLP will ever quite be the same for me again. At least it won't mean my workload on the show increasing.

That brings me to my next order of business. I would like to keep the show going, but I can't do that on my own. So, I'm calling out to you guys to see if anyone wants to join me in becoming co-host of SLP - either in a permanent capacity, or maybe as part of a band of rotating guest co-hosts, I'm open to whatever help people want to offer. The only requirements for the role are a love of rugby league and the desire to be part of a great fan community really. Well, and availability to chat about the week's news and games for a few hours one night a week (Mondays mainly, but that's fairly flexible, as Tom demonstrated throughout 2017).

If you're interested in any way please send an email to superleaguepod@gmail.com and we can start to work something out.

Until then, I'm going to take some time out to figure how I'll make this thing work going forward. If Leeds beat Melbourne the I'll pop up for a special, otherwise hopefully I'll have a full slate of guest hosts and a way to make the show work in about a months time. Until then, I'm sure Tom appreciates your messages of farewell and I appreciate your ongoing support.


Season Preview: What the fans think

We asked you what was going to happen in 2018. In our show we talked about all the Super League fans thoughts we got on what they expect from their own side in 2018.

We also had some thoughts from fans of Championship and League 1 clubs that we didn't get chance to cover in the show. So here they are, including my personal favourite from former All Golds fan Lee...

Bradford Bulls Dominic Barker Fighting for promotion back to the Championship. A season without financial issues would be nice. Dane Chisholm to stay fit for longer than 15 mins. Cheeky little cup run wouldn’t go a miss.
Bradford Bulls Shoddynmungo
Anything less than the win/loss ratio (although not by the same margins) of the Wolfpack will be a disappointment
Bradford Bulls Jake Thompson
To get promoted out of League 1 and to play consistently well and not get complacent (hopefully!!)

Bradford Bulls
Kris Illingworth


Bradford Bulls

Stephen forkes

Hopefully promoted to championship.

Featherstone Rovers

Aaron Bannister

Featherstone Rovers to get top 4.



Top five
London Broncos Arran Smith
Make the top 4 & Super 8s, just missing out on promotion......again.
London Skolars David cantrell
Mediocrity on the pitch, more great community work off it


Lee Randall

I predict we will go through the season unbeaten


John Davies

Swinton Colin James
Work hard on and off the field building a sustainable future for the club. 100% effort from everyone.
Toronto Martyn Simpson There will be more ups and downs this year. Closer, more intense games. Disappointed to see players leave but pleased to have a bigger squad.

Off the field, there will be an increase in opposition fans moaning about Toronto's special treatment, lack of Canadian players, few away fans and the need to bring in tv money without getting any of the existing tv money.

Home & away fans will have a blast in Toronto.
Toronto Jay 2nd in championship and promoted to super league


Hear talk about your predictions and more in our 2018 season preview and predictions show! You can get it HERE, or HERE if your an iTunes person, and you can also get it on the League Cast Android app or YouTube.

Keep your eyes on our Twitter feed and Facebook page for when you can get more from SLP.


Season Preview: Say What!?

We asked you what was going to happen in 2018, and here's what you thought.

This is all the 'Say What!?' predictions we got. We were looking for something possible but improbable, something funny or different or bold. Some people though just used it as a chance to vent their spleen or cast their deepest darkest wishes against those they despise. Some people didn't give one at all. We went through some of our favourites on the show, but here they all are: (any spelling and grammar errors belong to whoever sent them in to us!)

Pete Osborn 5+ players to test positive for coke. Jamie Ellis to never win a single 'slimmer of the week' award throughout the entire season. Gary Lo to have the 'freedom of Castleford' by Easter.
David cantrell
RFL finally decides to come down like a vengeful and angry god on coaches who badmouth referees. Misguided fans crowdfund the huge fine.
Mark W
Nigel Wood's replacement will be announced and all the people who have spent the last decade moaning that the RFL hates their club or that the refs are biased or that Nigel Wood is the worst living human will now get a chance to quieten down and begin to enjoy the sport. Oh, and Fartown for the treble
Wigan to start shite then break the salary cap to get themselves out of the shit (cheating pie eating Twats)
Paul O’Brien
There will be no controversy at Super League games as Video referees are at all games and the fans have stopped blaming referees when there team gets beat and Steve Ganson returns to refereeing to help Saints beat Wigan in the Grand Final disallowing a try in the final seconds as his son goes over the line for Wigan.

Lee Randall

I predict the Bristol rl club won’t even start the 2019 season

Alan Walker
Widnes to beat Wigan in the million pence game.

Cut Throat Jake

Leeds will beat Melbourne in the WCC match by 40 points with Ryan Hall running in 4 tries
Rich Langley
Hull KR fans to focus on something other than Hull FC, Toronto to sign more SL players and Nigel Wood's replacement to push rugby league forward significantly and immediately surpass their predecessor
Chris McKeown
Highly unlikely, but there will be a game that takes place in which all fans agree the referee wasn’t actually biased against their side.
Andy Barden
Hayne decides he wants to follow his long lost dream, leaves the NRL to play at Dewsbury

Scott Schroeder

Catalans will surprise everyone and finish 3rd
Paul Michael Craig
RFL to admit 3 new North American teams & then a month later the Wolfpack will go into voluntary administration
Mike Dodd
Bennie Westwood to not get any bans across the season.
LMS to shave his greasy locks.
Liam Watts not to get a red card over the season.
Jake Connor to not be a prick.
Mark to not have a rant across the season (here’s hoping that doesn’t actually happen!)
Byron steele
Better refereeing videos at every game or none at all they couldn’t get it right with help
Joshua's Granddad
Wane to be 1st coach sacked replaced by Lockers, Maguire sent off for arguing with refs as they realise he is not in Leeds shirt anymore

Dominic Barker

Zak Hardaker will sign for a Rugby Union team.
The rugby league family come together and sell out our showpiece events!
2 Wakey players to get England call up - Johnstone and Ashurst & Catalan in the MPG
Leigh Whitnall
Luke Gale will forget to wash the shit-nuts out of the arse hair he's had surgically grafted to his scalp. The rugby league media will declare it a fashion triumph and the sky commentary team will be seen sporting their own poo-do's the following week in reverence to their hero.
Garry Lo to do Garry Lo things and get 50 tries in his first season in the super league.
Rich Wilkinson
Cas to not bottle it in a big game..... nah! That's too far fetched.
At least 1 super league team loses to a lower league club in the challenge cup.
Neil Mckeown
Dr Koukash to buy Widnes after him not being appreciated by Salford fans, fingers crossed the inbreds down the road are not celebrating their year again ha ha . Danny Craven to win man of steel for last minute drop goal to win challenge cup . Kev Judas brown to win fuck all again 🙏🏻
Colin Render
Shaun wane to leave Wigan after a mediocre start but go on to be England manager.
Bob Phillips
1. Tom remembers every single recording date and venue through the season.
2. Emmas stand in and do a podcast one week as the boys are too unwell.
3. A stand-up IT genius works out a way of streaming cam content from every match and gives SLP family access to it.

Brendan Loftus

We get a proper international program for the next 4 years
Sarah Mackenzie
Luke Gale's hair transplant was done by a wakey fan and by the start of the season it is growing red, white and blue. Danny McGuire breaks his leg and retires before playing a competitive 80 for rovers! Fat boy Rob wears a pair of trousers instead of shorts to a match!
Wakey to make progress on their ground... sorry you said between possible and improbable.... Wane to get the chop, Gary Heatherington to appoint Cath Heatherington as RFL CEO reporting directly to him, Hull KR to beat Hull FC with a bizarre last minute vr decision at Magic, Tom to get a bit pissed at The Summer Bash and forget to turn up for another SLP!


Someone other than Dr Bob will win the Dr bob award.
Phil Nadin
Wakefield to be in the top 4 and Warrington to be in the million pound game with Toulouse but win 😀
Andy Currie
Castleford will struggle and miss the top 4, there will be a big resurgence from both Wigan and saints, Leeds and hull will also make up the top 4. Widnes for relegation
Aaron Bannister
Castleford to win LLS and Challenge Cup. Toulouse to get promoted to SL. You heard it hear first!!
John Cassidy esq
SOL to finally retire, Sam Tomkins to rip it up at 6, Salford to go down, Gale to turn up in the 1st game with a hair transplant, Tom to get a sex change.
Tyler Casfan
Widnes to finish top 8, Warrington bottom 4 again, Catalans players to go on strike to get rid of the Coach & Featherstone to make the Challenge Cup semis
Ben Jones
Danny McGuire leads Hull KR to Cup success, whilst Hull FC fall out of the Super 8’s.


Shaun Wane to be the first coaching casualty of the season.
Martyn Simpson Catalan Dragons could surprise a few teams this year and end up in the top 8; perhaps even the top 4.

Castleford could suffer a bit of a hang over at the start of the season and might struggle to make up lost ground.
Catalans to replace Castleford in the top four... anything's possible!
Rob Ainscough
Sean lawless to be a guest on sky sports panellist following his recent Wigan blog tv appearances
Ethan O'Gorman
1st Prediction: Fatboy rob will go the whole year without mentioning the words "Sat on toilet" in his tweets.
2nd: Ben Barba will be done for drugs again
3rd: Mark and Tom will finally reveal their long lost love for each other and get married at the DW Stadium.
1. The referees allow a fast free flowing game of rugby and all work from the same rulebook.
2. Free play rule omitted, if a team knocks on then it should just go to the opposing team. Not go all the way back to the first offence.
3. Go back to bottom team in Super League relegated and top team in The Championship promoted.
4. Restructure super 8's.
Rod Hutchinson - Lakes Rhino
Already said Toronto to go up, but will add McDermott to be new England coach
John Hazeldine
Wigan will have a poor year along with Catalan. Castleford will be a mid table team. Top 4 will be St Helens, Hull, Leeds and Warrington

Peter Nelson

Widnes to drop out of Super League
Dan Hull
Castleford bottom 4. The jinx of winning the league leaders shield.
Jake Thompson
Wakefield to push on and make top 4! Cas to not go as well in the league but to win GF!
Kris Illingworth
Top try scorer to have more than 45 tries in super league alone this season
Shaun Wane to announce he is to live his life as a woman and respectfully requests that the media call him Shauna from now on.
Guy Incognito
Daryl Powell and Shaun Wane to kiss and make up by Magic Weekend?!

Tom Carr

Saints win Grand Final by white washing Wigan 40-0

Matt Hardiker

Sam Tomkins fails a drugs test
Leighton wicks
Catalan dragons and Salford to be very close to winning some silverware. Wakefield to be in the top 4
Kev Todd
I think the rlf should introduce a reserve grade but do t think this will happen and also predict they will still make some very irrational decisions which seem to be eroding the very heart of our game
Alan Witts
Rugby League fans will stop bloody moaning and realised that the refs are not against their team.
Hull FC having lost their two best players in Ellis and Fonua will finish in the bottom 4.
John Davies
3 North American Teams will join the RFL in 2019 and with Super League Teams Introduction a 14 or 15 Franchise system for 2019 but agreed in 2018. Championship and League 1 = TV Deal

Nick Jenkins

Wigan in bottom 4
Sean Lawless from Wigan Fan TV
Eddie Hearn will reach an agreement with the Super League club owners to help run Super League, including a new Super League 2 league - taking into account the expansion teams

Martin Silcock

Salford to win the league leaders shield

Bib geldoff

Saints to win treble. Wire miss out on top 8 Wakefield top 4 Leeds to struggle.
Daniel Moxon
Castleford Tigers to win the grand final and right the wrongs from last year, and Zak Hardaker to get a 12 week ban and play some pet in what will be a fantastic piece of history for the club

gill harpin

up the trin
Paul laverack
Hull winning everything league grand final and challenge cup is the improbable! Possible Salford to go bust
Should Hull FC gain a large number of injuries, particularly in the forwards, Gareth Ellis will play another few games for Hull.
Callum Insull
Toronto Wolfpack to continue their rise as a club and reach the middle 8s qualifiers but miss out in the million pound game to Huddersfield. Also for the first year in many, Wigan will miss out on the top 4.
Re vamp of super league with Toronto and Leigh being added to make 14 teams, back to top 4 playoff for grand final , challenge cup moved to spring

P Robinson

Up the Robins

Andy Hamilton

Castleford to finish 5th and win nothing
Arran Smith
Last year I called Broncos v Catalan in the million pound game (got one team right) this year how about London v Toronto in the million pound game


Salford will make top four
I want changes to the salary cap so we can compete with the NRL and I'd like to see more competition between the NRL and super league. I also want changes in the Super league structure that will result in the first 23 weeks meaning something.
Daniel Cartledge
I believe that Castleford squad is still hurting a lot after their grand final loss therefore will not have a great season, potentially finishing in the bottom 4.
john murray
Another person with no idea of RL to gat Nigel Woods job, Ben Barba to go home, Cas to finish out of top 4
Pete Jackson
I’d say this year is going to be Warrington's year but you’ve said it has to be something possible!!
Ricardo Shilllyshally
Robert De Niro admits he is a Wigan fan and buys the club, meanwhile all the clubs decide to get rid of the cap and return to winter rugby
Dave Chadwick
That we all know what league structure will be in place here and we finally stick to it plus a American/Canadian league is formed with 10 teams who have their own league and own countries players in which to grow the game there.😉

Andrew Hockless

Hull kr to go back down

Andrew carter

Ben barba to leave before the season ends
Tony Townend
Rugby League finally decides to reclaim the word "rugby" from our Union cousins and markets the game in what might at least be perceived as a professional manner.
Steve Mcculley
Warrington treble its always our year.
😂😂😂😂 just to enjoy another season of rugby ❤️ super league
Tom Eckley
Matty Blythe is realises that security isn’t for him and that Super League can’t survive without him. Expect him to return in round 12 for Leeds where he will stand out in a 4 try showcase before going back to physio. Still man of steel though


Hull fc to win all trophies


Giants to get to win the grand final 😅

James Blakeborough

Huddersfield Giants 2018 Challenge Cup Winners!
Ryan Wilcockson
Eddie Hearn to come in and shake things up finally putting English Super League on the world map.

Nate Bradley

Catalans will be safe of the middle 8s by mid-season.
John knox
I think there's a lot of shocks to come. Fev are a dark horse side to watch. Hope its our year at the Wire


Faraimo top try scorer
Mark Warner
Wigan to struggle and finish in bottom 4 along with HULL Kr
Tony Roscoe
a change to the super 8 format as it makes the rest of the season meaningless.
Mary from Wigan
Unless some changes are made soon the game will die. We have been supporting Wigan since the 50' and cannot remember feeling so disenchanted
Paul walton
The BBC improve there coverage of our great game Ellery Hanley comes out of retirement and wins the Steve Prescott Man of steel


Saints Leeds Wigan middle 8s

Dave Regan

Wakey to finish in the top 4
Jordan Goodall
Hopefully a return to Manchester with the magic weekend for 2019 and a Toronto Wolfpack promotion!
Andy Willby
England to pick a team on form! Steve McNamara to take on his 17th coaching job in the past 12 months and Hull KR to celebrate a victory against hull F.C. like they’ve just won the double!
Rob Burrow to ‘unretire’ after injuries force him to come to Rhinos first team rescue.
Ok it’s definitely towards to improbable end of the scale.


Nigel Wood signs as a forward for Toronto Wolfpack.

Chris Eastwood

Toronto to get to the semis of the challenge cup.
Stephen forkes
New referees, to make the big stage and to be fairer and not one sided, also less use of video refs, it would be nice to see some of the lesser teams getting to major finals.
Paul Whiteside
Without a Wembley appearance for almost 50 years that would make my Salford supporting life almost complete. I’ve had my heart broke in four semi finals 1988,1997,1998 and 2017so just want that day at Wembley. Also fancy Widnes to finish in the top 8 despite people’s predictions, they have some good young players.
Lee Percival
I think Wigan will be in the bottom 4, and that Shaun Wayne will be replace by the end of the season
After winning Man of Steel Alex Walmsley becomes a woman and lives happily ever after as my lover.
Dom Hodgson
Barry Hearn decides to dip is toe into Rugby League by buying Swinton Lions.
Colin James
Eddie Hearn is invited in and immediately tries to implement the original plans for a European Super League by merging clubs. He strips all funding for anyone not in SL and tells them to go and die. Everyone realises he's not the saviour and he gets booted out after two weeks. Nigel Woods reclaims his throne and is awarded a knighthood for services to RL.


Hear talk about your predictions and more in our 2018 season preview and predictions show! You can get it HERE, or HERE if your an iTunes person, and you can also get it on the League Cast Android app or YouTube.

Keep your eyes on our Twitter feed and Facebook page for when you can get more from SLP.


Season Preview: Predictions Results

We asked you what was going to happen in 2018, and here's what you thought!

Challenge Cup
Saints are well liked across the board this year and that starts with them being the most popular choice for the Challenge Cup. This is different to the bookies view, with Cup sponsors Ladbrokes having Castleford the 4/1 favourites at the time of writing, and St Helens joint second favourites at 5/1 alongside Hull FC, who you have 2nd, and Wigan, who you've voted 6th favourite. Toronto Wolfpack may be big outsiders but one of you lot picked the Championship outfit to upset the order of things.
Saints own fans are confident, with 73% of them who took part in our predictions backing their own side, although their with the majority of others too. Hull FC fans are pretty confident of going back-to-back-to-back at Wembley - over half of their own fans chose them to lift the cup, and that made up 65% of all the votes Hull got. The few votes that Huddersfield, Salford, Wakefield and Widnes got all came from the most optimistic amongst their own fan bases. 37% of voters chose their own team. 

Me, I'm with the bookies on this one. I fancy Castleford to win a final to fill that missing gap in Daryl Powell's legacy at the club. They have a first team line up that's as good as any one else on their day and they've had the experience of losing a couple of big occasions to draw character from now too.

Super League Grand Final
Saints came out as huge favourites to lift the trophy at Old Trafford this year, with 47% of you backing Justin Holbrook's men. Hull FC also proved a popular choice, thanks again to some optimistic homers, with Leeds and Wigan behind them as the sides with winning experience. Castleford are again the bookies favourites, 4/1 with sponsors Betfred at the time of writing but they're only 5th on our list, a list that saw everyone but Hull KR get a vote. Yes, Widnes got a vote.

Whilst nearly three-quarters of Saints fans went with their own side, they were only 13% of all the people that voted Saints, so it's hard to argue that they were being homers. More than half the Hull fans voted for themselves though, and made up 74% of all the votes for the black and whites.

For Wigan, just under half of their fans picked their own team to lift the Super League title, but made up 82% of votes for the cherry and whites, and I'm in that number. I've gone heart over head and hope for a bounce-back year for a talented squad with something to prove again.

Steve Prescott Man of Steel
Following the theme we've seen already, it's St Helens players that lead the way, with the top three vote getters all being Saints - Alex Walmsley leading the way with 17%, Ben Barba just a couple of votes behind on 16% and James Roby getting 12% of votes. Every Saints Fan chose a Saints player, but so did 45% of all voters.

Ben Barba is the clear favourite with Super League sponsors Betred at 8/1. Luke Gale is second favourite with them but only picked up a couple of votes from you lot. Walmsley is 5th favourite at 18/1, which represents good value based on those who voted in our poll.

The longer shots would be Julien Bousquet, Robert Lui, Mickey Paea and young Olly Ashall. All those outsiders were picked by fans of their respective clubs, so no huge shock there. It would be a huge shock if any of them scooped the award though. Of these four, I could only find odds for Lui, 100/1.

My vote goes to James Roby. He's not won it now for over 10 years, yet when he stays injury free he's consistently one of the best players in the league and the most important player in his side. If St Helens do as well as everyone expects, he'll be as important as anyone in that.

Promotion from the Championship
Over half of you think the Toronto Wolfpack's rise to Super League will be a rapid one, having them being promoted through the Qualifiers. Leigh Centurions come in second despite being clear favourites to top the Championship ahead of Toronto with the bookies. Then comes the group that I've previously been in, those voting for no teams to get promoted. This year though I think that both Leigh and Toronto have strong enough sides to compete with at least a couple of the likely teams dropping in the Qualifiers from Super League.

Others expect Toulouse, London and Featherstone all have a chance of joining them going up. One person even thought Barrow will reach Super League, a proud Cumbrian I suspect! Half the teams have no chance according to our voters, but I do think it'll be a competitive league this year.

20% of us thought there would be more than one side going up. Two voters really think there will be a changing of the guard, picking three sides to get promoted through the Qualifiers. Of course, that may not matter at all, as we're yet to find out what the structure for 2019 and beyond will be or who will make up each division.

Relegation to League 1
Two votes were required for this question and our voters had a pretty strong feeling that it will be two of three sides that fall out of the second tier his season. Last year's financial struggle sees 55% of people tip Swinton for the drop. Newly promoted Barrow are next most fancied, being picked by 51% of voters to make an immediate League 1 return. Finally, the turbulent off-season has no doubt helped Rochdale get a vote from 50% of our voters.

The most notable thing from this category is that every club, even Leigh and Toronto, got votes to go down. I suspect some of those votes were made in spite more than genuine expectation.

Myself, I think it will be Barrow and Rochdale that make the fall. Barrow because I think this is a tougher division this year so for a promoted side to compete it takes the resources of a Toronto and not a Barrow. Rochdale because an unsettled preseason where you're losing all your best players isn't ideal off field preparation at all, and that after they had a rather poor back half of 2017 on the field.

Promotion to League 1
Bradford are short odds with Betfred to make an immediate return to the Championship and that's reflected with a huge 88% of you tipping them for promotion this year. With two going up, there was a little more competition between the next best sides, but in their 150th year almost a third of voters think it will be celebrated with promotion for York City Knights.

I'm in the Bradford and York camp myself. With John Kear leading a talented young Bulls side that's also added some Championship quality experience, they're nailed on if they avoid a further financial drama. York haven't just got a dual reg partnership with Hull KR, they seem to have taken some of their unwanted players too, players with good experience at a higher level. That partnership between those clubs, plus the special anniversary and feel good factor of a positive end to 2017 set them up well.

Both Cumbria clubs get decent support from our voters. It's not a great shock, and both have made some headline worthy moves in the off-season so they will be interesting to watch, but they lack depth out there to stay the course for me. 15% expect better from Keighley and 13% expect a bounce back from Oldham. Newcastle and Doncaster on the fringes of the heartlands get some support and non-heartland Coventry are probably a bit off challenging but at least one voter sees them up there this year.


Hear talk about your predictions and more in our 2018 season preview and predictions show! You can get it HERE, or HERE if your an iTunes person, and you can also get it on the League Cast Android app or YouTube.

Keep your eyes on our Twitter feed and Facebook page for when you can get more from SLP.


20 January 2018

1 to 17: Super League Squads Assessed

We now have all the 2018 Super League squad numbers announced, after Wigan and finally Castleford released theirs this week. So, to whet the appetite for our upcoming season preview show, in this week's blog I've decided to play a bit of a game to figure out how I feel each squad stacks up.

I listed every player in each squad numbered 1 to 17* and I've subjectively ranked them from 1 (best) to 12 (worst), then added up the scores to see who I think has the best squad in Super League.

*other than Hull KR, who don't have a number 2 and have retired the number 6 - so for them, I've just filled in the gaps with who from their squad made most sense.

My best 17
Before I go into the squads vs. squads rankings, I'm going to give you my top ranked player for each squad number 1 to 17.

With shirt numbers 1 to 13, I was obviously looking at players in terms of a particular position on the field too. For shirt numbers 14 to 17, you get a mix of players who play different positions, so it gets a bit tougher to value one over the others.

Here's my side:

1. Jake Mamo, Huddersfield Giants
2. Jermaine McGillvary, Huddersfield Giants
3. Kallum Watkins, Leeds Rhinos
4. Mark Percival, St Helens
5. Joe Burgess, Wigan Warriors
6. George Williams, Wigan Warriors
7. Luke Gale, Castleford Tigers
8. Alex Walmsley, St Helens
9. James Roby, St Helens
10. Grant Millington, Castleford Tigers
11. Ben Currie, Warrington Wolves
12. Liam Farrell, Wigan Warriors
13. Sean O'Loughlin, Wigan Warriors
14. John Bateman, Wigan Warriors
15. Jesse Sene-Lafao, Castleford Tigers
16. Luke Thompson, St Helens
17. Ukuma Ta'ai, Huddersfield Giants

Have a go at the same exercise yourself then tell us yours in the comments! Just a reminder, this is based on squad numbers and not on positions (before people lose their minds over no Ben Barba, or the make up of that bench).

How the squads stack up
Based on my subjective rankings, I get the the following order from best to worst for each side's 1 to 17:

#1 - Castleford Tigers - Score: 74/204
After a really strong 2017, their first-choicers ranked consistently high for me across the squad and a decent looking 'bench' helped edge Cas into top spot from my rankings.

#2 - St Helens - Score: 75/204
Favoured by many to lift some trophies this year, Saints were just pipped by Cas. If Ben Barba hadn't been given the 'famous' 23 jersey they probably would have been ranked top, they have a quality front line squad.

#3 - Wigan Warriors - Score: 78/204
I was surprised how high Wigan ranked overall, with a number of the first 13 not ranking well, but there are still some real star names in that squad. Having a world class player like John Bateman in the 14 shirt contributed to their 'bench' pulling Wigan up my list.

#4 - Leeds Rhinos - Score: 89/204
They won the title last year, so Leeds should be expected to rank high and they do. If I had rolled this out to the top 25 squad numbers, they would have ranked even higher, with some quality depth to their squad this year.

#5 - Hull FC - Score: 90/204
Losing a couple of their best players hits Hull a little in the rankings. They still do have a quality squad with quite a few ranked by me as 2nd or 3rd at their number.

#6 - Warrington Wolves - Score: 92/204
I didn't rank any of Wire's first 13 below 7th for their own number, but only Ben Currie ranked 1st, and a patchy 'bench' cost the a higher spot in my list. If I went to the top 25 squad numbers they would have dipped further, with a few unproven players at the back end of their fairly small squad.

#7 - Huddersfield Giants - Score: 97/204
Their ranking has benefited somewhat from who other sides put in a couple of shirts. The strength of the squad numbers is primarily in the 1-3 shirts and on the 'bench'. They also have the odd favourable comparisons in later squad numbers outside the top 17, as well as some that I rank low.

#8 - Wakefield Trinity - Score: 120/204
This may speak to Wakefield being better than the sum of their parts, I didn't have it in my head they would rank this low. If I'd been comparing Tyler Randell to hookers and not loose forwards, it may have changed a little. They do have some favourable comparisons when I look at numbers 18-25 though.

#9 - Catalan Dragons - Score: 126/204
They have a few 12th places in my rankings, so despite some of their forwards and 'bench' men ranking well, they sit outside my top eight squads. Numbers 19-23 would stack up well against other squads though, so my expectations for their season won't be based on their top 17.

#10 - Salford Red Devils - Score: 150/204
This feels about right for this Salford side, with the club in a full scale reshuffle. Only three of their first 17 players earned a top half rank from me for their numbers.

#11 - Hull Kingston Rovers - Score: 167/204
Their squad numbers reflect the fact that a solid side got them promoted from the Championship, but it's mostly made up of the players who got them relegated or players who've yet to prove it at Super League level. Without Danny McGuire, they probably would have sat last in my rankings.

#12 - Widnes Vikings - Score: 168/204
My rankings for Widnes' players reflect that they were a poor side in 2017 and haven't done a great deal of strengthening in 2018. If I was comparing teams' squad numbers 30+, with Aaron Heremaia and the Albert brothers down their list, that's where Widnes would rank better with their big squad.

I even surprised myself with a few of these rankings, so maybe you'll surprise yourself too. Share your rankings with us in the comments. If you end up with a team scoring anything close to 17/204 or 204/204 then give yourself a long look in the mirror!


Just to finish, I'll touch on one of the more notable news stories of the week with three big name big men getting cut adrift from the Wolfpack.

I'm not sure quite what went on in Portugal for Ryan Bailey, Fui Fui MoiMoi and Dave Taylor all to have parted ways, with a pleasant goodbye press release I should note, from the Toronto Wolfpack. It's not a great sign at this stage of the preseason for such a big upheaval to take place, but the powers-that-be in the transatlantic venture can't be too concerned seeing as they've given the coach a new contract extension.

Maybe it does leave the Wolfpack a little thin of front-line front-rowers, but Toronto still have quality in their ranks. You would also expect that they have a little cash going spare now and cap space to use up on anyone who becomes available elsewhere. I'm not too worried about how this affects their ability to compete this year and the likely step up to Super League beyond that. They'll be okay.


Hope you've enjoyed reading this week's blog. It's not long before we'll be back in your ears, as we plan to record our 2018 season preview and predictions show on 29 January. On that subject, make sure to make your predictions so you can be part of the show: https://goo.gl/forms/jZrrvCGFm2MrJxu42


12 January 2018

An SLP Take on the RFL Upheaval

The story dominating the last week has been the news that Nigel Wood is leaving the RFL after 10 years as CEO and 16 years on the RFL board. This comes after he had already stepped down from the Super League board in December. A sideline to this story that's also made the news this week is Roger Draper, the RFL's Chief Commercial Officer for just one year, also stepping down from his role.

Fans have rejoiced at the Wood news across social media, this in the face of an RFL press release crediting Wood for the development of some of Super League's major events and the geographic expansion of our competitions. Here's my take.

It's easy to find criticism of Wood. Crowds have, at best, stagnated from when he took his post in 2007 - a peak year for Super League average attendances. There have been some highly questionable sponsorship deals for our sport during his tenure. There's been a feeling of getting short changed in TV deal processes, despite securing increasing financial sums at each renegotiation. To fans of the sport, the mainstream profile of the sport seems to have gone nowhere. A number of clubs have suffered financially and questions have been raised over the support given to them by the RFL - from all sides. And, probably most importantly, we've tried a number of different formats during Wood's time and we still don't feel closer to a long-term solution that most are satisfied with.

Much of the criticism will have been exaggerated by personal feelings of passionate fans, but it would be foolish of any person to say there's no merit in lots of the concerns and questions raised over Wood's leadership.

In partial defence of the job he did, he came to his role just as a financial crisis was looming that would hit traditional rugby league communities harder, and for longer, than most places. His whole tenure as CEO has been under the cloud of that financial crisis and subsequent austerity. It's fair to criticise the way he has handled the sport's approach to that difficult period, but he can't be blamed for having to handle it, and no-one can realistically deny the impact of the economic circumstances of the last 10 years, particularly in Rugby League heartlands. Crowds haven't really gone down either, they're about where they were a decade ago. Sure there have been ups and downs, but they aren't in a bad place.

Whilst he wasn't solely to blame for licensing, it's obvious that didn't go well and he headed up that period for our sport. I think the theory behind licensing is strong and personally I like that kind of closed league structure as a concept. There were two main issues with it in Super League that Wood has to share in the criticism of. Firstly, it was a big cultural shift for sport in the UK and one that the general fan base never got behind. Fan buy-in is crucial, research surely would have shown it didn't exist, so any credit for applying a strong theoretical idea that's worked in other circumstances gets totally undermined. Secondly, it wasn't operated properly. The clubs still ran as almost completely autonomous and independent entities, still chasing their own agendas and competing with each other for commercial revenues, junior players and fans in the stands. For licensing to have worked, high levels of interdependence and revenue-sharing would have been needed. The man at the top has to take the hit for not properly applying the good theory.

The RFL is now in a better commercial position than it was 10 years ago, although it's fair to say it's not always been in a strong place during that 10 years. Wood deserves some credit for the position he leaves things in, but it's Draper that earned more credit in the press release announcing his departure. News that Betfred have extended their sponsorship in 2018 to cover the Championship and League 1 covers off the glaring black mark on Draper's record - that we made it to January without two of the four competitions having any sponsor. Clearly there's still problems getting the amount and types of sponsors on board across all levels of the professional game that we would want to see. That's not good, and it leaves work to be done by the new people who will come in, but it's better than the place we were in when a commercial deal was putting pictures on trucks.

So where now? Well a popular appointment would probably have been 2013 World Cup figurehead Sally Bolton, but she's ruled herself out. Blake Solly, who finally seemed to have been getting things together when he moved form his RFL role to his Super League role, has also ruled himself out and is happy back in Australia at Souths.

Ralph Rimmer is getting the CEO job on an interim basis. That makes sense for now, but I really hope it's not one of those situations where the interim seamlessly slips into the permanent role with little apparent thought carried out. It would be a completely underwhelming appointment in my opinion. Every criticism of Wood in recent years leaves a stain on Rimmer too in my view. By all means keep him in the RFL. He's experienced and understands the sport's inner-workings well. Even promote him to a new role if the RFL want. But the top role needs to bring in a fresh view.

We need someone who can add something to what we have, because it's clear there's a lot to be learnt from other sports and organisations. Love for rugby league would be a preferable characteristic, but by no means should it be an essential criteria for the new CEO - we can surround them with enough people who have enough passion for the sport that this aspect is covered off. I'm not up on who fits the bill or has the right credentials, but I really hope the RFL board do know what they want, and that they want something more than what they currently have.


On the Super League board part of all these manoeuvres, as I write this a nice fluff piece promising the best of intentions has been released - read it HERE. We're hearing noises form the club owners about big changes to shake things up and increase Super League's profile.

I have no doubt that there are some clever people running our clubs, with some great ideas to help our game grow. What I fear is that there are also some self-serving people who might be misguided by individual gains - they might even be the same people as the clever people. The key here is the sport, and the clubs need to work together, become understanding at just how interdependent and reliant on each other they are to find success.

When we look at a way forward for the sport, we can't heavily rely on the incumbent Super League club owners, they have too much to lose to make rational decisions to benefit the whole game. We need to add representatives at that table of all the full-time clubs from outside Super League, and all the clubs with a realistic plan to be a full-time club in the near future. We also need a voice for the rest too, just to make sure they aren't forgotten, but right at this time it's the full-time clubs that need to lead on the immediate next step forward for our sport.


My last note this week is on Nigel Wood's appointment as Chief Executive of the RLIF. Of course, this news has been treated with outright horror by all of Wood's critics. I'm not so sure I see it the same way. It isn't the same as the RFL role he leaves behind. For a start the RFL and the ARLC run so much of the game in it's two biggest territories that it takes some pressure off the RLIF in those areas. And, some of the undoubted successes of Wood's career have been in the international game. See his involvement in a great World Cup and a successful World Cup bid that's gained significant funding to help make that great too. See the expansion of the club game in Europe and North America. The game is growing internationally, but it's not ready in many of those places of growth to jump into the mainstream. Strengthening the roots in these areas of growth and getting more countries to join in that growth is the stage we're at internationally. Let's not run before we can walk.

Wood wouldn't be great at the step where the international game is running, but right now as it's still learning to walk in many places, Wood's combination of passion for the game - a passion that famously got Marwan Koukash to invest in Salford - and his experience of running a national governing body, as well as his global rugby league relationships, is a really good mix to make a success of his RLIF role at this time. Crucially, he can't hold on to that role too long, beyond where those parts of his skill-set are exhausted in their effectiveness. That's something he may have done in Super League and at the RFL.

As always, thanks for reading. I'm sure plenty of people will have their own opinions on this topic so feel free to share them with us!

Don't forget to make your predictions for the 2018 season ahead of us being back in your ears around 29 January. Make your predictions HERE.


3 January 2018

Gelling & McIlorum: Who will be missed most?

Every week this year I'm going to try and do a bit of a 'deep dive' into some of the bigger news stories of the week. I start with one close to my cherry and white heart.

It finally was confirmed this week that two of Wigan's first team regulars during the Shaun Wane era have left the club.

Michael McIlorum, 29, will be lost to the club he's been at for 14 years, man and boy. Thankfully he will not be lost to the Super League competition. He'll just now be wearing the colours of Catalan Dragons.

Anthony Gelling, 27, leaves Wigan and Super League after six seasons that saw him rise to the position of 'Man of the People' and two-time SLP Clown of the Year for his fun try celebrations and off-field hi-jinks.

So, which of these players will leave a bigger hole in the Wigan squad?

Gelling has been directly replaced in the player merry-go-round by the re-signing of centre Dan Sarginson. It looks highly unlikely that any new signing will be made to replace McIlorum in the Wigan squad. From that, you could say it looks like McIlorum may be the bigger miss.

However, it could be argued hooker is a well covered spot in the Wigan squad. Tommy Leuluai looks likely to spend more in his international position, interchanging with 2016 Grand Final and 2017 World Club Challenge winner Sam Powell - a big success in McIlorum's absence it must be said - with young rising star Josh Ganson as back up.

Both take with them some big game experience and winners medals from their time at Wigan. However Gelling, unlike McIlorum, was a major part of Wigan's two most recent successes at Old Trafford in 2016 and over the Cronulla Sharks to open 2017, as McIlorum sat out both games through injury. It was 2013 when McIlorum last lifted some silverware, in a try scoring Grand Final win to complete that year's double for Wigan.

Over the four seasons we've been doing SLP, Gelling has featured in 12 more Super League games than McIlorum and has a marginally better win success rate in that time, 68% to McIlorum's 65%.

Gelling is prone to the odd mistake - he gives up 1 more handling error for every two games played than the average Super League centre over the last four years, as well as having an 85% tackle success rate compared to the average for centres of 90% over that same four year period. He does though make up for this with his work rate and output in attack - making 6 more carries and 50 more metres per game than your average Super League centre. In the last four years he contributed more tries, assists, tackle busts, clean breaks and successful offloads than your average centre. He has been, more often than not, a force for good.

McIlorum has a reputation. For hard hits yes, but also for ones that I might call mistimed and you might call dirty, depending on your rooting interests. He actually averages fewer penalties per game during the the SLP years than the average hooker does I'm pleased to report - about 1 fewer penalty conceded for every 10 games played. The thing is though, his hard hitting intentions also see him miss more tackles than your average Super League hooker, tackling at a 91% success rate compared to the average hooker who tackles at 94% over the last four years.

Whilst it isn't completely fair to compare per game averages for hookers in the same way it is for centres, due to some teams using interchange hookers and other playing one guy for 80 minutes, some numbers can still be suggestive, and one thing the numbers for McIlorum suggest is that he isn't as creative as the average hooker - his per game number for tries scored is below the average and his figures for assists and clean breaks are less than half the average. Sam Powell outperforms McIlorum in all of these areas and is much closer to the league average in his creative attacking output over the last four years, as well as his defensive output being better than league average too.

Both Gelling and McIlorum have been part of successful times at Wigan, and both players will undoubtedly be missed in the squad and by the fans. The facts and stats I've mentioned don't cover the intangibles - the times where a big hit from McIlorum has brought the fans to their feet and awoken their voices, or the times where a Gelling offload has been ill-judged, bringing groans rather than cheers from the stands. For these reasons, many Wigan fans will miss McIlorum more.

I'm going to miss both just as much as I'm going to cheer for whoever pulls on the #3 and #9 jerseys at Wigan in 2018. But for me, based on recent experience, I think Gelling may well be harder to replace than McIlorum in the Wigan squad. And to top that off, off the pitch, for us fans of Super League, Gelling has been one of a kind.


Another topic I was going to go into but decided against a full scale opinion piece on was drugs in our sport. Once again they hit the headlines, with Ryan Bailey of Toronto earning a reprieve from his missed test in May 2017 following legal challenge and, much more disappointingly, former Dewsbury Rams player Donald Kudangirana being suspended for a period of three years and seven months following an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.

Kudangirana tested positive for the presence of the prohibited substances Drostanolone and Testosterone, and their respective metabolites. He was tested out-of-competition, during a Dewsbury Rams training session on 14 December 2016 and suspended by the club in February 2017. This is just the latest in a long line of drug related news stories we've had to cover during the four years of SLP. Hopefully the recent sentences being handing around will serve as a deterrent for any future rule violations. If this news had broken yesterday it might have featured in my hopes for 2018!


Thanks for reading, look out for more regular pieces like this throughout 2018.

Don't forget, our #AskSLP festive special is still available to listen to on Spreaker, iTunes and League Cast android app if you haven't heard it already. Also, our 2018 predictions will soon be open for you to give us all your views ahead of a new Rugby League season.


2 January 2018

Rugby League Dreams for 2018

2018 sees us enter in to the 5th season of Super League Pod. So, I thought it would be good to lay down my five biggest hopes for the year ahead, in increasing order of unlikeliness.

1) England to be successful!
Let's start with an easy one, one that stays the same every year - that England are well supported, well covered and successful. The World Cup run was a positive. A test series against New Zealand maybe isn't the big draw end-of-season event that we wanted most for this year but with all three games live on the BBC, all three games spread across the northern heartlands and an England team on the rise, I'm hopeful of a good news story from our international side in 2018.

2) Growth of the SLP family
And I'm not just saying this so we get a bigger box of beer this year, but one of the true highlights of 2017 was the relationships developed with and between members of the SLP listener-base. We really have a great bunch of listeners and contributors that I'm proud to be a part of. The meet-ups increased in terms of number of times and number of attendees. We had people come see us from the other side of the Irish Sea, the other side of the world, the other side of the county and everywhere in between. We know of listeners who helped us and each other out throughout the year, with advice, support, charity donations, design gifts, you name it! It would be fantastic in 2018 to see all of that grow, to see more people get involved in the show and the community around the show in any big or little way that they want to.

3) All our big events to sell out
I've already got my tickets bought for the Challenge Cup Final, the Grand Final and the Summer Bash, as well as a hotel booked for Magic Weekend and my Wigan season ticket re-ordered. I reckon I saw more games than ever in 2017, both for the club I follow and as a neutral, and I don't want to slow down in 2018. I really hope there are plenty of others who feel the same way. I know it's dreaming somewhat to expect our marquee events to sell out, but really rugby league fans as a group and a community should be able to find a way to Wembley for that annual pilgrimage south on the day our sport gets real national recognition. We should also want to celebrate the end of the season at Old Trafford in what I feel is becoming an increasingly well organised event for our sport. Throw in a big weekend in Newcastle shared with all our friends from around the league and you have some great times ahead that we should all try and not miss out on.

4) Expansion to continue, and do so with a clear direction
Toronto were a real good news story last year, with New York and others keen to join the party. Toulouse were almost a Qualifiers team, but for one big injury I feel. London Skolars continued to develop an inviting match day approach and community reach, and there were a few southern wins over northern clubs in League 1 in 2017. Alongside the positives is the absence of Oxford and All Golds in 2018, doubts over the sustainability of others in League 1 and concerns about the South now West Wales side ever having a solid foundation. It really is one of the biggest challenges to place teams outside of the UK in the right places so that they won't be a flash in the pan, whilst also helping expansion sides in the UK reach and build on a sustainable local supporter base. I hope by the end of 2018 a much clearer and stronger sense of direction is reached.

5) Let the moaning all end, or at least take an extended rest!
This is probably the least likely to happen, but lets all find a way to see and express what we love about the greatest game a little more in 2018. Celebrate or at least applaud the remarkable pieces of skill we see week in week out, whoever delivers it (yes, even if it's Ryan Atkins or Carl Ablett). Don't cheer when an opposing player gets injured, or boo when a player for a team you don't like pulls on an England shirt. By all means critique what you see, express all your emotions and comment with balance on any new structure we do or don't get, but do make sure to look for all positives you can in the face of a world full of social media negatives. Find all the ways you can to celebrate and compliment Rugby League, without it being and someone else's detriment. I'm not saying don't say anything negative, just do so with balance and make sure your love for your team and your sport always shines through.

Let's look forward to an exciting 2018!


Before closing out, I just wanted to add a note on today's biggest news story, with confirmation that Michael McIlorum and Anthony Gelling have both left Wigan Warriors. On a personal level, as a Wigan supporter, I wish both players well. I will miss both of them in their different ways and hope nothing but the best for them in their careers (other than when they play Wigan!).

For McIlorum, I think it's a good time to move on. After injury destroyed his 2016, he didn't have the best of years in 2017. He showed up great in the Cup semi-final victory over Salford and off the field enjoyed a wonderful testimonial year. Over that span, though, Wigan's greatest successes have been achieved with him on the sidelines. Wigan need to find some new direction in attack and rediscover their control in defence, whilst Mickey needs to be part of a team that he can inspire and lead in a similar way to how he helped Ireland perform in the World Cup. The Wigan crowd will miss some of those huge hits he could hand out though.

It's a close call, but I'll probably miss Gelling more of the two - he's an entertainer and a game breaker, you just never knew whether he would break the game open for you or them! I can't see any more development in him within the current Wigan set up, so I really hope a deal can be ironed out that gives him an NRL chance in Auckland. 2017 was, it felt, a stagnant year for Gelling in Wigan's colours. Despite hopes that his defensive discipline and play selection would improve as he matured, he didn't really take that next step. I think in a different environment he has the chance to do that, as he has all the skill and work ethic to be one of the best centres in the game, now it's about applying himself more consistently.

Both were successful for Wigan. They'll always have the medals and I'll always have the memories.

Thanks for reading!

Our #AskSLP festive special is still available to listen to if you haven't already.

Our 2018 predictions will soon be open for you to give us all your views ahead of a new Rugby League season, and we'll cover your predictions and ours in our season preview episode a week before the new campaign gets underway in only a month's time.