Super League Odds: A preview of the 2023 season with a 33/1 Grand Final selection
It has been a long winter for fans of the 13 a side code since the Rugby League World Cup concluded in November at Old Trafford.
That same iconic venue in Manchester is the aim for all 12 teams in the 2023 Super League and the wait is almost over for fans to see their sides back on the road to the Grand Final in a new season!
The action gets underway in Warrington on Thursday night with the big-spending Wolves hosting last year's beaten Grand Finalists Leeds Rhinos.
There promises to be countless twists and turns over the coming months as clubs battle for positioning on the final league table before the play-offs begin, and Billy Grimshaw is on hand to give us his prediction for how the 2023 campaign will unfold...
With the impending near takeover of the sport of rugby league in the Northern Hemisphere by commercial giants IMG drawing ever closer, it is unsurprising to see Super League stick to what it knows in 2023.
The game has had constant tinkering when it comes to league structure almost since the sport's inception way back in 1895, but this season will mirror the last couple and run with twelve teams and a simple promotion and relegation format (last in Super League is relegated to the Championship while the second tier Grand Final winner earns promotion).
The Super League champion will once again be crowned not on league position in a standard first past the post format, but on the outcome of the play-offs. The better your league position, the more favourable your route in the play-offs to a Grand Final. The whole season culminates at Old Trafford for the biggest night of the year on Saturday October 14 2023 when a new Super League champion will be crowned.
One of IMG's missions when taking charge of rugby league in the UK and Europe will be to ensure a wider spread of Grand Final winners. Since the competition's birth in 1996 only four teams have been crowned champions. Bradford Bulls have since gone bust multiple times and now languish in the Championship, but the other three past winners in St Helens, Wigan and Leeds remain powerhouses of the British game. These three lead the way with odds compilers for Grand Final glory in 2023, but I think there are enough holes in each side to gamble this is the season we see a new name on the trophy.
2023 Super League Season Tips
- Wakefield Trinity To Finish Bottom @ 15/8 with bet365
- Matt Dufty To Win Man Of Steel @ 25/1 with BetVictor
- Salford Red Devils Top 6 Finish @ 10/3 with BetVictor
- Ken Sio Top Try-Scorer @ 20/1 (EW) with BoyleSports
- Huddersfield Giants To Win Regular Season @ 12/1 with Betway
- Salford Red Devils To Win the Grand Final @ 33/1 with BoyleSports
Super League 2023 Odds
It makes no sense when assessing each team's chances of glory not to start with the outright favourites and defending champions St Helens.
To call this side 'just' defending champions is a bit of an understatement, however. Over the last four seasons the Saints have dominated the Super League, winning four consecutive Grand Finals first under the swashbuckling style of Justin Holbrook and then refined by hard taskmaster Kristian Woolf.
Both men have headed back to Australia now for bigger gigs in the sport's premier competition, the NRL. St Helens have elected to hand rookie Paul Wellens, a bonafide club legend and a man with extensive experience as an assistant coach but none as the boss, the reins for 2023 and despite the squad's strength, fans will surely be having nightmares about the last club legend to take charge.
Keiron Cunningham is arguably St Helens' greatest ever player and even had a statue erected outside the club's new stadium. Cunningham was not, however, up to the job of coaching the Saints and was eventually sacked before Holbrook's arrival brought the good times back.
Wellens may be a completely different proposition and guide Saints to more glory, but this feels like the season to oppose them despite the squad being arguably the best in the league and in Jack Welsby and Lewis Dodd containing two of the sport's finest young prospects. Their odds make little appeal at this stage and so the Saints are swerved for betting purposes.
Next in the odds lists are the Wigan Warriors and after winning the Challenge Cup in his debut season as head coach, Matt Peet will be looking to nail a Grand Final in year two.
He has a new look coaching team behind him now after Lee Briers left and Tommy Leuluai retired from the playing squad and took over as an assistant. Leuluai will presumably be charged with coaching the attack at Wigan this season but Briers' brains leave big boots to fill so the Warriors may need a few weeks to adjust.
In Jai Field and Bevan French Wigan possess the two fastest players in the league and when summer hits expect to see these two combining for some sensational long range tries.
The worry for the Warriors is the soft underbelly they showed at times last season in big games and despite recruiting well with Jake Wardle and Toby King bolstering a weak spot of centre, the loss of John Bateman is a blow and their pack could be their Achilles heel once more.
One of the first teams we will see in 2023 is the Leeds Rhinos, who enjoyed a remarkable end to 2022 after languishing in 11th mid season until the inspired appointment of Rohan Smith.
The Rhinos squad was never one that should've been in relegation trouble but Smith still got them overachieving come the business end of the season and their run to the Grand Final will have inspired hope in the Headingley hordes that the good times could be about to return for the Rhinos.
Alarm bells may be ringing over the off-season though, as Leeds' recruitment has been mediocre, their pre-season results even worse and the club are strangely refusing to appoint a captain. Pre-season form matters little and we will get a truer reflection of the state of the Rhinos on Thursday night, but with so many doubts they are another market leading club that can be left unbacked.
The Rhinos opponents in the opener Warrington Wolves are a similar price for Grand Final glory at 8/1 and to be quite honest I wouldn't back the Wolves at double that price for their first taste of Grand Final glory at the fifth time of asking.
Daryl Powell took over in 2022 and much was expected of a club that always spends the most every season, but a complete collapse ensued with long serving players jettisoned to rival clubs, woeful performances on the field and rumours of discontent in camp all season.
Despite many calls for his head, Powell survived after leading Warrington to their worst ever top flight finish of second bottom, but has no good favour left at the club and with his own team of players recruited has no excuses heading into 2023.
The best Warrington can hope for this season is more consistency and perhaps scraping a play-off position, unless George Williams hits his NRL heights and inspires the Wire to glory.
Keep an eye on the Wolves in the early weeks, as if they start badly the mutiny will begin in earnest and Powell will not keep his job for long. Matt Dufty was a mid season recruit last campaign and could be an interesting Man Of Steel contender as the star player in a mid table side. These players have done well over the last few years (Croft, McShane, Hastings) so the speedy Aussie could be value in this specials market.
Catalans Dragons have cemented themselves in recent years as perennial challengers and with the massive advantage they have when playing at home they look sure to nail down a play-off spot again in 2023, although the big prize may once again elude them.
Star man Sam Tomkins is another year older but still oozes class, while the signing of Tom Johnstone, if they can keep him fit and healthy, could be an inspired one as he is one of the best finishers in world rugby. The Dragons have bolstered an already sizeable forward pack and will undoubtedly be there or thereabouts but I can't see this year being their year.
A side I am much keener on for success in 2023 is the Huddersfield Giants, who are my tip to finish top in the regular season (best price 12/1 with Betway at the time of writing).
Ian Watson raised eyebrows in the rugby league world when taking a seeming sideways step from Salford to Huddersfield a few years ago, but the financial backing he has received to mould his own squad has vindicated his choice. The Giants are coming into this new season with arguably the deepest squad in the league, which will help as the season progresses and injuries bite. What they also now have though is a group of players who fully understand Watson's philosophies and principles.
I expect them to start fast in 2023 and keep the pace going so with question marks about all the teams above them at much shorter odds on the grids, back Huddersfield to win the League Leaders' Shield. They could even make the Grand Final, although there's another team at even bigger odds I like to do that and upset the apple cart.
Both Hull FC and Hull KR will be looking for play-off positions in 2023 after missing out in 2022.
The Black and Whites have hired veteran coach Tony Smith, who's latest job was across the city at KR, while the Robins have brought over Australian Willie Peters.
If forced to pick which of the two would have the better season, I would lean towards Hull FC although (sorry people of Humberside) I can't really see either troubling the big boys come play-off time. Tony Smith does have a good record in the Challenge Cup, however, and is a brilliant motivator so FC could be value in that market.
Castleford Tigers on paper look to have recruited well and will be hoping to repeat or better last year's sixth place finish under Lee Radford.
Gareth Widdop and Jacob Miller is a classy half back partnership but both men are now the wrong side of 30 and injury prone. It is a risk for the Tigers to be banking on this duo to fire them around the park all season and with such a dearth of options behind the duo, I would fear for Castleford were injuries to strike again. They will be hard to beat at The Jungle, a ground that has never been Super League standard and would've looked dated in the 60's but is a tough place for opposition teams to travel to, however I can't see them making the top 6 this time around.
Leigh Leopards are back in the big time and have made a host of big name signings while also keeping hold of Man of Steel favourite Edwin Ipape. The Leopards have been relegated the last twice they were in Super League and I expect them to be able to stave that off this season, although a play-off position is also unlikely.
Wakefield Trinity will probably go down. This is a sentence that has been written about the plucky underdogs many a time over the years, but this season they just look to lack too much in both the quality and depth departments. Unless their rookie coach is a seriously shrewd operator and targets the games they can scoop points in, the pre-season relegation favourites look the right price to me.
Just one side remains to be assessed and I think the best bet of the 2023 Super League season is backing the Salford Red Devils for Grand Final glory at a whopping 33/1!
There is no universe in which Paul Rowley's men have less chance of being champions than Castleford or Hull FC and it seems odds compilers are convinced last season's phenomenal run which only ended in a one try defeat away at St Helens was a fluke. I'm not so sure.
Salford probably would've won that game and ended Saints' quest for a Fourpeat had starting hooker Andy Ackers not been forced off with injury mere minutes into the contest, and they produced some electric rugby league on the way in 2022 to delight their fans and neutrals alike. The spine of Brierley, Croft, Sneyd and Ackers is up there with any in the competition when it comes to attacking flair and guile, and with reigning Man Of Steel Brodie Croft now locked in for 8 (yes, EIGHT) more seasons with Salford the Red Devils can kick on again in 2023.
Paul Rowley has shed his tag of coaching thuggery and now produces a side easy on the eye with innovative plays and hard work as their cornerstones. Salford winning Super League would not only be great for this antepost punt, but would be a wonderful shot in the arm for rugby league in this part of the world and an underdog team winning the competition playing their style of free-flowing rugby would be brilliant to see. At 33/1, they are seriously overpriced to do it.
If I am backing Salford for glory I of course believe they will make the play-offs so the 10/3 on a Top Six finish with BetVictor looks worth backing, and while we are on the Red Devils, Ken Sio is a few points too big to be the Super League top try-scorer for the Salford side so we will chuck a few shillings on him too.