Rugby: CLUB-BY-CLUB GUIDE TO THE SUPER LEAGUE - Sport - The Independent

Rugby: CLUB-BY-CLUB GUIDE TO THE SUPER LEAGUE

BRADFORD BULLS

The outstanding success story of last season, although, as they keep reminding themselves, they won nothing. The Bulls look even stronger this time, with all last year's new signings now fully integrated. The only question is how they will be affected by the lack of Brian Smith's dominating presence.

In: Danny Peacock (S Queensland), Tahi Reihana (Western Reds), Mike Hogue (N Queensland), Abi Ekoku (Halifax), Paul Anderson (Halifax). Out: Karl Fairbank (retired), Carlos Hassan (Keighley), Joe Tamani (Adelaide). Coach: Matthew Elliott (succeeds Brian Smith). Last season: Third. Prediction: Second.

CASTLEFORD TIGERS

All the signs are that Cas are in for a tough season. They rely too much on their veteran prop, Lee Crooks, and their opportunist half-back, Tony Smith, who wants a transfer. There is no real depth in their squad and it could be a struggle to avoid relegation.

In: Lee St Hilaire (Huddersfield), Adrian Vowles (N Queensland), Jason Lidden (Canterbury), Sean McVean (Balmain), Jason Roach (Swinton). Out: Frano Botica (Llanelli, rugby union), Junior Paramore (released), Tony Marchant (retired), Jamie Coventry (Huddersfield). Coach: John Joyner. Last season: Ninth. Prediction: Twelfth.

HALIFAX BLUE SOX

A bad start undermined Halifax' hopes last time and recent upheavals do not bode well for this season. There is plenty of talent here and they will look brilliant on their day, but consistency has been the elusive quality and is likely to remain so.

In: Martin Pearson (Featherstone), Kelvin Skerrett (Wigan), Daio Powell (Wakefield), Greg Clarke (South Sydney), David Bouveng (N Queensland), Eric Anselme (Albi), Jerome Guisset (St Esteve). Out: Mick Martindale, Roy Southernwood, Craig Rika (all Wakefield), Abi Ekoku (Bradford), St John Ellis (Keighley), Paul Anderson (Bradford). Coach: David Hobbs as caretaker in place of Steve Simms. Last season: Sixth. Prediction: Eighth.

LEEDS RHINOS

Rebuilt on and off the field, Leeds will improve on their disastrous record last season, but probably not enough to force their way into the top four. A fully fit and motivated Richie Blackmore could upset those calculations.

In: Paul Sterling (Hull), Richie Blackmore (Auckland), Damian Gibson (N Queensland), Ryan Sheridan, Dean Lawford, Anthony Farrell (all Sheffield), Jamie Mathiou, Wayne Collins (both S Queensland), Martin Masella (South Sydney). Out: Alan Tait (Newcastle, rugby union), Dean Clark (released), Esene Faimalo (Salford), Jim Fallon (Richmond, rugby union), Mike Forshaw (Saracens, rugby union), Paul Gleadhill, Paddy Handley, Lee Maher (all Featherstone), Carl Hall (Moseley, rugby union), Neil Harmon (Huddersfield), Harvey Howard (Western Suburbs), David Hulme (Salford), Kevin Iro (Hunter Mariners), Matt Schultz (Hull), Sateki Tuipuloto (Leeds, rugby union), George Mann (Warrington), Nathan Picchi (released). Coach: Dean Bell. Last season: Tenth. Prediction: Sixth.

LONDON BRONCOS

The Broncos seem to have lost more than they have gained in terms of playing strength and need another two or three top players if they are to match last season's achievements. Some young English players should start to emerge this season to break up the virtual Australian monopoly.

In: Paul Smith (Sydney City), Josh White (Illawarra), Robert Beazley (Illawarra), Matt Dunford (Manly), Roger Best (Manly), Matt Nable (Carlisle). Out: John Minto, Gavin Allen, Darryl Pitt, Junior Paul (all retired), Evan Cochrane, Leo Dynevor (both Newcastle, Aus), Darren Shaw (Canberra), Kevin Langer (Runaway Bay), Duncan McRae (Sydney Bulldogs), Ray Allen (Brisbane Easts), Graham Strutton (Brisbane Easts), Adam Ross (released), Paul Stevens (Rochdale). Coach: Tony Currie. Last season: Fourth. Prediction: Fifth.

OLDHAM BEARS

Relocated to Boundary Park, Oldham will have their good days when they have their best side on the field. A few injuries can weaken them savagely, however, and they will find it tough going by the end of the season.

In: Nathan Turner (S Queensland), Brett Goldspink (Western Reds), Luke Goodwin (Western Reds), Vince Fawcett (Workington). Out: Adrian Belle (Huddersfield), Chris Parr (Rochdale), Ian Sherratt (Wigan), Shaun Irwin (Featherstone). Coach: Andy Goodway. Last season: Eighth. Prediction: Eleventh.

PARIS ST-GERMAIN

A new, highly organised coach and a new batch of players promise to make Paris a much harder side to beat. They will pick up enough points to be respectable, but in the absence of any French players will anyone in Paris be interested?

In: Jason Martin (N Queensland), James Durkin (Brisbane), David O'Donnell (Sydney City), Jamie Olejnik, Jason Eade, Paul Evans, David Lomax (all Western Reds), Tony Priddle (Canterbury), Wayne Sing (N Queensland), Joe Taylor (Manly), Phil Bergman (Auckland), Troy Bellamy (S Queensland), Anthony Hancock (South Sydney), Nick Hyde (North Sydney), Jason Keough (South Sydney), Craig Menkins (N Queensland), Matt O'Connor (New South Wales, rugby union), Adam Peters (Canberra), Jeremy Robinson (Canberra). Out: virtually all last season's players, although Frenchmen Pascal Bomati, Pierre Chamorin and Fabien Devecchi may be on board by the end of April. Coach: Peter Mulholland (succeeds John Kear). Last season: Eleventh. Prediction: Ninth.

ST HELENS

Saints still look the best equipped side in the competition, despite a quiet winter with only one new signing. Their first, and perhaps trickiest problem, is how to get through the opening weeks of the season without the suspended Bobbie Goulding.

In: Julian O'Neill (Auckland). Out: Adam Fogerty (released). Coach: Shaun McRae. Last season: Champions. Prediction: Champions.

SALFORD REDS

The great cliche about Super League is that promoted sides will find it fiendishly hard to adapt, but Salford will have no great difficulty in doing so. Some inspired recruiting points to them finishing comfortably in mid-table.

In: Andy Platt (Auckland), Esene Faimalo (Leeds), Peter Maitland (Bridgend RU), John Cartwright (Penrith), Gilles Gironella (Catalan), David Hulme (Leeds). Out: Sam Panapa (retired), Steve Hampson (Cannes), Ali Davys (Huddersfield), Paul Mansson (Hunslet), Richard Webster (Bath, rugby union), David Young (Cardiff, rugby union). Coach: Andy Gregory. Last season: First Division Champions. Prediction: Seventh.

SHEFFIELD EAGLES

The Don Valley will seem strange without the presence of the Eagles' founder, Gary Hetherington, now chief executive at Leeds. They also look to have lost too many players from key positions and new coach Phil Larder could find himself holding the club together through a transitional season.

In: Steve Edmed, Willie Morganson, Whetu Taewa (all N Queensland), Rod Doyle (S Queensland), Nick Pinkney (Keighley), Martin Wood (Keighley), Wayne Flynn (Wakefield), Steve McCurrie (Widnes). Out: Ryan Sheridan, Anthony Farrell, Dean Lawford (all Leeds), Mark Gamson (Keighley), Ian Hughes (Wakefield), Mala Yasa (released), Joe Dakuitoga (released). Coach: Phil Larder (succeeds Gary Hetherington). Last season: Seventh. Prediction: Tenth.

WARRINGTON WOLVES

Warrington have more intriguing newcomers than anyone and have the capacity to improve but they need to either make a lasting peace with Iestyn Harris or to sell him and invest in a top-class stand-off.

In: Martin Dermott (Wigan), Nigel Vagana, Dallas Mead, Tony Tatupu (all Auckland), George Mann (Leeds). Out: Mark Jones (Ebbw Vale RU), Jason Lee (Pontypridd, rugby union). Coach: John Dorahy. Last season: Fifth. Prediction: Fourth.

WIGAN WARRIORS

We write them off at our peril, but there seem too many problems for them to overcome this season. By their standards, their squad is thin on genuine quality and new coach Eric Hughes has a difficult task on his hands.

In: David Murray (Auckland), Stuart Lester (Auckland), Stephen Holgate (Workington), Ian Sherratt (Oldham), Paul Koloi (Canterbury, NZ). Out: Martin Dermott (Warrington), Andy Craig (Swinton), Shem Tatupu (Northampton, rugby union). Coach: Eric Hughes (succeeds Graeme West). Last season: Second. Prediction: Third.

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