With the 2018 Super League season starting on February 1 we thought it was time to introduce new Rugby League columnist Phil Spink. Our man looks at all the big Betfair antepost markets including the Grand Final winner, and who will finish rock bottom in his season preview...
"Castleford were a joy to watch, notching up a colossal 150 tries, and more of the same attacking play can be expected this term, with Zak Hardaker the only notable absentee from a 2017 side which was brimming with quality."
Daryl Powell and his Castleford Tigers can make it second time lucky and are worth backing at 10/3 to win the Super League Grand Final in 2018.
A nightmare trip to Old Trafford was a cruel end to what had been an outstanding Super League XXII for the Tigers, a season that had seen them lift a first league title by 10 points having topped the table in all bar one of the rounds.
Castleford were a joy to watch, notching up a colossal 150 tries, and more of the same attacking play can be expected this term, with Zak Hardaker the only notable absentee from a 2017 side which was brimming with quality. Greg Eden, who ran in a staggering 38 tries, will be a massive influence again, but the name on many people's lips this time around could be Garry Lo, a points-scoring machine for Championship side Sheffield Eagles who can make a successful step up in grade if getting the game time.
St Helens and Leeds to provide the competition
St Helens have been the team attracting money in the close season after recovering from a shocking start in 2017 which saw them miss out on a Grand Final place by a golden point. James Roby has been appointed captain and there is an air of optimism on Merseyside again - if they can pick up where they left off then St Helens will have a big year.
Leeds Rhinos will have one eye on an early-season trip Down Under but will be right in the thick of things on home soil once more. Hooker Matt Parcell had an unforgettable 2017, running in 17 tries in Super League, and looks overpriced at 6/1 to be the top tryscorer again for the Grand Final winners.
Challenge Cup the likely goal for Warrington and Wigan
Warrington and Wigan's best chance of silverware is likely to come in the Challenge Cup, the Warriors having gone very close at Wembley in August. They also head to Australia in the early weeks of the campaign for two games, the first of them against current Challenge Cup holders Hull FC in what will be the first Super League tie to be played outside Europe. The black and whites enjoyed another fine league campaign in 2017 and look nailed on for a top 4 finish again.
Hull KR an underdog to follow
Neighbours Hull KR could be the surprise package this year and are worth backing at 7/2 to gate-crash the Super 8s party. Rovers regained their Super League status at the first time of asking with a dominant campaign in the 2017 Championship, losing just three games under Tim Sheens. The experience of new recruit Danny McGuire will be priceless and the likes of Ryan Shaw and influential hooker Shaun Lunt are sure to rack up the points again. Hopefully their momentum can continue, and they could make a fast start with winnable games against Catalans, Wakefield and Salford in February.
Salford set for a season of struggle
The battle to avoid the wooden spoon will be interesting. Despite a successful fans' takeover at Salford Red Devils, recent vibes out of the AJ Bell stadium haven't been great, with coach Ian Watson voicing concerns over their reduced playing budget. A top four finish last term doesn't tell the whole story as the Red Devils suffered an alarming loss of form as the season ended, winning just one of their last 11 games. They look bound for the Qualifiers and we'll take a punt on them at 7/2 to finish bottom in the regular season.