Having ended the season on a dramatic note in both the Grandfinal and Million Pound Game, most Rugby League fans were looking forward to a quiet winter after the Four Nations had finished, but we got nothing of the sort. An off-season punctuated by contract rebellions, legal battles and headline transfers, it's hard to know which clubs are best prepared for the campaign ahead.
Running through the outright markets, there's plenty of value to be had, even if you do decide to play safe and stick with the usual names and faces. Having had such an unpredictable league last season, this new competition format has ensured that there's no such thing as a banker anymore, which hasn't really made our lives any easier - but maybe just a little more fun. Here is the Betfair preview of the 2017 Super League season.
Widnes had a brilliant campaign last time out, but having failed to bring in anyone of real note across winter, married with the fact that Kevin Brown has made the short move across to Warrington, would seem to suggest that this is a weaker Vikings side than before. There's no room to stand idle in the competition anymore, and while it's admirable that Widnes are looking to promote from within and build a core through their academy and squad players, it might take a little while before they see the results of that. This year could be a struggle, especially if they find themselves without home advantage in The Qualifiers.
More than anything, Wigan have consistency. Their squad has improved, with Matty Smith having been turned in to Thomas Leuluai, while the core of their Super League winning squad remains. Joe Burgess has returned prematurely from Australia despite a contract offer from South Sydney, so what was an already potent attack has just regained one of it's most devastating weapons. The only thing standing between Wigan and top spot is complacency, which had crept in at times last season, but even then, this is the competitions strongest side on paper.
The man they call Budgie in Lancashire struggled in the NRL at first, but once he'd traded in the Roosters for the Rabbitohs, he started to look far more comfortable in the southern hemisphere. Wigan had already agreed to take him back before South Sydney could strike a deal, however, so one of Super League's best scorers over the past few seasons is making a return, probably as a better player than the one that left. Wigan use the ball well under Shaun Wane and like to overload teams on offence - Burgess won't be shy of opportunities, and there's few better in the game at finishing them.
Castleford have had their preparations slightly hampered by an ongoing legal dispute with former winger Denny Solomona who, the club argue, used retirement at the age of 23 to break the terms of his Tigers contract and join Sale Sharks on a free, a ploy Cas have argued the player and his new club had colluded on. What that has distracted people from, however, is the ever improving creative nucleus in West Yorkshire, with Luke Gale spearheading a backline that now includes former Man Of Steel winner Zak Hardaker, who's on loan from Leeds with a view to a buy. Gale has quietly become one of the best creative players in the entire competition, and having broken in to the England side, it's time for him to take it up yet another gear.
Wire were in two finals last season and came away empty handed on both occasions, so there's no greater motivation heading in to this campaign. Despite securing the League Leaders' Shield in dramatic fashion, they were outplayed in the Grandfinal and beaten late on at Wembley, and those wounds will still be fresh to those players who've remained in Cheshire over the winter. Having lost Chris Sandow - who walked out on the club without notice - and brought in Kevin Brown as replacement, Warrington have an old half-back pairing, but a smart and experienced one. They might've run out of steam by the time October rolls around, but another crack at the cup in August could be on the cards.
Wigan have the best players in the deepest squad in the competition. They've a coach who's appetite for success is insatiable and the collective knowledge of having been there and done it before, which becomes invaluable towards the end of the season. The teams around them at the top of the table have all had to juggle their squads, make major transfers and adjust in a manner that they won't have been planning for, while Wigan have been smooth sailing somewhat in comparison. This is a Warriors side that could sweep the competition - and the board - with almost machine like consistency should they put their minds to it, so there's no point looking too far below the favourites in this market.