We're another week closer the the start of the 2024 Betfred Super League season - and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out current champions Wigan are favourites to retain their title.
A lot of the off-season talk has been about Saints' arch rival's new signings and how they'll be even stronger this year.
This is something title sponsors Betfred clearly believe as they make the Warriors 2/1 favourites to win the competition come October - and just 16/1 to do the clean sweep of winning the League Leaders' Shield, Super League and Betfred Challenge Cup.
However, St Helens will be backing themselves to take the Betfred Super League trophy back to the Totally Wicked Stadium, as they did in four of the last five seasons. That's a minimum requirement.
Betfred make Saints second-favourites at 3/1 to do just that, with 28/1 available for the treble.
Saints kick off their challenge at home on Friday 16 February against the London Broncos, who are back in the top-flight for the first time since 2019.
This is of course a must-win game for the hosts, not necessarily on the points table but as a statement of intent for things to come.
All three new boys - Daryl Clark, Matt Whitley and Waqa Blake - will be itching to pull on the Red V for their opening competitive match since signing for the club pre-season.
They all had a run out in the final pre-season game, which saw the Saints post a convincing 52-10 defeat of the Salford Red Devils.
Going off Paul Wellens' post-match analysis, he was very pleased with what he saw as a strong squad got to put into practice some of the things they’ve been working on in training all winter. Special mention to Jake Wingfield who impressed on his return to action following a nine month lay-off with injury.
New skipper Jonnie Lomax will be looking to lead his side back to silverware, but he'll be fully aware of his biggest challengers from over Billinge Lump.
Wigan have made some high-profile signings, none more so than ex-Saints favourite Luke Thompson who made his return to Super League from the NRL. Other significant signings include ex-Rhino Kruise Leeming, former Catalans centre and quality goal kicker Adam Keighran and giant back rower Sam Walters.
While Wigan will have their sights set on Betfred Super League success, like the record-breaking Saints in 2023 they will have the small matter of a World Club Challenge final against three-time NRL Premiers Penrith Panthers on February 24 at the DW Stadium.
Saints know all too well both the highs of playing in such a game, but also the mental and physical impact that can have on the domestic competition in following weeks. Obviously Saints had much more to deal with, beating the Panthers in their own back yard!
I do see this season being decided between the two Lancashire giants. Catalans have a huge hole to fill following the retirement of Sam Tomkins. Warrington in the new Sam Burgess era and Leeds Rhinos, who need to start showing some consistency after numerous poor seasons, will also be looking to challenge silverware... but I’m not convinced.
So, Saints fans, show the ones you love how much next week - I’m talking about Friday night at the Totally Wicked Stadium, not Valentines Day. Obviously!
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