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Brian Noble ■ The Reality Is...

I’m just back from Mexico, having had some R and R in the build-up to the new season, and have come back refreshed and excited about the prospects. There wasn’t much sign of the game out there despite searching for it in several bars, purely in the interests of research. But looking at the local population they’d be a bit like Papua New Guinea, tough but vertically challenged.

The year 2013 is going to be massive, with the focus undoubtedly on the World Cup which can be a magnificent showcase for us. Super League could also be mouthwatering. There’s been a lot of static surrounding it in terms of lack of sponsors and the economic health of some of the teams, but on the field I can see it being more competitive.

There’s been some good, levelling recruitment which means it truly is difficult to pick which sides will be in the eight. All 14 can make some sort of a claim if they stay healthy and get a prevailing wind.

Personally, I’m glad to see the likes of David Waite and Tony Rea back; they will offer a lot. There are new exciting faces, many of them youngsters and that adds to the mix and unpredictability. I expect to be watching a greater number of intense games.

Wigan

Forty-20 says:

4th

In George Carmont, Brett Finch and Thomas Leuluai they’ve lost three of their most influential personnel. Blake Green is a very good player, I tried to sign him for Crusaders but couldn’t get a visa, and he will become a favourite. They’ve promoted youth which is highly encouraging for the game as a whole and the stats say were the strongest side last year - but came up empty-handed. That’ll rankle with the born-winners coaching staff. Aim: To make a final and get back on the big stage. Once there, they’ve got the arsenal to claim trophies.

Warrington Forty-20 says:

1st

Few changes, very settled, strong in all positions and Tony Smith won’t change his philosophies. They’ll rightly be most people’s favourites and need to focus on capturing the big prize; they can manage the rounds with the squad they’ve got. The likes of Richie

Myler and Stef Ratchford grew a leg moving to the HJ and will be all the better a year down the line. Aim: They’ll be top two, for sure, but need to nail the Grand Final having found the formula in the Cup.

Top and bottom? Warrington’s Chris Riley is crunched by the defence of battling Widnes rlphotos.com

St Helens Forty-20 says:

3rd

Under new management, but they are more than dark horses, they are very real candidates. Willie Manu is box office and Alex Walmsley will be a very interesting work in progress having seen him perform so well in the Championship, but their systems are proven and in place. The youngsters need to step up and fulfil their potential, but when Tony Puletua, Sia Soliola and James Roby are out there and firing, they are always a chance. Eamonn McManus thinks that in Nathan Brown he has the man to do the job. Aim: To win something, probably by starting the season better.

Box office: New St Helens signing Willie Manu

Catalan Forty-20 says:

6th

The Dragons didn’t quite cure playing away last season. They were strong at home but just fell away around play-off time, although their defeat by the eventual champions was a game that could have gone either way. The loss of Scott Dureau is a blow, he is pivotal. But that puts the spotlight on Thomas Bosc who took on that role before Dureau’s arrival. Leon Pryce will be back to carry the mantle. It’s exciting to see a young Frenchman at the helm but David Waite is wicketkeeper; he won’t miss anything technically or tactically. Aim: To get their timing right, they will continue to be a standard bearer at home but need more consistency on the road.

Leeds

Forty-20 says:

2nd

They have the maturity that comes with being champions, but have also added strike-power. Joel Moon is terrific and set to become a real crowd pleaser. He’s talented, quick, great in support - a wonderfully inventive centre, his acquisition is big and Joe Vickery has good reports too. They have such a strong core, but it will be interesting to see who helps Rob Burrow in the hooking role. The WCC won’t be a distraction, that’s a myth. It’s a massive occasion they’ll be ready for and feed off. Aim: To prevent giving themselves such a tough gig come the end of the regular campaign. They’ll be looking for the top two or three and finally to get over the line in the Challenge Cup.

rlphotos.com

Former GB coach BRIAN NOBLE takes a club-by-club look at Super League XVIII

Let’s go round again

12 Forty-20 January 2013