THE potential emergence of Salford, the rejuvenation of St Helens and the return of relegation should make this a fiercely-contested, and entertaining, Super League.
And for Wigan, the challenge is to defend the two trophies they won last season – as well as aim for the World Club Challenge.
I can’t be the only one looking forward to seeing Matty Bowen light up the DW Stadium, while Dan Sarginson and Joe Burgess have impressed in both friendlies.
The new Super League season was launched at a swanky event in Manchester yesterday.
The RFL’s chief executive, Nigel Wood, was there to say the right things.
He was ‘excited’ and told the new sponsors to prepare for an ‘enthralling’ season, though no details were given of the value of the sponsorship deal.
With rugby league, it’s often the small details they get so spectacularly wrong.
And that was highlighted at the end of the presentation, when the captains were invited onto the stage for a photo.
Two were missing. There were only 12 of them. Some wore kits, some training gear. One was in jeans.
It was embarrassing, and hopefully the new sponsors didn’t notice.
Thankfully, we all know rugby league survives in spite of its administrators, not because of them, and that’s because we can usually rely on the players turning up to play and the fans turning out to watch them.
This Friday night’s opener promises to be a bruising affair, given Huddersfield’s form last season and recruitment for this year.
And Wigan’s players need no fewer incentives to perform.
Back in front of their home fans for the first time since the Grand Final, they want to head Down Under feeling confident of their own form, and feeling good about themselves.
And nothing brings that quite like a win against a good team. Roll on Friday.
WARRINGTON ‘played like Wigan’ in a training run with the Sydney Roosters, to help the NRL side prepare for the World Club. No offence, fellas. But you left it a bit late.
Meanwhile, St Helens coach Nathan Brown took aim at the Warriors’ headhunters following Friday’s final.
One thing’s for sure; the first derbies Wigan play against Warrington and St Helens should be spicier than a vindaloo!
RETAINING players never captures fans’ imaginations as much as signing new ones. But with the transfer window now closed, it’s been a success for Latics, not so much for who they have recruited but for who they’ve managed to keep hold of.
And with the likes of Ivan Ramis, Jean Beausejour and Callum McManaman still at the club – not to mention the currently-sidelined Shaun Maloney – the quality is there to underpin a late charge towards the play-offs.
Having trailed for 86 minutes against Charlton last Saturday, it would have been easy for Latics to have done what most teams do in that predicament and resorted to lumping it long in the hope of a break.
But credit Uwe Rosler for never letting the situation get to him, and to staying true to his footballing principles. And that approach was vindicated by Josh McEachran’s sublime through ball for Marc-Antoine’s equaliser.
Then, when some teams would have sat back and taken their point, Latics pushed again and secured what could prove to be a vital victory through Jordi Gomez’s magnificent free-kick.
Looking at the league table, the value of Wigan’s win cannot be underestimated.
With two minutes to go, they sat 10 points off the play-offs.
However, the gap is now down to just seven points and, with two games in hand as well, Latics could move to within a point of sixth-placed Reading.
There are 19 league games still to come - not to mention an FA Cup fifth-round clash at Cardiff; the run-in could yet prove to be another memorable one for Wigan Athletic.