What lies ahead?

Warrington revival

After a disastrous 2017 campaign that ended in the Qualifiers, Warrington will be aiming to challenge for honours again next season. They will take on a fresh look in 2018 with new head coach Steve Price, assistant Andrew Henderson and a whole host of signings, including Ben Murdoch-Masila and Tyrone Roberts. The club’s supporters will be excited about the season ahead as they look to repeat the feat of Leeds Rhinos who, after finishing in the Qualifiers in 2016, won the Super League Grand Final a year later.

Castleford struggles

When I say struggles I don’t mean Castleford will have a bad season, it’s just very hard to see the Tigers winning as many games as last season. They were Super League’s best team by a distance in 2017, but failing to win the Grand Final will surely still be on their minds. With added expectation and having lost star player Zak Hardaker, Daryl Powell’s side could well suffer an early season hangover against stronger opposition. Despite this, I fully expect the Tigers to remain a top four team and give themselves a good chance of going one step further in 2018.

Wigan improvement

They made the Challenge Cup final in 2017, but overall last season is one most Wigan fans would rather forget.

The Warriors lost 13 league matches and suffered numerous injuries throughout the campaign, eventually finishing a lowly sixth. Shaun Wane will go into next season with almost exactly the same squad and will be hoping his team can show more consistency, particularly away from home. After finishing 19 points behind league leaders Castleford last season, I think we’ll see a much-improved Wigan over the next 12 months.

Referee controversy

Well, it goes without saying really! Leigh chairman Derek Beaumont claimed referee performances were turning Super League into 'a joke shop' last season and he wasn’t alone with those thoughts. Fans and players took to social media every week to question the standard of officiating, with the video referee at the centre of the criticism.

By the end of the season TV games were moved to 7.45pm kick-off times because video referee decisions were taking so long. I’m sure we can expect a lot more controversy in the new season but let’s all remember one thing, without these guys we wouldn’t have a game!

Player burnout

The 23-game regular season will again be followed up by the Super 8s and Qualifiers, with the Challenge Cup, play-offs and Million Pound Game played on top of that. The majority of players who have just returned from the World Cup will be going straight into pre-season now; there is no rest and no sign of one ahead! The current format may be exciting, but it is a gruelling one for the players. I think we will see a lot of the international lads desperately needing some rest time as we get into the second half of 2018. It’s a relentless schedule and we need to ease the workload from 2019 and beyond to improve the quality of our game and, more importantly, give the players some downtime.