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10 players to watch in Super League 2016

The furore of last season has died down and now preparations are well underway for the new Super League season. Teams across the league are in pre-season preparing for even more brutal encounters in the coming campaign.

Distinguished players like Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock have left huge boots to fill at Leeds, whilst Marwan Koukash has continued his “Red Devilution” at Salford seeing the arrival of eleven new faces. I’ve whittled down a seemingly ever growing talent pool of players into a chosen few who I think will be the ones to watch in Super League 2016.

10. Todd Carney

Catalans Dragons half-back Todd Carney had a well-documented injury plagued campaign in 2015 with rib, leg and pectoral complaints limiting the Aussie to only 12 games last season. Despite having only played a handful of games, the 29-year-old playmaker still showed glimpses of his talent which saw him grab 14 assists and score five tries. The former New South Wales representative will be looking to string a solid run of games together and if Catalans Dragons are to have a strong season they need their star half-back to be on the field rather than the treatment room.

9. Kurt Gidley

Kurt Gidley arrives at Warrington Wolves in admittedly the twilight of his career but with still plenty to offer Tony Smith and his side. The loss of Joel Monaghan, who left for pastures new with Castleford Tigers, sees his backs short of experience of which Gidley brings in abundance having played over 250 times in the NRL. The 33-year-old has been handed the number one shirt but can play in the halves or at hooker which gives Tony Smith options, he looks to be a shrewd acquisition.

8. Justin Carney

Justin Carney has served five separate suspensions since coming to Super League and it seems this is one too many for Castleford Tigers who have shipped the winger to Salford Red Devils on a season-long loan. It’s a difficult situation for coach Daryl Powell and player with the explosive 27-year-old scoring 63 tries in 62 appearances since joining in 2013. But off the field unrest has prompted the Red Devils to sign the player on loan with the option of making it a permanent switch. It’ll be interesting to see how Carney performs given his troubles, but expect more powerful runs and tries from the maverick.

7. Andre Savelio

Arguably unlucky not to receive a Super League Young Player of the Year nomination, 2015 was a breakthrough year for Andre Savelio at St Helens. The 20-year-old came of age and featured 18 times, earning rave reviews from head coach Kieron Cunningham. The departure of Mose Masoe saw Saints swoop for a like-for-like signing in that of Lama Tasi from Salford, but his replacement could already be at the club in Savelio and he has the stats to back that up. The youngster will continue his upward curve in 2016 and is one both for the future and now.

6. Tommy Makinson

When Tommy Makinson made his return to action following a seemingly innocuous challenge which resulted in him breaking his leg, he himself admitted he was low on confidence. At the time of the injury he was one of Super League’s in-form wingers blessed with superb finishing abilities. Despite missing a portion of the season through his injury he still finished with 20 tries in 23 appearances for Saints. With a full pre-season under his belt we’re likely to see plenty more of Makinson in the coming season.

5. Zak Hardaker

This list wouldn’t be complete without the reigning Man of Steel Zak Hardaker who enjoyed a stellar season both for club and country. When his career looked to be derailing after an incident earlier in the year, along with being withdrawn from England’s World Cup squad, it’s to his credit that the full-back has got his head down and let the rugby do the talking. It’ll be difficult for Hardaker to replicate his form next year but don’t put it past him having another outstanding season.

4. John Bateman

“John has shown on many occasions that he is one of the finest talents in the English game” a quote from Wigan Warriors chairman Ian Lenegan upon John Bateman signing a new deal at the club. High praise indeed for the 22-year-old and it hasn’t gone unnoticed with Bateman capping a 31 appearance season with selection for England in the Test Series win over New Zealand – playing every match. Following his move from Bradford two years ago, Bateman has gone from strength to strength and developed into a fantastic Super League player, whether that’s in the forwards or backing up in the centres for the cherry and whites.

3. Frank Pritchard

Hull FC pulled off quite the coup with the signing of former New Zealand forward Frank ‘The Tank’ Pritchard from Canterbury Bulldogs. The forward is arguably one of the club’s biggest overseas signings in recent years, making full use of the marquee player ruling. Standing at 6ft 2″ and weighing 17 stone, the 32-year-old adds considerable size to the Hull pack. The Black and Whites needed a big signing to replace Mickey Paea and have struggled for a real explosive forward since the departures of Mark O’Meley and Willie Manu – Lee Radford is hoping Pritchard is that man.

2. Albert Kelly

Albert Kelly arrived at Hull KR a relative unknown from Gold Coast Titans but after his performances last season, the half-back emerged as one of the signings of the season by Chris Chester. The 24-year-old racked up 17 tries in 25 appearances and helped his side with ten assist, but towards the end of the campaign struggled with injury. Described by Chester as a “freak”, Kelly will look to add to his impressive first season in Super League with more good performances making him certainly one to watch.

1. Adam Cuthbertson

Man of Steel nominee Adam Cuthbertson was one of the first names on the team-sheet last season after an outstanding season at Leeds Rhinos. Signed in the off-season from Newcastle Knights, Cuthbertson went on to produce nearly double the amount of offloads (125) than his nearest rival Liam Watts (66). The forward will have more responsibility on his shoulders without Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai being around, but the big man has already proved he is up to the task.

Players who just missed out

You could compile another list on top of the players above who will no doubt set Super League alight next season but I wanted to stray away slightly from the usual suspects. I didn’t include Sam Tomkins for example due to him being out till March through injury and Theo Fages may well have to wait for his chance at Saints with Luke Walsh and Travis Burns. Here are some of the ones unlucky to miss out:

Sam Tomkins, Theo Fages, Glenn Stewart, Niall Evalds, Brad Singleton, Liam Sutcliffe, George Williams, Tom Johnstone, Alex Walmsley, Luke Gale.

Published on October 12 2015 for Rugby AM.

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