Super League kicks off this weekend

Super League is back!

119 days since St Helens beat Wigan in the Grand Final at the KCOM Stadium in November, the best rugby league players in the country are gearing up to go again.

The world has changed in the last 12 months and Super League hasn't been immune to the effects of the pandemic.

The opening two rounds of fixtures will be played at neutral venues, behind closed doors.

This weekend, Leeds' Headingley Stadium will host the opening six fixtures of the season.

Headingley Stadium Credit: ITV Calendar

Technically, the Leeds Rhinos begin their campaign away from home against Wakefield. The Challenge Cup holders have added former rugby union international Kyle Eastmond to their ranks as they look to build on an encouraging first full season in charge for head coach Richard Agar.

After the first lockdown, Wakefield lost ten straight matches. Much will be expected of new signing Mason Lino as Trinity aim to improve on last season's 10th place finish.

The 2021 season is the beginning of a new era at Huddersfield, and the end of one at Castleford.

The Giants pulled off arguably the signing of the close-season with the addition of Ian Watson as head coach. The 44 year old is considered one of the brightest coaches in the business, having led Salford to successive finals (Grand Final in 2018 & Challenge Cup in 2019) against all the odds.

Ian Watson Credit: PA

Watson's been identified as the man to bring thew good times back to the John Smiths stadium.

After eight years in charge, Daryl Powell will step aside as head coach of the Castleford Tigers at the end of the season.

Daryl Powell Credit: PA

Having transformed the club from perennial strugglers to playoff challengers, Powell will be determined to go out with a bang.

Hull Kingston Rovers finished bottom of Super League last season and were only saved the ignominy of relegation after it was scrapped due to the pandemic.

The signing of former Leeds Rhinos and current England international Ryan Hall from Sydney Roosters in the NRL could prove crucial if they're to avoid the dreaded drop this year.

Ryan Hall Credit: PA

As ever, there'll be high hopes for Hull FC this season. The arrival of new head coach Brett Hodgson will only add to the expectation. Getting the best out of new signing Josh Reynolds, who's endured a difficult last few years in the NRL, could be key to any success.

It's hoped that come May fans will start returning to the stands as Super League, like the country as a whole, transitions from the "new normal" to the good old one.