Castleford Tigers are the team to beat in Super League this season, with it looking increasingly likely that Daryl Powell’s side are coming of age and are set to dominate in 2017, which would be a fantastic achievement for the club – who have not picked up a major trophy since winning the Challenge Cup during the 1985/86 campaign.
Powell’s side are leaving their challengers behind, with the try scoring form of Greg Eden – who has scored 30 times already this season – combined with Luke Gale, Paul McShane and Zak Hardaker’s craft, proving to be a real highlight of 2017.
However, there are still a number of rounds in the regular season remaining, before a long Super 8s battle, which is sure to throw up some surprises. There will be a challenge for the Tigers ahead, that is for sure, and despite Salford Red Devils’ excellent form seeing them compete for the top four, the most likely challenge to Powell’s men will come from the usual suspects.
Hull FC are mounting a challenge on the top four for a second successive year, and last season’s Challenge Cup Final defeat and playoff disappointment should help them heading into the run-in this time around. The addition of stand-off, Albert Kelly, who has 17 tries and seven try assists, is looking like a shrewd piece of business, with the former KR man forming an excellent partnership with Marc Sneyd in the halves.
Leeds Rhinos appear to have put last season’s difficulties behind them and are beginning to show glimpses of the form that won them the treble back in 2015. Matt Parcell, Joel Moon and Adam Cuthbertson have all had excellent campaigns so far, and even without Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield in their ranks, the Rhinos still have plenty of playoff and Grand Final experience.
Perhaps the team Castleford have to be most aware of is the Wigan Warriors, whose form in 2017 has been indifferent so far. Shaun Wane’s side are currently well off the pace, but should still find themselves competing for silverware in October and are currently second favourites for Grand Final glory, with the latest odds placing them as 4/1 second-favourites for the title.
Injuries have hampered the Warriors’ campaign, but like the Rhinos, Wane’s side have the potential to spring a surprise in the playoffs, having reached the last four Grand Finals – including last season’s 12-6 victory over the Warrington Wolves, which gave Wigan their fourth Super League title since 1998.
Castleford have been superb in the Super League this season, with Powell’s men playing some of the best Rugby League since the Rhinos’ ‘golden generation’ first broke onto the scene in 2004. The Tigers’ style is efficient, whilst the flair of Gale has seen Hardaker and Eden shine in the three-quarters.
Despite Powell’s men looking a certainty for silverware this season, they must be aware of what is ahead of them, and with still so much rugby to play between now and October, things could change very quickly for the Tigers, with the likes of Hull, Leeds and Wigan waiting to pounce.