Millward: Positive signs for Tigers

  • By: Ian Millward
  • Last Updated: February 3 2013, 15:20 GMT

Castleford coach Ian Millward will again be joining us to preview the Super League action every week. Here's his team-by-team guide for the new season while our own best bets will follow soon.

Warrington: Can finally claim the title this season
Warrington: Can finally claim the title this season

I'm really looking forward to the start of the new Super League season and preparations at Castleford are going really well.

We've had a really positive off-season. We had 14 players leave at the end of the last campaign and have brought in eight so it's very much a new beginning and this is my team.

We've had a good review of what's needed from the new players and how we want to work in both attack and defence. It will be different to last season.

Under new strength coach Ben Cooper we've had a more productive off-season than was the case last year and while there's a lot of talk about our tough early fixtures, I'm really looking forward to seeing the new players and structures in place.

I feel we're in for a very productive season. Our first goals are to be consistent over 80 minutes and stay competitive throughout every game.

Here's my team-by-team guide to the rest of the competition:

They had well documented off field problems last year but on the field they were one of the success stories. If they hadn't had points deducted for going into administration the Bulls would have made play-offs. Make no mistake, there's plenty of talent in this squad.

My worry is the loss of four quality forwards with Tom Burgess, Bryn Hargreaves, Craig Kopzack and Olivier Elima all leaving. They offered plenty of steel and power.

Last season Bradford created a siege mentality through their troubles and will need to be a tight unit again to make it into the top eight.

Catalan Dragons:
I thought they were one of the form teams of 2012 but they petered out towards the end - however they will have learned an awful lot from the experience.

The amount of travelling they have to make can be draining but I like the way they've recruited this year.Brent Webb and Zeb Taia add some flair and both players will suit their style of play although they could miss the utility value of Setaimata Sa.

They have a new French coach with David Waite assisting and all in all everything looks in place for the Dragons to push for the top four.

If you look at the Giants roster for this season they have lost a lot of players who played plenty of minutes for them last season but Paul Anderson has made a real statement with his signings.

Stuart Fielden, Craig Kopczak and Ukuma Ta'ai are all big, strong forwards and I think you'll see a different style of play from the Giants this term.

Expect them to be more direct, build pressure around the ruck area and draw sides into a war of attrition before utilising their outside backs. Don't expect to see as much flair as you did under Nathan Brown and Huddersfield need to start well to build confidence after their low-key end to last season.

There's some real excitement and anticipation with the amount of players they've signed. Gareth Ellis is a word class second rower, his size and presence will cause a lot of anxiety among opposition defences.

Daniel Holdsworth will give them a kicking game they've needed for some time although there's still some confusion over what Brett Seymour's role will be.

Hull also have a lot of good young talent coming through the ranks and have great depth to their squad too. All in all it makes for a top six side. They will be hard to beat at home and their final position on the league ladder depends on how they go on the road.

Hull KR:
Coach Craig Sanderock has tried to put his stamp on the team with a lot of players leaving and coming in. It's not dissimilar to my situation at Castleford.

I like the freshness of his squad. Corey Patterson is an outstanding forward and a very good goalkicker too but the key for Rovers this season is the half-back partnership of Michael Dobson and Travis Burns.

Dobson has been the catalyst of the side for a few seasons now with his kicking game and general organisation but Burns has the potential to add an extra dimension in the race for the play-offs.

I believe the Rhinos are stronger this year which has to be a worry for their rivals. The inclusion of Joel Moon gives them a strike centre and allows Carl Ablett to return to the back row.

Mitch Achurch is a tall player who will suit the Leeds style of play as he has a good offload on the edge of the ruck.

Throw in some really good kids coming through and what's not to like about last season's Grand Final winners? I'd expect them to be very competitive in the Challenge Cup and to secure a top four finish in the league this time around.

Tony Rea has London Broncos running through his veins and he has kept changes to a minimum this season following their strong finish to last year.

Craig Gower had a very good second half to last season and if he can continue to inspire those around him, few teams will relish travelling down to London next season.

At the time of writing its impossible to know how Salford will line-up next season. Andrew Dixon and Martin Gleeson are their two signings to date but clearly if the takeover goes through, more will follow.

There are rumours Vic Mauro is heading over from Manly along with plenty of domestic players from Super League as Phil Veivers looks to provide some depth and quality to his squad.

That said they've lost a lot of forwards and while I can see them playing in an entertaining way this season, Super League is a real war of attrition. It's all about having back-up in the forwards. Clearly Salford are an unknown quantity at this stage.

St Helens:
They look primed to challenge on all fronts this season and must have a great chance of winning some silverware. The addition of Willie Manu means they have a back-row to be feared and if he and Iosia Soliola stay fit, expect plenty of points from Saints this year.

I also like Lance Hohaia in the new utility role, he can come off the bench to play at hooker with James Roby switching to loose forward which gives opponents something else to think about.

The depth at St Helens is strong, new coach Nathan Brown will suit the players he has and I can only see good things for them in 2013.

The WIldcats were the form team for the last 10 games in Super League last season but can they reproduce that level of performance both as a team and individuals in 2013?

Justin Poore will certainly give them greater stability in the front row and Reece Lynne from Hull has been very impressive in pre-season but the key for Wakefield is again winning the close games they successfully came through last term.

As is the case with every team who don't spend full salary cap, the worry is injuries and a lack of depth to the squad.

They've shown a massive vote of confidence in their squad by bringing in no new players this term - which is testament to the quality they already have in place.

It's worth noting the Wolves have 10 players aged over 30 in their ranks and I think this could be the season they finally win Super League.

Their mix of experienced players and emerging young talent means Warrington will again be challenging on all fronts this term.

No major losses from the Vikings ranks this season but two significant purchases - Kevin Brown from Huddersfield and probably the best second rower in the UK in Gareth Hock.

Most teams don't like playing on their new artificial surface so expect Widnes' home form to be strong this season - the key to them climbing the table is how they perform on their travels.

One thing is for sure, the inclusion of Brown and Hock means they'll be a more potent attacking force this time around.

The Warriors have made two notable signings but its the players who've departed the club that makes you question how they'll fare this season.

I don't think many teams would cope with the loss of quality halves such as Brett Finch and Thomas Leuluai. Jeff Lima's toughess in the pack, George Carmont's composure at centre and Gareth Hock's strength and skill in the back row could all be sorely missed.

In my eyes those five are going to be extremely hard to replace and Wigan will do well to be as competitive as they were last season without that quintet.

  • Preview posted at 1720 GMT on 22/01/2013.