Betting on a cracker
Sky Bet's Jordan Fiddes explains who is being backed to deliver the goods in Super League XVIII.
By Jordan Fiddes - Twitter: @JordanFiddes85
Last Updated: 31/01/13 4:38pm
With the Rugby League World Cup in England at the end of the season, the scene is set for 2013's Super League campaign to be the most memorable yet.
A number have stories have evolved preceding the start of the new campaign, most of which have had an effect on the odds at Sky Bet.
Unfortunately, it was another story of a Super League club struggling which hit the headlines late in 2012 as Salford City Reds looked down the barrel of the administrators' gun.
For that reason, Salford are a massive 1500/1 to finish the season top.
However, with more positive news coming in for the club in recent weeks, they might be an outside bet to finish the season in the top eight at 6/1.
Most teams have recruited at least two new faces for the start of 2013, but the big name comes in from the West Tigers to join up with the Airlie Birds of Hull FC.
We all know him from his days at Wakefield and Leeds but England international Gareth Ellis is probably most respected for being successful in Australia.
There are not many Englishman who can manage such a feat in the NRL; Adrian Morley and Garry Schofield spring to mind as previous men to do so, so Ellis is regarded as one of the elite members of rugby league.
Ellis is 6/1 to win the prestigious 'Man of Steel' award in 2013, with only James Roby, Sam Tomkins and, his England captain, Kevin Sinfield ahead of him.
Sinfield, who skippered Leeds to a record sixth Championship trophy in 2012, is understandably favourite in this market, however, it is another new signing who I like the look of to get the award.
Nathan Brown begins his first season in charge at St.Helens and he has two men from Hull FC at his disposal this term.
Jordan Turner comes in to replace Michael Shenton at centre but it is former black and whites team-mate Willie Manu who I expect to take the headlines.
Not only was Manu the joint-top-scoring forward in the whole of Super League in 2012 (with Elliot Whitehead of the Bulls) but he was also third on the table for the most amount of offloads.
Stats like that are likely to boost his chances for the end of season award, but it will also improve the Saints as a team greatly too.
They are 5/2 to finish the regular season top and that also looks a good bet.
St Helens made more metres than any other side last time out with 39,360 and were in the top three for the majority of offensive stats in 2012.
Although they lost out to Warrington in the play-offs (after beating them previously in the system) they managed nine wins from their last 11 fixtures in Super League and, with the guile of Nathan Brown, they will be the team to beat in this year's competition.
During the season, a bet on St.Helens to go 'over' in the 'Total Points - Under/Over' market proved very successful last year as they managed that 17 times.
Continuing on team bets, I like the look of Widnes +28 on the season handicap.
Every team is given a handicap at the start of the season, minus Warrington the favourites, which are added up at the end of the season to create a new league table.
Once all the handicaps are added, I predict Widnes' extra 28 points will put them at the top of the tree.
They have already signed ex-Huddersfield Giants captain Kevin Brown for 2013 along with Wigan and England second-row Gareth Hock.
With the extra acquisitions and their first season back in Super League now behind them, Widnes can hope for better things this year.
They also have a proven goal-kicker in Patrick Ah Van who only missed seven last year and, when you are betting on a handicap, successful goal kicks can prove crucial.
Coaching to succeed
Another team I expect to do well in this market is Catalans Dragons at +13.
Trent Robinson has departed as head coach to be replaced by Frenchman Laurent Frayssinous but it is an appointment in the coaching staff which has really caught my eye.
Former Great Britain coach David Waite has been named as the Dragons' assistant and attacking coach for 2013.
As well as a huge amount of experience, he also brings with him an excellent team record.
He led St George Illawara to NRL titles in both 1996 and 1999 before taking over the head role of Great Britain in 2001.
Reverting back to individual honours, I've got a couple of each way top try scorer bets in mind.
The first is Kallum Watkins of Leeds and, recently, England.
He is 33/1 to be this season's top try scorer in Super League and with a quarter of the odds going to the top four scorers, it's a nice return either way this one.
Had it not been for injuries last year, I have no doubt that he would have been up there with Wigan duo Josh Charnley and Sam Tomkins.
Watkins managed 16 tries in just 20 appearances last season, an impressive record which he can improve on in 2013.
Another player who has the potential to cross the white wash regularly is Kirk Yeaman of Hull.
Firstly, he'll have Gareth Ellis just inside him if the new signing plays in his accustomed role of second row, but also he'll have an added impetus to do well as it's his testimonial year.
Yeaman is a massive 50/1 this year so if he finishes in the top four, you'll still get odds of over 12/1 from an each-way bet.
The Airlie Bird centre was another who had his season hampered by injury last term and was also restricted to just 16 appearances.
He crossed 11 times last year but I expect that to increase this year.
If you like first try-scorer markets mid-season, Ben Cockayne, Jermaine McGilvary and Ben Jones Bishop scored more first tries than any other players last season with five apiece, although the Rhinos winger is currently sidelined.
A word from the Sky Bet trading room
"We have, just like last year, taken a large amount already on Joel Monaghan to be top try scorer this year at 5/1.
Danny McGuire has also proved popular in that market with our customers and he is 12/1 to be the top scorer.
In the league I can see St.Helens, Leeds, Hull and Huddersfield all improving on their position last year and Wigan, Catalans, Wakefield and Bradford going the other way."