I’m sure it won’t be a surprise to read that I’m backing St Helens to be crowned Betfred Super League Champions for the FIFTH consecutive year.

Title sponsors Betfred clearly agree, for they make Saints 2/1 favourites to win the Grand Final at Old Trafford on October 14.

After four years of success and with hardly any comings and goings from last season, I believe we’re still far and away the strongest team in the division.

One significant difference for the campaign ahead is that of head coach Paul Wellens, who aims to keep our triumphant run going from his predecessors Kristian Woolf and Justin Holbrook – and as I said in previous columns, this is something he is more than capable of achieving.

His first challenge comes in the form of the World Club Challenge Final against the NRL’s Penrith Panthers next Saturday.

This, and the warm-up against St George Illawarra this weekend, provides a great opportunity to implement any changes in the way Wello wants his team to play.

I know from speaking to Paul a few weeks ago that there will be subtle changes from the methods of Kristian Woolf, but nothing too drastic. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

However, I am really looking forward to seeing how the team respond under his leadership – and after spending a day in training I must say it looks and feels very slick.

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I agree with Betfred’s traders in that Wigan Warriors will be Saints’ biggest rivals this season.

The Betfred Challenge Cup holders are available at 10/3 for Grand Final glory, ahead of Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves at 8/1.

One team who MUST do better this season is the Wire. I know you can’t read too much into pre-season games, but after them struggle to a 16-10 win over the league’s new boys Leigh Leopards in Ben Currie’s testimonial on Saturday, I’m not too convinced. They look far from title contenders again.

There are a few teams away from those four who will fancy their chances of upsetting the odds. Huddersfield Giants (12/1) have spent significantly in the off-season, while Catalans Dragons (10/1) have proven over the last few years that they’re capable of beating anyone.

The interesting one for me is Hull FC (16/1), who are now under the direction of the vastly-experienced Tony Smith who has moved from east to west across the city.

Betfred have the Salford Red Devils at 33/1 to win the Grand Final.

As we’ve seen in previous years, Paul Rowley’s men will compete for everything, and if they can again be led by current Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel Brodie Croft, they will no doubt cause some more upsets.

Leigh will no doubt give it everything like they did in the friendly against Warrington, but I worry about their strength in depth. Likewise, Wakefield have lost a number of their stars. I hope I’m wrong for my good mate Mark Applegarth who takes charge at Belle Vue, but I think it could be a tough year.

So, here’s MY predictions for the Betfred Super League season ahead of the opener between Warrington-Leeds on Thursday 16 February.

  1. Saints 2. Wigan 3. Huddersfield 4. Leeds 5. Warrington 6. Catalans 7. Hull FC 8. Salford 9. Hull KR 10. Castleford 11. Wakefield 12. Leigh

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