ASK anyone for their Super League predictions this term, especially the final standings, and, more often than not you will be met by perplexed looks.
Although plenty see the usual suspects – champions Wigan Warriors, last season’s League Leaders’ Shield winners St Helens and a revived Leeds Rhinos – as likely candidates for Old Trafford, with perennial nearly-men Warrington Wolves in or around there, picking the rest is not so simple.
Teams who some people think could be as high as fifth would, in the mind of someone else, wind up as low as 11th.
Wakefield Trinity perhaps fall into that bracket; they have finished fifth in each of the last two seasons, which, after the top-four semi-finals were ditched, would be enough to secure a play-offs place in 2019’s new format.
They hope to achieve that aim, especially with the inspired signing of Danny Brough, yet some feel they could just as conceivably end up in the bottom half.
Jacob Miller, the club’s excellent Australian half-back who has taken over the captaincy from Danny Kirmond this off-season, acknowledges the point.
We really want to play in a big game this year and that means going one step better than we have the last two years. That’s our aim but we know it’s going to be tough. We’re looking forward to the battle.Jacob Miller
“I think the comp’ is as open as it will ever be,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“Every team has strengthened. It’s too hard to predict anything already. We obviously want to go one better than the last two seasons and scrape into the finals (play-offs).
“We really want to play in a big game this year and that means going one step better than we have the last two years.
“That’s our aim, but we know it’s going to be tough. We’re looking forward to the battle.”
The battle begins on Sunday when they open their Super League season at newly-promoted London Broncos.
Although there is much discussion about fifth to 11th, most pundits do have Danny Ward’s side coming in last.
This is perhaps disrespectful – or more tellingly simply a sign they have not done as much recruiting as they would have liked – but they should certainly not be underestimated.
This London side showed in the Qualifiers the quality and character they possess, winning against top-flight sides Salford Red Devils and Widnes Vikings before, most impressively, beating Toronto Wolfpack in Canada in the Million Pound Game.
“I played against London when I was still with Hull,” said Miller, Broncos being relegated in 2014, the year the former Wests Tigers player switched to Belle Vue.
“I’m looking forward to facing them again.
“That’s the exciting thing about promotion and relegation; you get to see new teams.
“I think they will be very keen. It’s the first week of the comp’ and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing getting them.
“They’ll be full of beans first game back in Super League wanting to prove a few people wrong and to stamp their mark.
“It will be a tricky encounter and one we’ll have to make sure we enter with the right attitude.”
Undoubtedly Trinity have all the assets to make their mark in the year ahead.
Just look at the 2018 Dream Team; Wakefield had second-row Matty Ashurst, metre-making centre Bill Tupou and England winger Tom Johnstone, the devastating left-edge put in play so often by Miller, in that line-up.
However, they also have Reece Lyne, the strapping centre who made his England debut in the autumn, as well as a formidable pack – David Fifita, Anthony England, Tinirau Arona et al – only enhanced by the signing of another fine prop Craig Kopczak.
But, pulling the strings, former Scotland captain and 2013 Man of Steel Brough should be a brilliant foil for Miller following his switch from Huddersfield Giants.
Miller, 26, said: “He has a wealth of experience that I think our team will benefit from, and especially myself.
“We lost a lot of games last year by under six points. Perhaps if we’d have had him in the team it wouldn’t have happened or we would have picked up at least a few of those games.
“His kicking game is that good and his ability to – whether defend a lead or chase a deficit – there is definitely one of the best.
“I think that is something we will benefit from this year.”
Indeed. Maybe forget fifth or 11th, then, and put them down for fourth even?
You never quite know with this Trinity team.
England hooker James Roby, 33, has signed a new deal with St Helens that will see him through until 2021, taking him to 20 years with the club.
Huddersfield Giants prop Daniel Smith has joined Featherstone Rovers on a month’s loan.