By Chris Stott – reporter
Just over a week since the start of the new Rugby League season and there have already been some major shocks, most notably Leeds Rhinos losing their opening two matches – Leeds won the treble during the last campaign.
2016 will be the second season under the new structure, with promotion and relegation now a possibility.
Every minute matters was the slogan last term, and the same still applies with each team in the top two divisions knowing that they need to be at their best from February right through until October.
In 2015 Leeds Rhinos swept the board, claiming all three domestic trophies.
This year they will have to try and repeat that feat without talisman Kevin Sinfield, who made the switch to Rugby Union in the close season.
Obviously, Leeds have the firepower to cope without Sinfield and yet again they’ll be one of the sides most fancied to lift silverware in 2016.
The chasing pack seems to grow larger year after year, making 2016 arguably the most competitive season yet.
Last year’s runners-up Wigan Warriors will be hoping to go one better this time around, and with the return of the outstanding Sam Tomkins from the NRL (National Rugby League) they certainly will be a force to be reckoned with, as always.
Their youthful exuberance from the likes of George Williams brings a different dimension to the Warriors’ play that makes them one of the most dangerous sides in the competition.
Warrington Wolves have been the nearly men of Super League, losing two of the last three Grand Finals.
An inconsistent 2015 cost them the opportunity to make it third time lucky, but their recruitment ahead of this year has been sensational.
Kurt Gidley and Tom Lineham are the two high profile acquisitions who will have the task of guiding the Wolves to glory.
St Helens are a side who are always there or thereabouts, and this term should be no different.
Again, a side with plenty of younger faces, they always seem to turn up for the big occasions but perhaps they lack the all-round quality to win Super League this year.
Huddersfield improve every single year without fail, and with Danny Brough pulling the strings at half-back they could easily make a real assault on Old Trafford, if they can overcome their play-off shortcomings.
Castleford and Catalan are also sides who can cause problems but inconsistency meant they couldn’t quite make the top four and the semi-finals.
Both have the squads and big names on paper, but can they do it on the pitch?
But it’s not all about the top end of the table, the others like Hull FC, Hull KR and Widnes are sides that could easily bridge the gap and make the top eight.
However Salford and Wakefield are perennial strugglers and will surely be amongst those looking over their shoulder at the Championship clubs come the middle eight’s and The Qualifiers.
With the new format, the bottom four of Super League and the top four of the Championship compete for four places in the top flight for 2017.
After seven matches the top three are guaranteed a spot in Super League with the Million Pound Game between 4th and 5th deciding the final spot.
Leigh Centurions and Bradford Bulls will be the main challengers to break into the top flight.
Leigh, who haven’t tasted Super League Rugby since 2005 have splashed the cash this year bringing in former Man of Steel Rangi Chase as well as a number of Super League and NRL stars.
However, the loss of their Head Coach Paul Rowley a few days before the start of the season added another twist into the tale of 2016.
Bradford who were relegated in 2014 are itching to get back, and have some quality in the ranks that can help them do that.
Halifax, Sheffield and London will be amongst those striving for the opportunity to cause a major upset and gain Super League status.
Every season in the Super League and Championship has so many twists and turns it’s almost impossible to predict.
But one thing is for certain, the 2016 season will be well worth keeping your eye on, it could be fantastic.