We all remember with great mirth the greatest rugby league prediction ever – when Phil Clarke decided in his season preview that Salford would be winning the 2014 Super League. When they missed the playoffs entirely (a top 8 no less), he said in his 2015 preview
“I tipped them last year and I’m going to do it again this. I just think I was a year too early!!”
They promptly finished second last. The season highlights were all off-field, as you’d expect from a squad with Hock, Locke and a Smokin’ Koukash.
That didn’t deter Phil or Sky Sports though – they had Phil back for 2016, where he tried to determine “which team will be Super League’s Leicester City?”, making ludicrous and ever tenuous comparisons between soccer clubs and the dross of Super League. Naturally, the competition was won by Super League’s Manchester United once again, and there was no upset.
Undeterred, Phil is back with his 2017 Season Preview! Read on, and see what dipshittery Phil has in store for you. How long will it take for the first of his batshit theories to surface?
So, we’ve got a new sponsor, some new rules and a new team, but will we get a new champion at the end of the 2017 Super League season?
Nope. But you can set your watch to this man’s awfulness as he turns it into a 2000 word column.
Despite having a salary cap we’ve only had three different winners in the last 10 years. In fact, even if you go back to the very start of summer rugby you can only add the Bradford Bulls to that list, so what hopes do the rest have in 2017?
Well, history would tell you that nothing unusual happens in Super League, so I’m going to answer your quesiton with “None”.
History has taught me that unusual things happen in Super League.
Oh. My apologies, Phil. What do you have for us?
For example, would anyone think that the St Helens coach would finish the season as the boss at Wigan?
Phil has time-warped back to 2005 to find the last unusual thing that happened in Super League.
Perhaps my boldest prediction is for the Leigh Centurions. I’ve guessed that they’ve got just enough emotional energy to make it into eighth place.
Aaaaand we’re off…….In Phil’s world, which is filled with chakra crystals and amethysts, you can measure if a team has the RIGHT AMOUNT of emotional energy, and assume that it is in a vacuum, and no-one else has any. Just enough to finish eighth, in Leigh’s case.
However, someone recently told me that emotion is the force of life. If that’s true, and they can channel that force in the right direction, then they’ll be a hard team to beat.
Leigh’s biggest challenge will be their ability to deal with defeat and disappointment. They’ll lose some games, but it’s how they handle those setbacks in both the boardroom and the dressing room that I’m most interested in.
Take last year’s champions as an example. Wigan lost 62-0 at Wakefield in round 10. In September, they lost again at home to Widnes when the Vikings were reduced to 11 men. Being able to respond and recover from a heavy loss is something we rarely discuss but it’s vitally important in this game.
But not as important as emotion, which is the force of life.
If we talk about the ability to bounce back, we have to discuss Huddersfield Giants and Leeds Rhinos. I can’t wait to watch their first few games in 2017.
Brian McDermott will swap jobs with you immediately, so he doesn’t have to watch Leeds again. And Rick Stone is a deranged urinal monitor.
I’m in the minority of pundits who thinks that the Giants will do better this year.
Any thought Phil has ever had has immediately become, if it wasn’t before, a minority opinion.
They could bounce into the top four or be scrapping for survival in the bottom four.
You left out the middle four. It’s ok for you to say “I have no idea”, rather than just proving it year after year.
I think they were unlucky last season and will win more games than they lose this year.
Tremendously unlucky, finishing dead last, and out of the eight by 8 points.
Friends of mine who are fans at Headingley are split into two camps. One half think it’s their year again, that they’ve got this (Matt) Parcell from Australia who’s going to make the difference. Well let’s hope he’s half as good as James Segeyaro.
He is exactly half as good as James Segeyaro. Now what help is that going to be?
It was their attacking game which let them down last season, they just couldn’t score enough tries. If you look at their points scored in 2016 you’ll see it was about half as many as in 2015.
BIG IF TRUE. You can’t get this sort of analysis just anywhere.
It seemed as though teams had worked out how to defend against them.
It also seemed as though Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock retired.
If Leeds and Huddersfield underachieved did the Black and Whites from Humberside do the opposite?
I don’t know – is going from 7th to 1st good?
I know from experience the extra confidence that winning a trophy can give to a player and a team. Hull FC’s success at Wembley may well take them up a level and I think that they have a potential star in Jake Connor.
Well, that’s the end of Jake.
I hate having to say which team will come bottom, but it’s almost a joke now that every year I say Wakefield and every year they find a way, against all the odds, of proving me wrong.
Learning nothing, or even considering why he may have been wrong in the past, Phil is picking them again. It’s more than a joke now.
I also think that Salford will struggle this season. As an outsider, my perception is Marwan Koukash needed an experienced man to keep him calm. Tim Sheens is a big loss to the club but just like Wakefield they thrive on being the underdogs.
They have thrived on being the underdogs so much, they have been completely incapable of making the top 8.
My predicted league table for the end of July doesn’t make pleasant reading in the south of France. Catalans have released, sacked or lost 10 players who played in a least nine or more Super League games last year.
What a silly idea – to get rid of players who went 9-12 last year.
Admittedly, Luke Walsh is a great recruit and Greg Bird has a wonderful CV, but does he still have the same appetite and desire that he had in 2009 when he last wore the Dragons jersey?
ONE CAN ONLY WONDER. Actually, he showed no appetite or desire in 2009, other than to get back into the NRL as soon as they would let him.
Catalans only managed to win two of their last 12 games in Super League and need to get some early victories. A team needs 20 points to make the Super 8s, 10 wins from 23 games.
If only needing to win 43% of your games is a stunning indictment of the entire exercise, it has certainly escaped Phil’s attention.
For the last two seasons St Helens have been just one win short of the Grand Final. It will be fascinating to see if they can go one stage further this year.
For Saints fans, it will be like Saran-wrapping your own toilet seat.
Castleford Tigers were the best team to watch last year. Not only did they score some brilliant tries (like the one involving nine passes and a kick in the Magic Weekend fixture) but so many of their matches tended to have dramatic endings.
Because they would immediately concede tries that did not require nine passes and a kick, but one or less passes.
Widnes Vikings start the season without Kevin Brown but they do have one of my favourite players steering the team around. Joe Mellor is arguably one of the top 20 players in the league.
If you are not Phil, you could name 100 players before the words “Joe Mellor” came out of your mouth. But Phil could not find anything to say at all about Widnes, who will not only START the season without Kevin Brown, but will watch him play for Warrington all season.
I’m left then with the team who I think will win the League Leaders’ Shield after round 30, and most likely the Grand Final in October. Warrington Wolves look like the team to beat this year and I think we will see a new club crowned Super League champions in 2017.
Just seeing that Phil thinks that has made Warrington fans want to climb into a whirlpool of boiling acid.
In case you don’t like money, here’s Phil’s table for 2016: