Super League 2015: BBC Sport's club-by-club season preview

St Helens celebrate their 2014 Super League championship success
St Helens won their first Super League title since 2006 with victory against Wigan in 2014.

Super League promises to be as competitive as it has ever been in its 20th year, with a new slimmed-down 12-team top tier.

BBC Sport assesses each teams' chances and selects the key men who could decide the destination of the Super League trophy at October's Old Trafford Grand Final.

CASTLEFORD TIGERS

Luke Gale
England Knights half-back Luke Gale left Bradford for Castleford this winter

Last season: Super League final position - fourth, beaten in preliminary semi-finals; Challenge Cup - runners-up.

James Deighton, BBC Radio Leeds: "It's a big ask for the Tigers to improve on their best ever Super League season but that won't stop them trying. They've arguably got greater competition for places across the board this year. The departures of Marc Sneyd, Daryl Clark and Weller Hauraki have been tempered by the quality captures of Ben Roberts, Scott Moore and Junior Moors. Many will be interested to see how they fare without reigning 'Man of Steel' Clark, though this time last season similar questions were posed following the loss of Rangi Chase, and we all know what happened there."

Key player: Luke Gale and Ben Roberts could be the dream ticket at half-back for the Tigers in 2015.

Biggest miss: Cas will undoubtedly miss Daryl Clark though it's a chance for Adam Milner to step out of his shadow and shine.

CATALANS DRAGONS

Remi Casty
Remi Casty won the World Club Challenge with Sydney Roosters during his season in the NRL

Last season: Super League final position - seventh, beaten in play-off semi-final; Challenge Cup - fifth round.

Matt Newsum, BBC Sport: "Making it to the last four of the play-offs last term was a proud achievement for Les Dracs, notably after they were tagged early-season relegation favourites following a slow start. Hopes of a repeat performance in their 10th year have been raised by excellent recruitment. Todd Carney is a world-class Dally M Medal winning half-back despite any off-field controversy, while Kangaroos cap Willie Tonga is a top finisher who played State of Origin for Queensland. However, the most important business could be prop Remi Casty's return from a spell at Sydney Roosters. He'll bring a front-row presence."

Key player: Remi Casty. If Todd Carney and Willie Tonga are to have an impact, the pack has to create the platform. Casty's NRL-honed skills will give that front six a big lift.

Biggest miss: Catalans have done well to recruit where players have moved on, such as the Hull FC-departed Leon Pryce, but Lopini Paea's bulk and brawn might have come in handy had he not joined Wakefield.

HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS

Jamie Ellis
Former Leigh half-back Jamie Ellis left Castleford for Huddersfield this winter

Last season: Super League final position - third, beaten in preliminary semi-final; Challenge Cup - fourth round.

James Deighton, BBC Radio Leeds: "Huddersfield's ability outweighed their 2014 effort, according to coach Paul Anderson, who says a top-four finish is a minimum requirement this season. He's beefed up an already beefy pack with the additions of Craig Huby from Castleford and Jack Hughes on loan from Wigan - Hughes told me he likes to 'bend' opponents in the tackle and both he and Huby may finally dispel the myth that the Huddersfield forwards are too nice. The Giants lost fewer games than any other team last year and can't be far away now from lifting a trophy."

Best signing: The players are raving about Jamie Ellis in pre-season - his ability to take some of the pressure off Danny Brough could prove crucial.

Biggest miss: I'll definitely miss David Faiumu's ridiculous side-step and the squad will miss his utility value.

HULL FC

Leon Pryce
Leon Pryce spent three seasons at Perpignan-based Catalans Dragons following his move in 2012

Last season: Super League final position - 11th; Challenge Cup - fourth round.

Richard Stead, BBC Radio Humberside: "The lack of a place in the play-offs last year would have come as a disappointment to both club and fans. The word 'transition' was banded about throughout 2014, as head coach Lee Radford faced his first year in charge with a squad put together largely by his predecessor Peter Gentle. Radford will be judged on this year's performance and the players he has signed. The constricted Super League won't make life easy for the Black and Whites but they do have a starting 13 comparable with some of the best in the competition."

Key player: Leon Pryce. The experienced half will have a weight of expectation on his shoulders as he'll be expected to create chances while mentoring his young partner Marc Sneyd.

Biggest miss: Ben Crooks. Super League Young Player of the Year 2013 but his face didn't fit last year at all. Whatever the reason, it's always regretful whenever an exciting talent leaves a club without realising his full potential.

HULL KR

Michael Weyman
Michael Weyman has played State of Origin for New South Wales and internationally for Australia

Last season: Super League final position - ninth; Challenge Cup - fourth round.

Richard Stead, BBC Radio Humberside: "Rovers, like their city neighbours, would have hoped to have fared better in 2014. Inconsistency and injuries all contributed to a campaign that petered out and cost Craig Sandercock his job before the year was through. Chris Chester has had to make a raft of changes to a squad which is virtually unrecognisable to last season's. The Robins have relied heavily on foreign imports who could, if everyone gels, take the club back to being the force they were under Justin Morgan."

Key player: Michael Weyman. A talisman in the front row. He, alongside Ryan Bailey, will provide the brawn for Terry Campese and Albert Kelly to be seen at their best.

Biggest miss: Josh Hodgson. Whenever you lose your captain and regularly best player you have big boots to fill. Keal Carlile gets an opportunity to step up and become first choice dummy half.

LEEDS RHINOS

Adam Cuthbertson
Adam Cuthbertson played 18 games for Newcastle Knights in the 2014 NRL season

Last season: Super League final position - sixth, beaten in qualifying final; Challenge Cup - winners.

James Deighton, BBC Radio Leeds: "Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington has described the Rhinos' 2015 squad as their 'best ever' which is a big call when you consider that the Challenge Cup holders have only made one new signing and moved on Ryan Bailey, Ian Kirke and Chris Clarkson (on loan). However, he may have a point when you consider youngsters Liam Sutcliffe, Josh Walters and Brad Singleton have already proved more than capable of keeping the golden generation on their toes. The club's early play-off exit has meant a longer pre-season than normal and that could pay dividends as everyone looks to make a flying start this season."

Best signing: Has to be sole signing Adam Cuthbertson, though Hunslet prop Andy Yates will seem like a new signing after his debut season was blighted by injury.

Biggest miss: Ryan Bailey - who will the opposition fans boo now?

SALFORD RED DEVILS

Ben Jones-Bishop
Ben Jones-Bishop has scored 50 Super League tries in 82 league matches

Last season: Super League final position - 10th; Challenge Cup - fifth round.

Jack Dearden, BBC Radio Manchester: "I think time is up for Salford. For me this will be a 'now or never season'. There's been substantial investment from the owner, Dr Marwan Koukash, and it's time to produce a return. I don't think it's beyond them, but failure last season piles the pressure on current coach Iestyn Harris. They've got the players, the question for me is have they got the right balance? Frankly, I don't think there's much margin for error for the Red Devils this time. They vastly underachieved in 2014, but I think they will have learned lots, so I expect and predict a vast improvement on last season."

Key player: Lots of people seem to think Rangi Chase is a liability. He isn't. He's a bit quirky, but quality. With ball in hand he's got more magic than Dynamo. Ben Jones-Bishop could be crucial to their campaign.

Biggest miss: Marc Sneyd could be a miss. Whilst he arguably didn't produce his best for Salford, was he given enough opportunities? On loan at Castleford last year he had an outstanding season.

ST HELENS

Jon Wilkin
Skipper Jon Wilkin took on the role from Paul Wellens for 2015

Last season: Super League final position - first, Grand Final winners; Challenge Cup - fifth round.

Ray French, BBC Radio Merseyside: "Saints' half-backs will be the key to success this season with the ideal combination to trouble any opposition. With props Kyle Amor, Mose Masoe and Alex Walmsley, plus lively former London Broncos recruit Atelea Vea in the pack, new signing Travis Burns and last season's star Luke Walsh plus Kiwi utility back Lance Hohaia should have plenty of space to bring Saints' pacy three-quarter line into play. If Jonny Lomax is fully recovered from his knee problems then his links from full-back will make life difficult for teams hoping to halt the Saints marching on to yet another Grand Final victory."

Key player: Jon Wilkin. Not so much for his usual high standards of play but for his role as Saints' new captain.

Biggest miss: Sia Soliola. Saints will miss the exciting running back-rower and the scorer of many an opportunist try now he has joined Canberra.

WAKEFIELD TRINITY WILDCATS

Craig Hall
Craig Hall scored nine Super League tries for Hull KR last season before his move to Belle Vue

Last season: Super League final position - 12th; Challenge Cup - fourth round.

James Deighton, BBC Radio Leeds: "The Wildcats will revel in the role of underdogs, or rather undercats, with so many seemingly eager to write them off in 2015. Their spirit has so often been the Wildcats' strength and that's as strong as ever as they look to prove the doubters wrong in James Webster's first full season in charge. This time last year they were still waiting for their overseas signings and a more settled pre-season this time around will count in their favour."

Key player:Craig Hall could prove to be one of the best pound-for-pound signings across the whole of Super League.

Biggest miss: Taulima 'Mr T' Tautai, though Wakefield will also miss bruise-magnet Andy Raleigh who did a great job for them in the second half of last season.

WARRINGTON WOLVES

Daryl Clark
Daryl Clark won the 2014 Man of Steel and played a key role for England in the Four Nations

Last season: Super League final position - fifth, beaten in play-off semi-final; Challenge Cup - semi-final.

Phil Kinsella, BBC Radio Merseyside: "Wolves coach Tony Smith might have a few selection headaches as his 2015 squad is one that has to be considered as a major challenger. There's an all-international front-row of Chris Hill, Daryl Clark and Ashton Sims that will test every opponent, and the growing maturity of James Laithwaite, Gareth O'Brien and my player to watch Ben Currie are evidence of the club's own youth development. Strength in depth across the park for most positions has led to favourable comparisons with the team of 2011 that won the League Leaders' Shield. Injuries aside it's hard not to see Warrington in the top four."

Key player: Could pick a few but it has to be Daryl Clark. He faces a different challenge at his new club but his development last year into an international player was sensational.

Biggest miss: Michael Monaghan's leadership skills were amongst the best in Super League and his performance in the heat of last year's battle with Catalans in Perpignan was testament.

WIDNES VIKINGS

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown was a worthy selection in the 2014 Super League Dream Team

Last season: Super League final position - eighth, beaten in qualifying final; Challenge Cup - semi-final.

Ray French, BBC Radio Merseyside: "If Widnes can tighten up their defence, especially in opening quarters, they have enough attacking talent to again finish in the Super League top eight. With Joe Mellor showing the confidence and innovation in midfield to open up defences, full-back Rhys Hanbury should once again be on hand to pick up his usual haul of tries. Coach Denis Betts has made a conscious effort in the off season to bolster the size and power of his pack and the signing of the experienced Wigan forward Gil Dudson should have an immediate impact."

Key player: Kevin Brown. His number of international caps strangely does not match his undoubted organisational talents and creative play.

Biggest miss: Jon Clarke. The retirement of the former skipper and hooker is a loss. Hopefully his craft, energy and his experience will still prove beneficial following his move into a coaching role.

WIGAN WARRIORS

Ryan Hampshire
Ryan Hampshire scored three Super League tries for Wigan in 2014

Last season: Super League final position - second, Grand Final runners-up; Challenge Cup - quarter-finals.

Jack Dearden, BBC Radio Manchester: "Wigan coach Shaun Wane says he is yet to take a day off this pre-season, a statement that typifies the desire to do better this time. Success is not just expected but demanded by many unforgiving Warriors fans. Second is simply not good enough, a situation that Wane understands and accepts. For that reason alone I expect the Warriors to improve on last season. The new Super League structure could restrict opportunities for the club's younger players but none the less I anticipate Wigan to be very serious contenders. Not sure if I would like to be the person explaining to chairman and owner Ian Lenagan why the club hadn't won anything."

Key player: Watch out for the emergence of Ryan Hampshire, for me this guy oozes class and quality. Brave, exciting, lightning quick.

Biggest miss: I consider Darrell Goulding one of the players who may well be missed this season. Last year his campaign was affected by injuries, but at his best I considered his contribution was often underrated, particularly defensively.

Compiled by Matt Newsum and Nathan Middleton.

BBC Radio 5 live and 5 live sports extra has regular live radio commentary throughout the season of Super League and Challenge Cup from the fifth round onwards, plus commentary on BBC Local Radio from the Super League, Championship and Championship One.

In addition, the BBC Sport website will provide comprehensive news and match reports.

The BBC's current rugby league offering on television includes the weekly Super League Show, live Challenge Cup action from the fifth round onwards and Super League 'Super Eights' and 'Qualifiers' group highlights after the split.

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