Super League 2013: Club-by-club season preview
It has been another busy off-season of recruitment for Super League clubs, bringing with it a plethora of impressive signings.
The competition has waved goodbye to stars such as Thomas Leuluai, Jeff Lima and Clint Greenshields as they return to the NRL, but in return and show the lure of Super League remains.
Domestically, and are stand-out signings, as are the cross-city switches of Shannon McDonnell and Ben Galea from Hull KR to Hull FC.
Whatever your Super League club, BBC Sport has assembled a list of ins and outs and spoken to the clubs and commentators in the build-up to the 2013 season.
Last season: Ninth in Super League, Challenge Cup fifth round
Key player: John Bateman [second row] - The 19-year-old was nominated for Young Player of the Year but was pipped by Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker. Committed to the Bulls despite interest from other Super League clubs.
Ins: Adam Sidlow [Salford City Reds], Jamie Foster [St Helens], Ben Evans [Warrington Wolves - on loan], Matty Blythe [Warrington Wolves - on loan]
Outs: Olivier Elima [Catalan Dragons], Craig Kopczak [Huddersfield Giants], Ben Jeffries [retired], Bryn Hargreaves [retired], Jason Crookes [Hull FC], Tom Burgess [Sydney Roosters], Shaun Ainscough [South City Bulls, Australia], Phil Joseph [Widnes Vikings], Karl Pryce [released], Ian Sibbit [retired], Paul Sykes [Wakefield Trinity Wildcats], Callum Windley [Hunslet Hawks], Liam McAvoy [Leeds Rhinos]
Bradford joint-captain Heath L'Estrange told BBC Radio Leeds: "Everyone is primed and ready to go, including all of the people in the office. There is still a little bit of pain left from last season. Not so much with what happened with the financial side but with how we lost our last two games to miss out on the play-offs. It is a good squad and we're ready for this year. People are saying we look a bit thin in numbers but I wouldn't swap our boys for anyone."
BBC Radio Leeds' James Deighton: "After their annus horribilis in 2012, Bradford Bulls will be hoping for a drama-free season this time around. The 2013 season will surely be one of consolidation. Francis Cummins can be trusted to get the best out of the squad he has. He's one of the smartest and forward-thinking coaches I've ever met."
Last season: 13th in Super League, Challenge Cup fourth round
Key player: Michael Shenton [centre] - The England international returns to his boyhood club after two seasons at Saints as part of a new-look Cas side under Ian Millward.
Ins: Jordan Tansey [York City Knights] Lee Gilmour [Huddersfield Giants], Jamie Ellis [Hull FC], Michael Shenton [St Helens], Jake Webster [Hull KR], Weller Hauraki [Leeds Rhinos], Keith Mason [Huddersfield Giants], Justin Carney [Sydney Roosters]
Outs: Nick Youngquest [retired], Danny Orr [retired], Stuart Jones [retired], Ryan Hudson [retired], Josh Griffin [Leeds Carnegie], Ritchie Mathers [Wakefield Trinity Wildcats], Steve Snitch [Northern Pride], Lee Mitchell [Warrington], Paul Jackson [Whitehaven], John Davies [Batley Bulldogs], Ben Blackmore [Huddersfield Giants], Joe Arundel [Hull FC], James Clare [Doncaster - loan] James Grehan [released], Ben Johnston [Dewsbury - loan], Ryan Brierley [Leigh Centurions]
Castleford captain Michael Shenton told BBC Radio Leeds: "Hopefully we can be a bit more consistent than last year. We've got a lot of enthusiasm and with Rangi [Chase] staying, and some of the experience we've added, then hopefully we can surprise a few people this year. We don't have the squad depth of other teams but if we can keep our first 17 fit then we can have a good season."
BBC Radio Leeds' James Deighton: "Ian Millward has assembled a squad smaller in number but stronger in quality for 2013. The return of Michael Shenton is a real coup and with Jake Webster provides them with specialist centres that they didn't have in 2012. If the Tigers can keep their top 17 players healthy and Rangi Chase can recreate his form of two seasons ago Cas can look forward to a much improved 2013."
Last season: Fourth in Super League, Challenge Cup quarter-finals
Key player: Scott Dureau [scrum-half] - Catalans will hope their attacking fulcrum makes a speedy recovery from surgery to remove a tumour from behind the eye. Huge influence on Dragons' style.
Ins: Brent Webb [Leeds Rhinos], Zeb Taia [Newcastle Knights], Olivier Elima [Bradford Bulls]
Outs: Clint Greenshields [North Queensland Cowboys], David Ferriol [retired], Setaimata Sa [London Irish], Cyril Stacul [Pia Donkeys], Sebastien Raguin [released], Jean Phillipe-Baile [released], Ben Fisher [retired]
Catalans coach Laurent Frayssinous told BBC Sport: "I expect us to be in the top four, we can't finish in the top four one year and then expect to finish in the top six, or top eight. We don't want that. We just talk about performances week in, week out and on the back of that with the quality in our squad we can do well in the big games."
BBC Sport's Matt Newsum: "Catalans have promoted from within to replace Trent Robinson with Laurent Frayssinous, and with Jerome Guisset and the experienced David Waite he has great back-up. Scott Dureau's absence may be key early on but in Leon Pryce, Thomas Bosc and now Brent Webb they have experience and quality throughout. I expect formidable home form to see them into the top four."
Last season: Seventh in Super League, Challenge Cup semi-finals
Key player: Danny Brough [scrum-half] - The Giants' impressive three-quarter line thrives on the quality ball provided by the Dewsbury-born playmaker. Superb kicking game too.
Ins: Craig Kopzcak [Bradford Bulls], Ukuma Ta'ai [NZ Warriors], Anthony Mullally [Widnes Vikings], Stuart Fielden [Wigan Warriors]
Outs: Keith Mason [Castleford], Lee Gilmour [Castleford], Adam Walker [Hull KR], Greg Eden [Hull KR], Tommy Lee [London Broncos], David Fa'alogo [Newcastle Knights], Ross Peltier [Keighley Cougars], Scott Moore [North Queensland Cowboys], Tony Tonks [Halifax], Jon Molloy [released], Matthew Sarsfield [released]
Huddersfield Giants coach Paul Anderson told BBC Radio Leeds: "Physically we are where we need to be. Us finishing in the top four and reaching both major finals should be pre-requisites. But there's no point thinking about those things in February, our attention is on what is happening now. Our focus will always just be on the next game."
BBC Radio Leeds' James Deighton: "It's Paul Anderson's first full season in charge and he's assembled a formidable forward pack in his own image with the acquisition of giants Craig Kopczak, Ukuma Ta'ai, Anthony Mullally and Stuart Fielden. This should take some of the pressure off Eorl Crabtree's sizeable shoulders. The Giants are definite play-off contenders and could even visit a final this year."
Last season: Sixth in Super League, Challenge Cup fourth round
Key player: Gareth Ellis [second-row] - Made a big impression with Wests Tigers in the NRL and returns to Super League as a player at the top of his game among a string of impressive signings.
Ins: Gareth Ellis [Wests Tigers], Daniel Holdsworth [Salford City Reds], Shannon McDonnell [Hull KR], Jason Crookes [Bradford Bulls], Ben Galea [Hull KR], Paul Johnson [Wakefield], Joe Arundel [Castleford Tigers]
Outs: Mike Burnett [retired], Reece Lyne [Wakefield Trinity Wildcats], Martin Aspinwall [Leigh Centurions], Sam Moa [Sydney Roosters], Jamie Ellis [Castleford Tigers], Willie Manu [St Helens], Tony Martin [released], Will Sharp [London Wasps rugby union]
Hull FC hooker Danny Houghton told BBC Radio Humberside: "There's been a lot of talk that this is going to be Hull's year and that does add some extra pressure but I think we can thrive off that. This is the first year that I genuinely believe we can achieve what people expect. We have strength in depth all through the squad. If someone doesn't perform then we have someone else who can come in and take their place."
BBC Radio Humberside's Gwilym Lloyd: "If sport is about sending out messages then the signing of Gareth Ellis has certainly done that. He had his pick of clubs and the fact that he chose to come to the KC was a massive coup for the Black and Whites. The pressure is on from ambitious club owner Adam Pearson. He has invested heavily in the squad and the training facilities and expects a return."
Hull Kingston Rovers
Last season: 10th in Super League, Challenge Cup fourth round
Key player: Michael Dobson [half-back] - Made captain after Ben Galea's cross-city switch, the Australian was one of the front runners for the Albert Goldthorpe Medal last season.
Ins: Adam Walker [Huddersfield Giants], Greg Eden [Huddersfield Giants], Evarn Tuimavave [Newcastle Knights], Sean Gleeson [Salford City Reds], Travis Burns [Penrith Panthers], Cory Paterson [North Queensland Cowboys], Omari Caro [London Broncos], Alex Brown [Batley Bulldogs]
Outs: Shannon McDonnell [Hull FC], Ben Galea [Hull FC], Jake Webster [Castleford Tigers], Scott Taylor [Wigan Warriors], Blake Green [Wigan Warriors], Louis Sheriff [Redcliffe Dolphins], Joel Clinton [Mackay Cutters], Dave Petersen [Mackay Cutters], Jason Netherton [Mackay Cutters], Scott Murrell [Halifax], Nick Johnson [Gateshead Thunder], Scott Wheeldon [London Broncos]
Hull KR head coach Craig Sandercock said: "I'm pretty pleased with all the players who have come on board, the most pleasing thing for me as a coach is that they all want to play for Hull KR. They've signed on for less money than they could have got at other clubs and it's an exciting avenue. The pressure comes from myself to work as hard as I can and for the team to play as best as they can."
BBC Radio Humberside's Gwilym Lloyd: "Finishing 10th last year was not what the Red and White fans expected and expectations are realistic rather that fanciful but getting into the play-offs after missing out last season is seen as a minimum requirement. 2013 is expected to be a better year down at Craven Park than 2012, which was very much seen as a transitional year."
Last season: Super League winners, fifth in Super League regular season table, Challenge Cup finalists
Key player: Kevin Sinfield [scrum-half] - Supreme leader who possesses an unrivalled kicking game, the 2012 Golden Boot winner and England captain will demand success from the champions.
Ins: Joel Moon [Salford City Reds], Joe Vickery [Gold Coast - Tweed Heads], Mitch Achurch [Penrith Panthers]
Outs: Weller Hauraki [Castleford Tigers], Brad Singleton [Wakefield - on loan], Luke Ambler [Halifax], Brent Webb [Catalan Dragons]
Leeds coach Brian McDermott told BBC Radio Leeds: "At the start of the season you want to achieve a few things and I'm less apologetic about how our season ended last year than I was with how 2011 finished. We need to finish above fifth, clearly we need to do that. Every team we played last year was coming to get us as champions and that is the way it should be."
BBC Radio Leeds' James Deighton: "They've done it the hard way the last two seasons and you wouldn't bet against them going all the way once again wherever they finish. They are a team that have grown up together cultivating a winning mentality. They've excelled in making the Challenge Cup final in recent years but have been a shadow of their selves on the day itself. I've commentated on far too many West Yorkshire sides being beaten at Wembley, I've got a feeling that might change this year."
Last season: 12th in Super League, Challenge Cup quarter-finals
Key player: Kieran Dixon [wing] - Pacy finisher whose 16 tries saw him end last season as joint top scorer with Luke Dorn and gained him England Knights recognition.
Ins: Tommy Lee [Huddersfield Giants], Shane Grady [Thirroul Butchers], Alex Hurst [Swinton Lions]
Outs: Omari Caro [Hull KR], Julien Rinaldi [retired], Karl Temata [Limoux Grizzlies], Lamont Bryan [Featherstone Rovers], Jason Golden [York City Knights], Rob Thomas [London Skolars], Joe Ridley [London Skolars], Max Edwards [released], Sam Bolger [released] Ben Bolger [Abu Dhabi Harlequins]
London Broncos coach Tony Rea told BBC Sport: "We should have a stable base. We've got a fairly stable roster and we haven't made a lot of additions so it's important to use that as an opportunity to grow, get better and move forward together. We've shown all the signs that we're capable of doing better than last season. The real challenges are about to start. We've met all the soft ones - we've worked hard and done all the things you need to do, so we're in a good position."
BBC London 94.9's Ian Ramsdale: "The turn in fortunes after bringing back Tony Rea as head coach at the end of last season rescued the club from the foot of the table and renewed fans' hopes. Although some flirt with giving them the 'potential dark horse' tag, the test is replicating a consistent performance level for the entirety of the season - something, I predict, will place them mid table."
Salford City Reds
Last season: 11th in Super League, Challenge Cup fifth round
Key player: Jodie Broughton [wing] - 16 tries in 22 games marked his predatory instincts but without the quality of Matty Smith, Luke Patten and Daniel Holdsworth, 2013 could be tough.
Ins: Andrew Dixon [St Helens], Jack Murphy [Wigan Warriors - on loan], Ryan McGoldrick [unattached], Rhys Williams [Warrington Wolves], Liam Foran [Manly Sea Eagles], Vic Mauro [Manly Sea Eagles], Connor Higgins [South Sydney Rabbitohs], Martin Gleeson [unattached]
Outs: Daniel Holdsworth [Hull FC], Joel Moon [Leeds Rhinos], Luke Patten [retired], Adam Sidlow [Bradford Bulls], Sean Gleeson [Hull KR], Vinnie Anderson [Carcassonne], Iafeta Paleaasina [Limoux Grizzlies], Luke Adamson [Bath rugby union], Adam Walne [Workington Town], Josh Veivers [Ipswich Jets, Aus]
Salford coach Phil Veivers told BBC Sport: "We've lost an entire pre-season. The side isn't one of strength at the moment, but it's a side that we can build. Maybe we can turn that into a competitive outfit this year and then strengthen as we go along. It's tough being a coach. Every coach will have their own problems. I just have some that are a bit more severe than others. I've got a good crew around me that helps me out and a tight-knit unit of players that work together. That's been a bonus. The job I've had has been to keep morale high and keep their chins up."
BBC Radio Manchester's Jack Dearden: "I think Salford will do a lot better than a lot of people are predicting. I'm pretty sure the new owner will provide investment for players and that's what they need. If that's forthcoming, I think they could get in a play-off position. I just get the feeling that the new owner is going to have a right go at it. They might be a bit of a surprise package this season."
Last season: Third in Super League, Challenge Cup quarter-finals
Key player: Willie Manu [centre] - The powerful Australian will provide power and punch to the Saints attack and brawn in defence to relieve the pressure on Sia Soliola and Tony Puletua.
Ins: Willie Manu [Hull FC], Alex Walmsley [Batley Bulldogs], Jordan Turner [Hull FC]
Outs: Andrew Dixon [Salford City Reds], Jamie Foster [Bradford Bulls], Michael Shenton [Castleford Tigers], Chris Flannery [retired], Shaun Magennis [retired], Scott Hale [Dewsbury Rams]
Saints coach Nathan Brown told BBC Sport: "All years are exciting when you're coaching a team. This year's no different. You're always excited and always quite hopeful. We've got a reasonably healthy squad at the moment, we've had a reasonable pre-season like all sides, and hopefully we can play well in the right games. We've got a nice blend in our squad. We have some very experienced players, who have played at international level, won Challenge Cups and won Grand Finals. For the younger players to be able to work with blokes of that quality is good."
BBC Radio Merseyside's Ray French: "Nathan Brown has come with the big reputation and I'm a great admirer of his after what he did at Huddersfield. He couldn't quite finish it off, but he put them into a prominent position. The vibes coming out of Langtree Park are very appreciative. They'll be right up there."
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats
Last season: Eighth in Super League, Challenge Cup fourth round
Key player: Tim Smith [half-back] - The Australian formed a fine partnership with Paul Sykes in the halves towards the end of last season, and rewarded the faith of head coach Richard Agar.
Ins: Reece Lyne [Hull FC], Justin Poore [Paramatta Eels], Brad Singleton [Leeds Rhinos - on loan], Bobby Goulding [Warrington Wolves],
Outs: Paul Johnson [Hull FC], Andy Ellis [Featherstone Rovers], Dale Morton [Dewsbury Rams], Russell Spiers [Dewsbury Rams], Adam Slater [Burleigh Bears], Steve Southern [released], Motu Tony [released], James Davey [released], Matt James [released]
Wakefield captain Danny Kirmond told BBC Radio Leeds: "We're definitely raring to go and we've done the hard yards in pre-season. That's done now and we're looking forward to the fun stuff. Expectations from outside influences isn't really something we worry about, we set ourselves really high standards. We know we have to knuckle down if we are going to achieve and better last season."
BBC Radio Leeds' James Deighton: "They've got as tight a team spirit as I've ever witnessed and that runs down from coach Richard Agar. His man management and shrewd coaching has brought the best out of his players. The Wildcats' late charge to the play-offs last season has raised expectations around the club though I'm sure with their coaching and playing staff they have the ability to live up to them."
Last season: Grand Final runners-up, second in Super League, Challenge Cup winners
Key player: Ben Westwood [second-row] - Tenacious, powerful and a vital cog in the Warrington machine, his graft allows Lee Briers, Richie Myler and company the platform to play.
Outs: Matty Blythe [Bradford Bulls - on loan], Ben Evans [Bradford Bulls - on loan], Lee Mitchell [Central Queensland Capras], Ben Hellewell [Featherstone Rovers], Brooke Broughton [Doncaster], Bobbie Goulding [Wakefield Trinity Wildcats], Dave Solomona [released]
Warrington coach Tony Smith told BBC Sport: "We've had a couple of players who have gone - Dave Solomona and Matty Blythe - but we're pretty similar. Where we've changed is with the progression of some younger players. With a year under the belt in terms of physical development, I think those younger players are more ready for the rigours of Super League and more ready to step up and replace the senior players when needed, or maybe even dislodge them through their form. I'm excited about this year and excited about the players we're working with."
BBC Radio Merseyside's Ray French: "I think it will be another good season for them. They probably have the biggest, the deepest and the best overall squad in the game at the moment. They have three of the iconic players in the game in Lee Briers, Adrian Morley and Brett Hodgson. They can command a game in their own right, but with all due respect to them, they are ageing players."
Last season: 14th in Super League, Challenge Cup fourth round
Key player: Gareth Hock [second-row] - Huge signing for the Vikings with international pedigree and a destructively effective playing style.
Ins: Gareth Hock [Wigan Warriors - on loan], Stefan Marsh [Wigan Warriors], Joe Mellor [Wigan Warriors], Kevin Brown [Huddersfield Giants], Phil Joseph [Bradford Bulls]
Outs: Sione Kite [released], Kurt Haggerty [Barrow Raiders], Thomas Coyle [Leigh Centurions], Simon Finnegan [Leigh Centurions]
Widnes coach Denis Betts told BBC Sport: "We've not made lots of acquisitions but we've looked at the quality of the people and looked at how they can improve us as a group. We feel a lot more comfortable with each other and we feel in good shape so we're looking forward to starting the year. You'll always get one or two teams that will jump out of the bottom and get some good rhythm into their play by being a bit lucky - they keep away from injuries and they're able keep the same team on the field. There will be a bit of a fight to get into the bottom four of that top eight."
BBC Radio Merseyside's Ray French: "It's all optimistic there, and rightly so. When you go from the part-time game to the full-time game, it's such a massive leap. A lot of the players have coped, and Danny Craven could be a good lad for the future. Gareth Hock is a big, big signing."
Last season: Super League minor premiers [lost in play-off semi-finals], Challenge Cup semi-finals
Key player: Sam Tomkins [full-back] - Coveted by the NRL and even rugby union, the poster boy of rugby league had an outstanding 2012 season as Man of Steel.
Ins: Blake Green [Hull KR], Scott Taylor [Hull KR]
Outs: Gareth Hock [Widnes], Stefan Marsh [Widnes], Joe Mellor [Widnes], Ryan King [released], Jeff Lima [South Sydney Rabbitohs], Brett Finch [Melbourne Storm], Thomas Leuluai [New Zealand Warriors], George Carmont [retired], Matty Russell [Gold Coast Titans], Stuart Fielden [Huddersfield Giants], Jack Murphy [Salford City Reds - on loan]
Wigan coach Shaun Wane told BBC Sport: "We played some big games last year and didn't perform. Overall, we were the best team in the competition. But in big games we were ordinary, so there were things that we needed to fix. Winning the minor premiership was good and I was really pleased with that, but losing the two games that we did was really disappointing. We need to be at Wembley and we need to be in the Grand Final, but I'm also mindful of the fact that we weren't too far away either."
BBC Radio Manchester's Jack Dearden: "I think their whole season will hinge on the potential half-back pairing of Matty Smith and Blake Green. An awful lot of experienced players have left Wigan - players like George Carmont, Thomas Leuluai, Brett Finch, Jeff Lima - and they'll take some replacing."