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globalrugbyleague - Fri, 06 Feb 2009 22:10:00 GMT
Survival of the fittest begins this weekend when the English Super League kicks off as 14-teams set out to turn each other into the biggest loser in 2009.

There is plenty of ambition heading out onto the field with the Celtic Crusaders looking to win a Super League title in their debut season.

They’ll have to knock-over the Leeds Rhinos however who will be looking to show-off in the annals of history by attempting to become the first side to win a hat-trick of titles.

The Crusaders along with the Salford Reds are back in the big league for at least the next-three years with the threat of relegation gone along with the introduction of a new top-eight finals system.

One thing that is guaranteed are the big name recruits who will bring an exciting mix of experience,knowledge, skills and charisma to their new clubs.

Names to look out for include Steve “Beaver” Menzies, Danny Buderus, Mark Riddell, Amos Roberts, Tony Puletua, Jeremy Smith, Brett Hodgson,Chad Robinson,Lincoln Withers, Jason Ryles, Steven Bell, Rangi Chase, Dean Widders and Sione Faumuina.

Rhinos bound star signing Greg Eastwood will miss the club’s opening Super League match due to passport problems delaying his departure from the land down under.

Eastwood is hoping to have the issue resolved before the World Club Challenge clash against Manly on March 1.

Sacked Raiders playmaker Todd Carney who signed with Huddersfield had his application rejected and the whisper is that he’ll take up playing AFL in Goulburn.

A British High Commission spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald some of the problems with visa applications occurred because the UK has moved to a points-based system for assessing visas similar to Australia.

“Because of those administrative changes there have been delays to some visa applications” which means some ESL clubs may not be able to field their best line-ups.

Australian Super League fans will not have to wait two or three weeks before they can start watching all the UK action with Channel 9 broadcasting the Celtic Crusaders clash with the Leeds Rhinos at 1:30am on Sunday morning.

Sky Sports will air that fixture live into the UK at 8:00pm on Friday February 6th as per schedule in accordance with kick-off.

At this time of the year the fantasies of all fans, players and coaches are high while reality is still thawing out of hibernation in the medicine cupboard next to the metamucil. The question is for how long?

Global Rugby League has compiled a quick team forecast for the long, cold and testing season that lies ahead for each of the 14 clubs involved:

TEAM PROFILES

BRADFORD BULLS:
Coach: Steve McNamara
Players In: Greg Bird (Cronulla), Steve Menzies (Manly), Nick Scruton (Leeds), Rikki Sheriffe, Michael Worrincy (both Harlequins)
Players Out: Joe Vagana (retired), Iestyn Harris (Featherstone), James Evans, Chris Feather (both Castleford), Matt James (Halifax, on season-long loan), Simon Finnigan, Keal Carlile (both Huddersfield)
Last Season: 5th
09 Forecast: 3rd

CASTLEFORD TIGERS:
Coach: Terry Matterson
Players In: Rangi Chase (St George Illawarra), Dean Widders (South Sydney), Sione Faumuina (North Queensland), Stuart Jones, Ryan Hudson (both Huddersfield), James Evans, Chris Feather (both Bradford), James Ford (Sheffield), Kirk Netherton (Hull KR), Brett Ferres (Wakefield)
Players Out: Luke Dorn (Harlequins), Awen Guttenbeil (retired), Anthony Thackeray (Widnes), Stuart Donlan (Leigh), Ned Catic (Barrow), Adam Fletcher, Mark Leafa (both released), Peter Lupton (Celtic Crusaders), Andrew Henderson (Gateshead), Brendan Hlad (York), Michael Korkidas (Huddersfield)
Last Season: 12th
09 Forecast: 13th

CATALANS DRAGONS
Coach: Kevin Walters
Players In: Steven Bell (Manly), Jason Ryles (St George Illawarra), Shane Perry (Brisbane), Mathias Pala (Limoux), Michael Tribillac (Lezignan), Romain Mencarini (Toulouges), William Barthaw (Pujois)
Players Out: John Wilson (returning to Australia), Alex Chan (retiring), Aaron Gorrell (Brisbane), Mathieu Griffi, Younes Khattabi (both Toulouse), Justin Murphy (UTC)
Last Season: 3rd
09 Forecast: 4th

CELTIC CRUSADERS:

Coach: John Dixon
Players In: Mark Bryant (Manly Sea Eagles), Matty Smith, Steve Tyrer (both St Helens), Peter Lupton (Castleford), Lincoln Withers, Marshall Chalk (both Canberra), Ryan O'Hara (Wests Tigers), Adam Peek (Cronulla), Jason Chan (Windsor Wolves)
Players Out: Ian Webster, Aaron Summers (both Central Queensland Comets), Jamie I'Anson, Paul Ballard (both Oldham), Gareth Dean (Carcassonne), Philippe Gardent (released), Neale Wyatt (Pia)
09 Forecast: 12th

LONDON HARLEQUINS
Coach: Brian McDermott
Players In: Chad Robinson (Parramatta), Luke Dorn (Castleford), Ben Kaye (Leeds), Jason Golden (Wakefield), Luke Williamson (Manly Sea Eagles), Mick Nanyn (Oldham), Matt Gardner (Salford), Luke Gale (Doncaster)
Players Out: Henry Paul (Leeds RU), Scott Hill (retired), Mark McLinden (Queensland Reds RU), Julien Rinaldi (released), Rikki Sheriffe, Mike Worrincy (both Bradford), Dwayne Barker (Halifax), David Toothill (Batley), Joe Walsh (Huddersfield), Lamont Bryan (released)
Last Season: 9th
09 Forecast: 14th.

HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS
Coach: Nathan Brown
Players In: Brett Hodgson (Wests Tigers), Scott Moore (on loan from St Helens), Joe Walsh (Harlequins), Simon Finnigan, Keal Carlile (both Bradford), Shaun Lunt (Workington), Michael Korkidas (Castleford), Gregg McNally (Whitehaven, loaned back for the season), Larne Patrick (unattached), Josh Griffin (Wakefield)
Players Out: Chris Thorman (Hull), John Skandalis, Rod Jensen (both returned to Australia), Shane Elford (panthers), Stuart Jones, Ryan Hudson (both Castleford), Steve Snitch (Wakefield)
Last Season: 10th
09 Forecast: 7th

After missing the finals by a mile last season, Huddersfield will look to the mind of new coach Nathan Brown to restore some direction,

HULL FC

Coach: Richard Agar
Players In: Dominic Maloney (Dewsbury), Chris Thorman (Huddersfield), Mark Calderwood (Wigan), Sam Moa (Cronulla)
Players Out: Matt Sing (retired), Garreth Carvell (Warrington), Scott Wheeldon (Hull KR), James Webster (Widnes), Adam Dykes (released), Matty Dale (Featherstone).
Last Season: 11th
09 Forecast: 11th

HULL KR
Coach: Justin Morgan
Players In: Nick Fozzard (St Helens), Liam Colbon (Wigan), Ryan Esders (York), Scott Wheeldon (Hull)
Players Out: Jon Steel (Featherstone), Kirk Netherton (Castleford), Luke Menzies (released), Chris Chester (retired), Garret Crossman (South Sydney)
Last Season: 7th
09 Forecast: 6th

LEEDS RHINOS
Coach: Brian McClennan
Players In: Danny Buderus (Newcastle), Greg Eastwood (Brisbane Broncos), Luke Ambler (Salford)
Players Out: Gareth Ellis (Wests Tigers), Ben Kaye (Harlequins), Nick Scruton (Bradford), Eric Anselme (Toulouse), Clinton Toopi (released).
Last Season: 1st
09 Forecast: 2nd

SALFORD REDS
Coach: Shaun McRae
Players In: Ray Cashmere, Mark Henry (both North Queensland), Jeremy Smith (South Sydney), Luke Swain (Gold Coast), Rob Parker (Warrington), Willie Talau, Dean McGillivray (both St Helens)
Players Out: Paul Highton, Andy Ballard (both Oldham), Andrew Brocklehurst (Barrow), Matt Gardner (Harlequins), Chris Borgese (returned to Australia), Daley Williams (Keighley), Luke Ambler (Leeds), Steve Bannister (Widnes), Leon Walker (released)
Last Season: 1st National League One
09 Forecast: 10th

ST HELENS
Coach: Mick Potter
Players In: In: Tony Puletua (Penrith)
Players Out: Willie Talau, Dean McGillivray (both Salford), Paul Sculthorpe, Mike Bennett (both retired), Nick Fozzard (Hull KR), Sam Thompson (Widnes), Scott Moore (Huddersfield on loan), Steve Tyrer, Matty Smith (both Celtic Crusaders)
Last Season: 2nd
09 Forecast: 1st

WAKEFIELD TRINITY
Coach: John Kear
Players In: Steve Snitch (Huddersfield), James Stosic (Gold Coast).
Players Out: Duncan MacGillivray (retired), Jason Golden (Harlequins), Paul Reilly (Oldham), Brett Ferres (Castleford), Josh Griffin (Huddersfield).
Last Season: 8th
09 Forecast: 9th

WARRINGTON WOLVES
Coach: James Lowes
Players In: Garreth Carvell (Hull), Mickey Higham (Wigan).
Players Out: Rob Parker (Salford), Andy Bracek (Barrow).
Last Season: 6th
09 Forecast: 8th


WIGAN WARRIORS
Coach: Brian Noble
Players In: Mark Riddell (Parramatta), Amos Roberts (roosters).
Players Out: Trent Barrett (Cronulla), Mickey Higham (Warrington), Mark Calderwood (Hull), Liam Colbon (Hull KR).
Last Season: 4th
09 Forecast: 5th - Read More, Here