With the 2020 Betfred Championship season fast approaching and a huge afternoon of rugby league is anticipated at Emerald Headingley Stadium on Sunday 2nd February. Not only will those in attendance get to see Leeds Rhinos and Hull FC face off but also Toronto Wolfpack will play Castleford. Here are three reasons to be at the showpiece event of the first round of the season…
1. Seeing SBW in action
The biggest signing in the history of either code of rugby, Sonny-Bill Williams’ arrival at Toronto Wolfpack has got eyeballs on the sport like never before and will no doubt bring the attention the game craves. The event at the Rhinos’ home will be the New Zealand dual-code international’s first competitive appearance for the Wolfpack whose coach Brian McDermott returns to a Headingley matchday for the first time since his 2018 departure from the club he guided to unprecedented success. A man described as a ‘freak’ by McDermott, SBW’s first appearance in Super League is not to be missed.
2. Two matches between four top teams
Sunday 2nd February will see four of Super League’s best teams taking to the field. Leeds Rhinos, boosted by the signings of Luke Gale, Matt Prior and more, are expected to avoid being in a relegation battle in 2020 and will instead hope to be looking up the table towards the play-off spots. They face Lee Radford’s Hull FC who are widely thought to have recruited the best of any of their Super League rivals. The return of fan favourite Mahe Fonua comes on top of the likes of the ‘Tongan Terminator’ Manu Ma’u’s arrival from Parramatta Eels as well as a clutch more – could 2020 be the season the Airlie Birds realise their potential and truly challenge for a first Super League title? Daryl Powell’s Castleford Tigers will also be looking to improve on a second successive play-off semi-final defeat and have brought in Danny Richardson, a man with a point to prove, to replace Luke Gale and Cronulla Sharks’ winger Sosaia Feki in a bid to increase the team’s threat on the wing. They will face off against Toronto who, throughout their rise from League One to Super League, have fielded a team full of stars. On top of Sonny-Bill Williams, the Wolfpack boast star centre Ricky Leutele and full-back Gareth O’Brien who are both tipped to have strong seasons for the Canadian team – and will no doubt be keen to star in the opening round.
3. Kick off a new decade of rugby league in style
The first season of the 20s has seen Super League teams bring in a clutch of star players, both moving from other Super League clubs and arriving from Down Under and the NRL. Luke Gale will hope for a strong season in the colours of the Rhinos while Matt Prior will want to make a big impact after arriving from Cronulla. Gareth Widdop has joined Warrington Wolves and the Great Britain international’s half-back partnership with Blake Austin will be key to any success Steve Price’s men have this year while Wigan Warriors have brought in 2019 Steve Prescott Man of Steel winner Jackson Hastings in one of the high-profile signings of the year. That’s not even including the incredible arrival of Sonny Bill-Williams who will be heading to a Super League ground near you after signing a two-year deal with Toronto. Hull FC’s strong recruitment drive has seen them bring in 2019 Grand Finalist Josh Jones who will likely line up alongside the fearsome Manu Ma’u in the Airlie Birds’ pack while cross-city rivals Hull KR have basically signed up a whole new squad, the main man no doubt being NRL winner Shaun Kenny-Dowall who head coach Tony Smith will hope will have a huge impact at the club.