With the Super League fixtures set to be announced on Tuesday, it has been reported in the media that the competition is set to open it’s 2019 calendar with a round of derbies and League Express reported on Monday that Wigan and St Helens are set to be the curtain raiser on Thursday 31st January, one of the earliest season starts since the summer era was introduced.
The Warriors will be aiming to build on their 2018 Grand Final success under new – and interim – head coach Adrian Lam next year and an opener against their bitter rivals St Helens is a mouthwatering proposition. Indeed, the Saints will have something of a different look next season with Ben Barba having left while the likes of Kyle Amor and Ryan Morgan are available for transfer. NRL stars Lachlan Coote, Kevin Naiqama and Joseph Paulo are arriving at the club and will have to acclimatise fast as they, more than those more familiar with rugby on these shores, aren’t used to such an early start to the season with the NRL usually kicking off a few weeks after Super League.
Furthermore, the Hull clubs have cancelled their customary pre-season friendly in anticipation of facing off against each other in Super League’s opening round of fixtures in 2019. The pair are expected to face other Super League opposition instead during pre-season as Robert Elstone and the top flight teams’ chairmen are keen to see the new era start with a bang. Indeed, it won’t be the first time the pair have faced off in a season opener but it will be the first time in the Humberside city after the pair played each other at 2011’s Magic Weekend in Cardiff, an event which marked the first round of Super League fixtures for the only time in it’s history.
It is unclear whether all of the first round of fixtures will all be derbies but it has been suggested that that is likely to be the case. However, fans will have to wait until noon on Tuesday to see their team’s schedules. 2019’s fixture lists will see all twelve teams play twenty-nine matches with the first twenty-two being simple home and away contests against the other Super League teams. Magic Weekend provides another round and it has been suggested that those fixtures will be based on the finishing positions of the teams in 2018. Similarly, the loop fixtures, which will provide the remaining six fixtures, will be based on this season’s finishing positions where teams finished in ‘even’ positions in 2018 will face the teams finishing in ‘odd’ positions for their loop fixtures.