Super League Betting Guide :
The Super League is Europe's top club rugby league competition and Super League XVIII in 2013 will be the 18th edition of an event and sport that has gone from strength to strength in the northern hemisphere since making the switch from being played in the winter months to the summer ones. Our friends at sbo provide their thoughts on this year's competition.
A total of 23 teams have taken part in Super League since its establishment in 1996, with 14 sides - Bradford, Castleford, Catalans, Huddersfield, Hull, Hull Kingston Rovers, Leeds, London, Salford, St Helens, Wakefield, Warrington, Widnes and Wigan - lining up in 2013.
he Saints and the Bulls won the first two Super League titles before the introduction of a Grand Final match in 1998 to determine the Super League III champion. Overall, the Rhinos have won the most Super League championships, with Leeds sitting on six victories following their Super League XVII triumph in 2012. St Helens and Bradford have won five and four Super League trophies respectively, while the Warriors have won two, albeit more than 10 years apart.
» Super League XVIII season structure
The Super League XVIII regular season will consist of 27 rounds. Each of the 14 sides will play each other at home and away, which accounts for 26 rounds. The 27th round is what is known as the Magic Weekend at Manchester's Etihad Stadium in May 2013. According to the Super League XVIII draw, the Magic Weekend fixtures will be: Catalans versus London; Castleford versus Wakefield; Hull versus Hull Kingston Rovers; St Helens versus Warrington; Salford versus Widnes; Bradford versus Huddersfield; and Leeds versus Wigan. It is one derby or grudge match after another.
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The top eight teams at the end of the Super League XVIII regular season will qualify for the play-offs, with the competition's unique system producing two Grand Finalists. The Super League XVIII Grand Final is scheduled to take place at Old Trafford in Manchester on Saturday 5 October 2013. The so-called Theatre of Dreams has staged every Super League Grand Final since the inaugural one between the Warriors and the Rhinos in 1998 that Wigan won 10-4.
» Defending champions not the favourites
Leeds has won five of the last half a dozen Super League titles, including those for Super League XVI and Super League XVII, but the Rhinos will not be the Super League XVIII favourites when it kicks off on Friday 1 February 2013. That is because Leeds has finished top of the ladder only once in the last eight Super League seasons and its play-off form is something that is hard to comprehend.
Some bookmakers are favouring Warrington and some bookmakers are favouring Wigan, with the majority leaning towards the Wolves. Warrington is seeking its first Super League title having gone oh so close last year when it lost 18-26 to Leeds in the championship decider at Old Trafford.
» Wolves can top regular season ladder
Most Super League punters get sucked in to betting on the Grand Final winner but, as Leeds has demonstrated in many recent seasons, the play-offs can be something of a lottery in which one peculiar bounce of the strangely shaped rugby league ball can bring a team's campaign to an abrupt end.
It makes more sense to take luck out of the equation and bet on the side that will top the Super League XVIII ladder at the end of the 27 rounds. And there is a stand-out bet at the prices available before the competition begins.
With Wigan having lost several key players, St Helens under new management and Leeds having to make up a lot of ground based on last season's regular season table, Warrington is well worth backing to go into the Super League XVIII play-offs seeded number one at odds of around 2-1.
The Wolves ended the Super League XVII regular season only one point adrift of the Warriors and they will fancy their chances of overtaking their north-west rivals who have seen, among others, George Carmont, Stuart Fielden, Brett Finch, Gareth Hock, Thomas Leuluai and Jeff Lima either retire or join other clubs somewhere in the rugby league world.
The Saints will always be a threat and their squad looks strong but it could take some time for them to gel under their new coach, Nathan Brown, while the Rhinos dropped 11 of its 27 games during the Super League XVII regular season.
Warrington has made no significant changes to its roster, which is a vote of confidence in itself, and it looks like having the perfect blend of youth and experience going into Super League XVIII. The Wolves do not need to improve to win the title but they could do exactly that under Tony Smith.
» Rule change could see points explosion
Super League is such big business for British bookmakers these days that they have framed a wide range of exotic betting markets. And there are some interesting bets available from the long list of special options.
Several bookmakers are quoting odds about a player scoring 30 or more tries in the Super League XVIII regular season and a team scoring 1,000 or more points in the 27 rounds. One can get odds as big as 9-4 about the former and 5-2 about the latter. Both eventualities are overpriced.
Super League officials have changed the interchange rule for the 2013 competition, reducing the number from 12 to 10. That should result in more scoring opportunities for the tournament's star attackers, especially in the last 10 minutes of each half, as the big guys who block up the middle tire. The Super League XVII regular season saw a player saw 31 tries and a team score 994 points so take 9-4 about 30-plus tries and 5-2 about 1,000-plus points in the Super League XVIII equivalent as they are over the odds.
Finally, Hull recruit Gareth Ellis is a terrific 12-1 Man of Steel bet before Super League XVIII starts. Ellis is back on British soil after four years playing for Australia's Wests Tigers in the National Rugby League. Ellis spent much of the 2012 season on the sidelines through injury but he won the Sydney side's player of the year award in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Ellis was one of the stars of the National Rugby League so he should stand out in Super League XVIII.