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Opinion

Of Saints, Red Devils and Field days: The Super League season so far

(Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Roar Guru
21st February, 2022
9

It’s not long ago that St George Illawarra supporters were intrigued by an exciting young prospect by the name of Jai Field.

He debuted off the bench for the Dragons in Round 1 of 2017 but made only four starts in three seasons before joining Parramatta in 2020.

While he had a period as a starting player at the Eels, Field was only ever filling-in for the injured Dylan Brown and he departed for Wigan after the 2020 season.

Field’s first season at Wigan was ruined by a hamstring injury that limited him to just four appearances and there was little indication that 2022 might be a breakout season for the 24-year-old from Wollongong.

It’s still early days but Field has been in sensational form as Wigan, a team who struggled to score points in 2021, have opened the new season with impressive victories over Hull KR and Leeds.

Field was player of the match in both victories. He completed a hat-trick of tries against Leeds with a wonderful display of speed and evasion that secured victory for the Warriors in the second half.

Maybe Field has a future in the NRL.

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Another Wigan player Australian league fans might want to keep an eye on is gangling centre Kai Pearce-Paul, a 20-year-old from London who’s already elicited hyperbolic comparisons to Sonny Bill Williams.

We’ll see about that.

Elsewhere, defending champions St Helens have picked up where they left off, with a convincing win in the grand final replay against Catalans followed by a stroll at Hull FC. There’s nothing so far to suggest Saints won’t be there again on grand final day 2022 chasing a fourth consecutive title.

Like rugby league Francophiles everywhere, I’m hoping Catalans can go one better this season, but it appears their premiership window has narrowed.

Mitchell Pearce has only partially replaced James Maloney and the signing of Dylan Napa is hardly a ringing endorsement of young locals like Jordan Dezaria and Joe Chan.

Wigan and Warrington are closing the gap to last season’s leaders and Catalans look weaker than they did last season. An unconvincing win at home to Wakefield on Saturday did nothing to dispel this impression.

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Up the road in Toulouse, it’s already time to start worrying about newly promoted Toulouse Olympique. The optimism generated by their historic promotion has largely subsided due to the ease with which they were dispatched by an understrength Huddersfield in Round 1 followed by a limp defeat at Salford on Sunday.

The departure of veteran playmaker Jonathan Ford and the mysterious absence of long-time fullback Mark Kheirallah has left Toulouse rudderless.

It looks like a long season ahead and I’d be surprised if they avoid relegation. One step forward, one step back for French rugby league it seems.

Salford, who were the first English club to play in France way back in 1934, and who inherited their nickname Les Diables Rouges (the Red Devils) from French league fans, have started the season very well, with their victory over Toulouse preceded by an impressive performance at Castleford.

Super League doesn’t really do surprises, but Salford are one of the few clubs who’ve managed to disrupt the northern game’s ancien régime in recent years through their Jackson Hastings-inspired run to the 2019 grand final.

They look capable of a decent challenge in 2022.

Salford’s squad is full of players with a point to prove, like Brodie Croft, Elijah Taylor, Tim Lafai and Kallum Watkins, as well as the young man who was, until recently, supposed to be the next big thing in French rugby league, Morgan Escaré.

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There’ve always been second acts in rugby league. Jai Field and Les Diables Rouge are making the most of their redux so far in 2022.

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