GIANTS chief Nathan Brown believes Wigan and Warrington will be the teams to beat in Super League XVI.
Wigan were crowned Super League champions in 2010 and also collected the League Leaders Shield for finishing top at the end of the regular season, while Warrington retained the Challenge Cup.
Brown is confident his own side will also be one of the top contenders in 2011.
But he feels that if the Giants are to collect some silverware this time around, beating Wigan’s Warriors and Warrington’s Wolves will be a top priority.
“Wigan are the favourites to retain their title, and there’s no question they’ll be right up there again, along with Warrington,” predicted Brown.
“If you’re going to win a trophy this season, then you’re going to have to beat these two to do it.
“Both clubs have made some quality additions, which means they should be stronger than they were last season.
“Obviously, Brett Hodgson has moved to Warrington from us, and we all know about his quality. As well as his goalkicking, he’ll add to their attacking game and that clearly makes them a bigger threat.
“They were a formidable side anyway, but with the addition of a player of Brett’s class, then you know they’re going to get even better.
“And that’s also the case with Wigan, who have made it clear they’re not thinking about standing still after their Grand Final success.
“They’ve backed that up by bringing in internationals from Australia and will also be able to pick England back-row forward Gareth Hock again following a drugs ban.
“We managed to beat them both last season, but we know we’ll have to be even better this year to make sure we do it again.”
After reaching the play-off semi-final last season, the Giants are strongly tipped to reach the top-eight plays-offs once again.
Brown is delighted that’s the case, but knows finishing at the right end of the Super League table can’t be taken for granted.
“What really strikes me about this season is that the bottom end of Super League is getting stronger, which is the key to a good competition,” he added.
“The more sides that are genuinely competing for play-off spots, the better it is in creating interest, and the closer the games, the more likely players will improve. That’s healthy.
“Your Warringtons, Wigans, Leeds, St Helens and Hulls of this world have been up there since Jesus was a boy, but over the past few seasons their positions at the top have come under serious threat.
“Just look at us here at Huddersfield, for example.
“It’s not that long ago that the Giants were taking big beatings on a fairly regular basis, but now I’m pleased to say the club is putting itself right at the top of the competition.
“Then there’s Hull KR, who are another club consistently making the play-offs and improving all the time.
“I’m sure they’ll be in the shake-up once again, but there are others too that we know could be a big threat this time around after missing out on the semis last year.
“Catalans Dragons look like they’ll make a big improvement on the back of some good recruitment and under a new coach (Aussie Trent Robinson), and the same can be said for Bradford Bulls who I‘m sure will improve under Mick Potter and the signings he’s made.
“Castleford, too, should also be in the mix. They were badly hit by injuries last year, but only just missed out on the play-offs.
“They look to have a stronger squad this year and if they avoid the injuries this time around, then they will prove very tough to beat.
“In Catalans, Bradford and Cas, that’s just three clubs off the top of my head that I expect to make big progress this time around.
“If that’s the case and a couple of other clubs find some good form, then Super League season could be more competitive than ever, which is something I genuinely hope to see.”