IT has been a long winter but finally, Super League is back!

With no World Cup to fill the void this year, the gap from early-November to now has dragged on a bit it has to be said.

Still, The Wire are back and hopes are high once again that things will be different this time.

Of course, those hopes took a hit when news of Kevin Brown’s season-ending injury broke over the weekend.

Before then, it seemed as if preparations for the new season were going almost perfectly. Evidently, they were going too well.

We were almost at the end of the tunnel in terms of going through a pre-season without an injury drama, but hopefully this is as bad as it gets.

I’m gutted for Kevin and I wish him the speediest of recoveries.

When I was in Portugal on The Wire’s training camp, he went out of his way to make me feel included and welcome. The man is a champion bloke and I really hope he bounces back.

Warrington Guardian:

Kevin Brown's season is over before it even began. Picture by Mike Boden

As cruel a blow as Brown’s injury was, The Wire must not dwell on it and get stuck in a malaise that sees them make a poor start.

Of course, taking a few hits at the start of the season is not critical to any hopes of silverware. Wolves lost four of their first six games last year but still made both major finals.

However, even with Brown on the sidelines, The Wire are in a much better position to start well than they were in 2018.

Furthermore, it is an early chance to land a telling blow on a Leeds side that looks sure to be among their rivals for trophies this season.

If you think about it, Saturday’s game is almost an exact opposite to when the sides met on the opening day last year.

The Wire came into the game under new management having finished in the bottom four in 2017 and with a revamped squad taking the field.

This time round, it is the Rhinos who are new-look as head coach David Furner takes the reins having brought a raft of impressive NRL imports with him from Australia with the aim of recovering from a torrid 2018.

Either way, both sides come into the game riding a wave of pre-season optimism.

Defeat on Saturday will not burst that particular balloon – but it will let a bit of air out.

Whatever happens, it will be the last of three “marquee” opening fixtures for Super League following Saints v Wigan tonight, Thursday, and the Hull derby tomorrow, Friday.

Win or lose, by the time Monday rolls around we will all be well and truly in the vice-like grip of rugby league fever.