The rugby season is over, only 84 days until the 2017/18 season begins. As rugby now enters its brief summer hibernation period after a thrilling 2016/17 BT Premiership, the Hawick News already has a prediction for how all the teams will stack up in 2018. It has familiar faces at the top – our top three have all featured in the post-season play-offs in every year since it began in 2014 – and at the bottom with the usual relegation candidates.
Of course, this predication will change as the season draws closer, but it is never too early to talk about club rugby.
At the top we have Melrose, a perennial title challenger and who should open the season as the favourites to reach the title game for the third time in four years.
The Greenyards side have arguably the most talent of anyone in the division but have failed to claim the league title on both occasions they reached the play-off final and will be scrutinised for that lack of success. Melrose, however, should be in position to make it third time lucky in 2018. Expected win total 17.
Reigning league champions Ayr lost creative play-maker Ross Curle to Stirling County and a number of squad players but should reload enough to make it back to the play-offs. Expected win total 16
Two-time Premiership play-off winners Heriot’s are never far off the pace and will once again make it into the top four. The Goldenacre side blew hot and cold to open the season which ultimately cost them down the stretch. Do not expect the Edinburgh side to miss out for a second successive year. Expected win total 11.
Watsonians spent big in their first season back in the Premiership following promotion in 2016. The capital side are again flush with cash following their agreement to allow Edinburgh Rugby to play their home games at Myreside next season so expect yet more signings, and with it a trip to the play-offs. Expected win total 10.
Currie are a side that do not spend or recruit huge numbers each off-season, but they do play a style of rugby they have perfected that, as they proved last season with a top-four place, works. The set-piece, forward-dominated style is never easy to watch, but it does the job and with little movement of players out the door expect Currie to be on the cusp of the play-offs again. Expected win total nine.
Boroughmuir flirted with potential relegation all season last year but had enough to pull themselves to safety in the closing stages. A lot of unknowns surround the club but never rule out city sides from recruiting game changers. Expected win total seven.
Hawick dodged a bullet last season. The Robbie Dyes were spared automatic relegation thanks to an abysmal Gala side and a final quarter performance against Edinburgh Accies in the relegation play-off, who for 60 minutes had looked set to send Hawick into National One. The Greens have installed a new head coach with Darren Cunningham, following Nikki Walker’s departure, and the Englishman has wasted little time in adding to his squad. Five new faces have come in with another two potentially on the way. Hawick should have a deep enough squad to avoid a repeat of last season’s battle but not enough to challenge for a play-off. Expected win total seven.
Glasgow Hawks were a play-off team last season, but with doubts over their financial health the Anniesland side could lose a number of its influential players. Recent Scotland sevens star George Horne will be gone along with a host of their BT Academy prospects. Expect the Glasgow side to struggle. Expected win total seven.
Stirling County have never been able to replicate their performances of 2014 when they competed in the British and Irish cup. County are still looking for a new head coach, former Ayr star and GHA coach Peter Jericevich is the front runner, and have a number of holes in key positions. The recruitment of Curle helps, but if his injury history is to go anything by he might not be on the pitch enough to make much of a difference. Expected win total six.
Marr should be competitive to begin the season but when the dog days of the winter schedule hit expect the Ayrshire club to find it difficult. Newly promoted sides always struggle in their first season in the big time. Every side with the expectation of Watsonians last season and Hawick in 2013 went straight back down following their promotion. The gulf between the haves of the Premiership and the have-nots in National One is sizable. Expected win total five.