SAINTS chairman Eamonn McManus was upbeat about the new Super League season which kicks off tomorrow evening with a home clash against Wigan.

He feels the changes off the field, with the Super League clubs taking a stronger control, plus those on it, will deliver the goods.

They need to; British rugby league is in competition with the NRL and Premiership rugby union for players and other sports for spectators and sponsorship - and needs broaden its appeal, boost sponsorship to strengthen

its hand ahead of the next television deal.

McManus said: “We are seeing changes already in terms of how the sport is projected.

“Changes have been made.

“There has been an influx of high quality overseas players and it is the highest numbers of good young players that I can remember for quite a while.

“So the quality of competition will be undoubted across the board.”

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And he welcomed the changes to the rules to improve the sport, with the introduction of the shot-clock to speed up the game, and interchanges dropped from 10 to eight.

"As spectators over the last three or four years we have looked on in horror. Scrums and drop-outs have been taking two or three minutes.

"The beauty of rugby league is continuity, speed and simplicity – that makes a great spectacle. We were losing the continuity in rugby league.

“The changes have been made for the right reasons to make it a more watchable sport.

“And that will pay dividends.

Super League held its launch - under the tagline of New Beginnings - and Old Trafford last week.

The presentation exuded positivity, with a theme of putting the players are the forefront of promoting the sport.

One of the criticisms levelled at the sport of rugby league, from Matchroom's Eddie Hearn in a recent interview, was the game's lack of recognisable personalities in recent years, compared to the days when Messrs Offiah, Davies, Gregory and Hanley strutted their stuff on Grandstand.

The challenge Super League has is to project the current crop of elite athletes into the media spotlight - and use them to sell the sport.

McManus believes the game does still have the stars and pointed to the contribution of Saints trio Tommy Makinson, Jonny Lomax and Luke Thompson on the autumn test series.

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"It is a matter of making the players feel valued.

"They are incredible sportsmen and good people – and the whole nation should know that, not just the towns that play rugby league," he said.

Tomorrow's Super League opener, with 2018 League Leaders Saints tackling Grand Final winners Wigan, gets the new era off to a flying start.

That is something that he hopes will fire some early momentum.

McManus said: "We have been stumbling into seasons, some of them were were a damp squib, so what better thing to do than have the biggest games on the opening weekend that creates momentum that takes us through to the whole of the season.

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"We have that ­— Saints v Wigan, Warrington v Leeds and the Hull derby.

"We had to make the changes. If you look at the gulf that has opened up between Super League and the NRL - and Premiership rugby union - it has become too big.

"We have got the sport that people want to watch and play, what we have to do is have a sport that is commercially strong and has a public profile whereby we can compete (with those other codes)."

And there is one clear aim and objective underpinning the shift being driven by the clubs at the top of the game.

And it is one that is being addressed with some urgency.

The Saints chairman explained those key aims and targets.

"When we sit down at the table with our media partners in 12 or 24 months time it is important that we have a strong negotiating hand.

"To get that we will have already succeeded in improving the game as a spectacle and have improved the public profile of the game both nationally and internationally.

"If we do that and sit there with a strong hand then we have achieved what we have set out to do," he said.