Win­ners and losers call for an end to the ‘Mil­lion Pound Game’

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport -

Tears were shed from both sets of play­ers after Cata­lans Dragons’ 26-10 vic­tory over Leigh which pre­served their Su­per League sta­tus and sent their op­po­nents back down to the Cham­pi­onship.

Cata­lans coach Steve McNa­mara, the former Eng­land boss, and his op­po­site number Neil Jukes, both con­demned the concept of the Mil­lion Pound Game, which was in­tro­duced three years ago as part of the move to re­store pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion to the game.

The Dragons, em­broiled in a rel­e­ga­tion fight de­spite fin­ish­ing three places off the bot­tom of Su­per League, sal­vaged their spot with a sec­ond-half fight­back high­lighted by a brace of tries from full-back Lewis Tier­ney, but the cel­e­bra­tions were muted.

“There’s lots of tears in the dress­ing room,” McNa­mara said. “They’re tears of re­lief, there was a re­lease of a huge amount of ten­sion from ev­ery­body in­volved. I thought our play­ers showed huge re­spect at the end of the game and I was pleased about that. We prob­a­bly pro­duced our best per­for­mance of the season un­der ex­treme pres­sure.”

McNa­mara, who gave up two jobs in Auck­land to re­turn to Su­per League in June, will now be­gin the task of re­build­ing the for­tunes of the Cata­lans club after they came so close to be­ing rel­e­gated for the first time in their 12year his­tory. “We can’t be sat in this room again,” he said. “We’ve got some things we have to ad­dress and we can now start to plan and get Cata­lans into a po­si­tion where can they com­pete in Su­per League. It’s a big job, this chal­lenge is dif­fer­ent to any other job in the world of rugby league.

“Of course one or two play­ers will be leav­ing and some will be com­ing in but it’s about set­ting up a sup­port mech­a­nism to give play­ers the op­por­tu­nity to be the best they can be.”

The Dragons are ex­pected to lose both half-backs Richie Myler, who has signed with Leeds for 2018, and Luke Walsh but McNa­mara says he will be do­ing his best to re­tain the ser­vices of Tier­ney, whose loan spell from Wi­gan ended after Satur­day’s game.

Al­though the Mil­lion Pound Game gen­er­ated an enor­mous amount of interest, McNa­mara and Jukes both called for the concept to be scrapped. “If you want pro­mo­tion and rel­e­ga­tion, take the gloves off and have no salary cap,” McNa­mara said. “Let the clubs spend what they want.”

Jukes said: “This was all about not los­ing a game. The un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing this sit­u­a­tion is ridicu­lous.

“You talk a lot about player wel­fare and men­tal health, but that comes around job se­cu­rity so this is hyp­o­crit­i­cal of what we stand for.

“There’s got to be a way for clubs to get up but ul­ti­mately peo­ple lose jobs and that’s sick­en­ing. There are guys in the chang­ing room who are tough men, and they’re cry­ing.”

Smash and grab: Cata­lans’ half-back Richie Myler is tack­led by Leigh’s Glenn Ste­wart

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