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