Friday offers chance to deliver a way forward for English game
GIVEN how crucial it is, it will be interesting to see what comes out of Friday’s Rugby Football League Extraordinary General Meeting when the likes of Super League, Championship and League 1 clubs all get to vote on a new competition format.
We’re hearing it’s been proposed for a one-up, onedown in terms of promotion and relegation and a top-five play-offs in Super League which probably gives a bit more stability to that competition than what we currently have.
In theory, the present Super 8s works a treat if all top-eight teams are challenging for the top four, but when they’re not it clearly creates some empty games.
The motto around Super 8s when it was introduced in 2015 was ‘Every Minute Matters’ but it really hasn’t, has it?
The interesting one is how they will work the proposed extra ‘loop’ games if this proposal does get the go-ahead on Friday – and we do know there is a lot of opposition to the plan from clubs outside of Super League.
If it is just a draw and you’re battling for the top of the table or, even worse, battling at the other end to avoid relegation and you end up drawing a lot of top teams while your counterparts get some of the bottom ones, it is going to be tough for them.
My opinion is we could do with comes out of the meeting this week. I’ve seen some of the Championship clubs have said they want to keep the Qualifiers.
But, then again, how keen are a Batley Bulldogs, for instance, in getting to Super League?
I’m sure there are plenty of teams in the Championship who are probably quite happy to play there – in the Championship.
If you’re a part-time club you’d think they’d turn professional or full-time if promoted and then you have to have players ready.
But one of the arguments for Reserve Grade is that there isn’t enough players actually ready y to do that. Hopefully Reserves s will improve that area but it won’t happen overnight.
We have a strong tradition with all clubs and I do see a place for all of them.
But ultimately, here, I see Super League as the pinnacle of rugby league although, admittedly, it doesn’t quite seem like it at the minute.
People are more interested d in the Qualifiers – there’s more drama surrounding it – but I’d like to get back to where Super League is the blue-chip competition.
The pinnacle overall for me is the sort of game we saw with Melbourne Storm versus South Sydney in the NRL play-offs last Friday.
I watched that game. Now, I know even some of the Aussies moan about Australian rugby league and how it can be a bit one-dimensional and low-risk at times. But in terms of intensity and the competition all the players were having out on that field, it was just unbelievable.
I was on the edge of my seat watching it. Their competition – the NRL – was split by just two points from first to eighth this year. That’s what a salary cap sport should be and I’m sure that’s what we intended when we first started Super League more than 20 years ago.
Yet our comp’ this year, from St Helens in first to Catalans in eighth, was split by fully 21 points after the regular rounds.
Hopefully we can get there and that all comes back to these decisions made this week; the competition format will have a big part to say in it all.
I spent my time in Australia and that was the difference; the intensity of the comp’ week in, week out when you always have to be on the top of your game to be a success. That Storm v Souths game epitomised it.
Granted, it does seem strange that, with just a few weeks of the se eason left, people still don’t kn now what they’re playing fo or next year as the format is st till up in the air for 2019.
But I do really feel it does ne eed to change and it has to ha appen sooner rather than lat ter; we can’t afford to have an nother Super 8s where it ju ust fizzles out with five or six x games to go.
It’s not that there’s an nything wrong with the Qu ualifiers either but surely th he pinnacle of the sport sh hould be all geared towards the e teams at the top and I do on’t think it is at the minute.
Hopefully the deal will get do one for certain and finally on n Friday.
And we’ll see the benefits for r years to come without del laying it for another 12 mo onths.