Fri­day of­fers chance to de­liver a way for­ward for English game

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SPORT -

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.

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