As I watched Warrington play Wigan last weekend I was thinking of how I would be able to write about a great Wigan win to advance to the semi finals, how Brett Hodgson managed one of the worst performances I’ve seen from him and how the game had been a great advert for Rugby League on the BBC in view of the entire nation. Then I quickly remembered that this wouldn’t be a week where we’d be talking about things on the pitch.
I missed the announcement on Tuesday due to work commitments but the night before I agreed with a few people on Twitter that we weren’t likely to see a surprise and that Wakefield would most likely be gone from Super League, I don’t think anyone was prepared for the announcements that came out on the day.
The simple fact was that someone wasn’t going to get a Super League place and it seems that many people have forgotten that nobody was guaranteed a license no matter where they’re based. I think the fall out is so bad simply because of the way this has been announced and for a change it’s something you can’t blame the RFL for. I still wonder though how much of an uproar would have come from everyone if Crusaders had lost the Super League place via RFL selection and not by their own doing.
I would have liked to have seen the Crusaders board manage this much better than they did, surely if they had a strong application they should have known of the weaknesses before Monday when they spoke to the RFL. They should have brought this up with the RFL and discussed the options so that when the licensing announcement was made it could be said with certainty Crusaders were not competing in Super League due to financial weaknesses of their application and would be competing in the Championship, something I very much hope they do. They should also have had a discussion with the players, all of the board that is, and told them the situation before they heard of it on the day on the announcement.
Still that is all done now and it is sad for Welsh rugby league who looked to be building something, maybe something that wasn’t as strong as it seemed to everyone, but they certainly seemed to be making progress at both club and national level. I hope this doesn’t mean the loss of the club and if they can continue to compete in the lower divisions that would be great. There are already comparisons being drawn by many with Gateshead Thunder, the team fast tracked to the Super League who now sit struggling at the bottom of Championship 1.
I also hope this doesn’t mean the loss of Gareth Thomas, he has been a great ambassador for the game in the few seasons he’s been here and I hope he stays to continue boosting the profile of the sport.
I think the RFL did though miss an opportunity, with the Crusaders announcement they were given the easy option of keeping Wakefield in and leaving Halifax out, though it has since been stated that Wakefield were given the nod entirely on merit. Surely though this was the opportunity to take a hard line on the teams who have failed to meet their targets set last time out and make an example of them? Teams who have breached the terms of their previous license and have failed to deliver on promises they made last time out. It may well be that Wakefield’s application was much stronger but it would be interesting if the RFL were open about the areas it was.
Which is one thing that is causing a problem, people don’t seem to understand the criteria for judging applications or even for being able to submit one, and the RFL don’t seem to help in that respect there is very little information available as to what constitutes what grade of license, why clubs were rewarded a certain grade etc. I’ve also lost count of the amount of times Widnes have been dragged into discussions, and also been amused at the accusations levelled at them, apparently a mid table team who have no history and haven’t won anything for ages.
Hopefully though the RFL have learnt from this that they need to give teams the time to build properly and also that there may well be support for the game in other areas of the country but that it doesn’t always have to be support at Super League level, there are other leagues in this sport which host competitions just as much a part of rugby league as Super League.
They also need to be more public with the process for selecting teams but fans must also remember that not every team that wants to will get in and there are plenty with good arguments and reasons to get in to Super League, there are plenty of teams with history and fans who want to play at that level.
I’m sure everyone has plenty to say about it and I could go on writing but I’ll leave and head on to do some tipping because there is still rugby to be played on the pitch. My last tipping outing wasn’t too bad – two games wrong – I was let down by a shock win for Bradford against Huddersfield and a win for Castleford in a game Crusaders really let slip. A few tricky picks this week but here’s where I’m placing my bets.
Hull FC 12 – 28 Wigan – Wigan will be looking over their shoulders at Warrington and won’t be dropping many points between now and the end of the season. I think they’ve got what it takes to see off Hull.
Salford 18 – 28 Leeds – You could play this fixture 4 or 5 times in a row and get a different outcome every time, neither team really seems to have much of an edge. Salford have a team of good players who haven’t performed all season and the same can be said for Leeds. But when those players turn up they are both capable of a good performance and this weekend I’m going to lean Leeds’ way.
Catalans 30 – 6 Quins – I’d be surprised at anything other than a home win here, although I have been surprised on a number of occasions this season! Quins haven’t won an away game since March and I don’t expect them to break that run in France.
Huddersfield 18 – 24 Hull KR – Huddersfield have really fallen away in recent weeks and even the return of Danny Brough, the player who’s loss seemed to start the slide, has failed to stop that. Hull KR are on a good run of a form and I think they could well hit a wobbling Giants hard and snatch a win.
Castleford 10 – 22 Saints – Cas are more than capable of winning this game but I just don’t think they’ll manage it. Saints will be keen to cling on to third place and I think they’ll put in a performance that will keep them there.
Wakefield 20 – 12 Crusaders – This is the most difficult to predict, both teams haven’t done much of note on the pitch in recent weeks, although the Crusaders really let their grasp on a victory against Castleford go in the last league game. But how the events of this week will effect either team are just a complete guess, will the Crusaders players have their heads turned by distractions in the week? Will they playing for the Super League shop window? It’s anyone’s guess but mine is a win for Wakefield.
Warrington 42 – 16 Bradford – Despite a great win over Huddersfield I don’t see Bradford getting much from a trip to the Halliwell Jones. Whilst the recent performances I’ve seen from Warrington haven’t matched some of their rampaging try scoring antics from earlier in the season I think they’re more than likely to see off the visiting Bulls.
So there you go, finishing off with events on the pitch after the distractions of all this week off the pitch, and I’ll leave you with Huddersfield Giants cross bar challenge.