It’s not rocket science or even the outcome of a hip new fixture formula. What everyone wants – players, supporters, administrators, broadcasters, sponsors, mascots – are games that pitch teams of equality; matches that, on paper, offer and invariably deliver uncertainty of outcome.
So Huddersfield v Wigan, Catalans against Castleford, Hull versus Warrington, Leigh facing Bradford, Dewsbury heading off Sheffield are #newera, while the current Salford and Widnes against Saints and Leeds respectively and Halifax at Whitehaven isn’t.
No matter what the structure, if the teams with access to more finance and thereby better players, not least juniors, over a sustained period remain strong, they will be towards the head of the table.
After two rounds in SL XX, this year’s Wakey are last term’s Cas and crowds are encouraging not earthshattering.
What the start of the Championship confirmed was that the option of promotion has re-engaged previously disillusioned, established fans – good. We have yet to see a significant influx of new gate money, maybe some of that will come with this weekend’s re-vamped World Club Series, topped with a garnish of Crowe.
And the crowd at the LSV for a terrifically spiky match with the Bulls was better than two in the top flight, one of which was played on a Thursday night, the Leythers also helped by being the only show in town in their vicinity. Worth bringing back the debate about playing Super League Thursday, Friday and Saturday and the Championship having the run of the field on Sundays.
Batley ran a terrific promotion to let season ticket holders for Super League clubs in on a deal at their increasingly pleasant Mount.
James Child came in for some more stick over his handling of Les Dracs and the cantspeyks but, seemingly, the no shoulder charge rule hasn’t reached France. Catalan were better when the sun came out, Scott Dureau won the week’s artistry award with his banana kick for Morgan Escare, whose new nickname should be ‘the actor’.
Turbo-charged winger Denny Solomona looks to be a terrific acquisition for the Tigers, the former
Melbourne and London flyer denied a try when the video referee couldn’t find reason or a decent angle to over-rule the offside call from Luke Gale’s kick. It looked marginal but should we really be chastising the Specsaver advocates for making real-time decisions?
Justin Carney, along with Gareth Hock, remain as much a threat for their team as a potential hindrance. Both are the fiercest competitors and playing on or around the edge their stimulus but who’d be a coach trying to find that balance.
Or even one whose owner tweets, ‘I’ve had enough’, the talking point of the weekend after Dr K enigmatically posted following Salford’s Thursday shellacking, hinting he was off – presumably to buy a hotel, rather than a room in one, for his loved one for Valentines.
It was like leaving a stink-bomb in the AJ Bell while everyone queued to get out, the journos chase for clarification afterwards far more entertaining than the game we’d all endured.
He was on a plane to buy an NRL club, going to the races over there, opening the batting in the cricket World Cup (England need something) or holed up in clandestine meetings planning the next clear-out. Either way, he knows how to manipulate the media and the RFL are currently looking for a new Head of Communications.
In mitigation for the Red Devils, who were abject, they were on a short turnaround and have played two of the front-runners, having got a physical belting at Warrington – where they were credible – in round one.
Back to the opening point, the perennially top sides can handle week-to-week intensity, the lower-ranked ones can’t, as was the case with Widnes in the closing quarter at Leeds after their previous, heroic, travails against Wigan the week before.
And it’s fine having the paciest backs but if you haven’t got a top drawer hooker, where everything springs from, you are likely to struggle out of gate one; how Salford and Hull KR must wish they could have the luxury of leaving out Rob Burrow.
Word of the week was ‘fortress’ now that all Super League sides have played at home, Salford’s seems made of blancmange.
St George have arrived and Benji Marshall immediately called for a visit to Jon Wilkin’s coffee emporium Pot Kettle Black in Manchester, the single most-referenced business in rugby league, it can’t be long until its featured on all club shorts. Souths are staying in Leeds which is Yorkshire’s sole contribution to the WCS and Brisbane training in Harrow.
The broadest smiles are in Leigh the morning after.