What a fantastic start it has been to the new Super League season. Exciting games, tight scorelines and big surprises in both rounds so far has really whetted everyone’s appetite for the new season.
It’s not only good for fans – it’s good for the game. A more exciting and closely fought competition will attract other people to take note of what a great spectacle Rugby League is. Of course we already know that. In what other sport would the reigning champions, the almost invincible reigning champions, lose 2 of their opening 3 games to teams who finished in the bottom 4 last season?
The RFL have introduced a new points system in the National Leagues and Northern Rail Cup, and almost all 13 Super League games so far would have triggered the bonus point system, where a team gains a point should they lose by less than 13 points. It suggests that the current competitive level of Super League is just what the RFL are looking for.
And no one can argue with that. There have been no mammoth scorelines, no embarrassing one-sided outcomes and little to choose between all 12 teams. The question is – will it last? Let’s hope so.
I said in my Super League preview that Warrington are a scrum half away from being a genuine title contender. Well the rumours are that Andrew Johns is currently deliberating on a return to the Halliwell Jones Stadium for the 2008 season. If you need a scrum half, why not go for the best one around? It’s great news for Warrington as a club that Johns was so impressed by them he wants a return, and let’s hope we get to see the Aussie great make at least another appearance in a Super League game.
It’s hard to see where it’s all going wrong for Saints too. There’s no doubt Matt Gidley has failed to live up to Jamie Lyon’s exceptional standards, but he’s new to Super League, and deserves a chance before anyone makes any sort of judgement. The thing is, I couldn’t see anything special in him when Saints played Harlequins. Gidley may not turn out to be the ready made replacement everyone made him out to be.
Harlequins really will be an underdog this season, if they put their mind to it. The confidence they shown against Saints, and also against Salford, was sadly undermined by the arrogance that saw them chuck away a tremendous position against the Reds, and effectively throw away a point. The game down south needs a successful Super League team, and it’s about time the London club produced the goods consistently on the pitch.
Sticking with Quins, it was sad to see a lowly crowd of 3,515 at their game with Salford on Sunday. Fans like to watch a successful side, so maybe that’s what Quins need to do to get the fans in. If that doesn’t work, nothing will. But the fact that Castleford and Widnes both comfortably beat that attendance whilst playing in the Northern Rail Cup, often dubbed as a mickey mouse competition, suggests that maybe the southern franchise isn’t working. Or did we know that already?
Judging by the squads Widnes and Castleford have put together this season, they wouldn’t look out of place in what would be a mouth watering 14 team Super League. Will the RFL ever see the light and implement it? The scope is there now – 26 rounds home and away with the Millennium Magic round thrown in the middle. Why not?
Was it totally disrespectful of Celtic Crusaders to prioritise their friendly match with Brisbane Broncos over a competitive cup game against Widnes? Moving a game which is such a distance to away fans to a Friday night is unacceptable – maybe the Aussies with influence there maybe failed to realise that unlike most Aussie league fans, English fans actually like to follow their teams home and away.
That aside, it showed great initiative by the Crusaders to organise a game, and great news for the game in Wales. There were plenty of fans in attendance, who will no doubt have been left with a lasting impression of the greatest game of all. I for one am not too convinced that league will make it in Wales, the hotbed of Rugby Union. But good luck to those involved.
It’s a great pleasure to see the development of the game in Sweden and Norway. Last Tackle is greatly involved with Scott Edwards and Justin Ryan, and we have launched websites for the both countries in the past few days, which will hopefully help them publicise the game more in their countries.
Last Tackle is looking for partner clubs to join our latest scheme. If you run or are involved with an amateur or semi-professional team and would like more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org