Leeds learning: Big boost for Super 8s?

With the Super 8s looming ever closer, this season might prove to be a real shot in the arm for the new format, in just its second season.

While Super League searches for its new chief following the departure of Blake Solly, it faces the unlikely prospect of losing its most decorated club.

To imagine the top flight without the Leeds Rhinos, arguably the best run club in the game, is perhaps unthinkable. But some people said the same about Bradford.

The clichés often associated with football “too good to go down” will no doubt be bandied about in the coming weeks.

The new era format means that no longer do clubs have the security of having a poor season and then being in the top flight the following season.

Leeds will have to find some form from somewhere to compete, even in the Middle 8s.

Much has been said about the losses of the winter, Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and others, but the players the Rhinos still have should be doing better than they are.

They aren’t just suffering narrow defeats. They are getting turned over quite comfortably some weeks.

It seems accepted that Leeds will cruise through the Middle 8s and maintain their Super League status with relative ease.

Those people might be right. The other three Super League clubs in the Middle 8s may themselves be a little uneasy by Leeds’ presence too.

The new format needs a Championship team to be successful in the Middle 8s. The gulf between the two leagues is only going to get bigger over the years if it doesn’t happen soon.

Leigh have been suspiciously quiet for most of this season. They will have learned a great deal from their experiences of last year.

They cruised through the first phase of the season, before suffering a trio of agonising defeats against Super League opposition to start the Middle 8s.

The result was they came bottom of the Middle 8s – a scenario that seemed unthinkable when they were beating Super League sides Salford and Wakefield in the Challenge Cup just months prior.

Leigh will be going through what Warrington did five years or so ago – having won the minor premiership, they flopped in the play-offs. Seasons later, they paced themselves as their rivals had, and made it to two Grand Finals.

For the Centurions, not reaching the Million Pound Game this season will be regarded as a failure.

They have proven that they can stand up to Super League opposition in a one-off game – and that’s all it takes.

If they beat the other three Championship sides in the Middle 8s, the likelihood is that they will be at worst just 80 minutes from promotion.

Leigh aren’t the only candidates. Andrew Henderson is doing a fabulous job at London, and what a filip it would be for them to be in Super League on merit – a massive boost for the game in the capital and of course a great way of silencing the critics that cheered their departure from the top flight in 2014.

Bradford, who lost 24-16 to Wakefield in the Milion Pound Game last season, will have hopes of making their return to Super League, despite seemingly lacking a proper number seven this season.

Halifax proved last season that they had what it takes in the Middle 8s, and they too will have learned a lot from their exploits in that campaign.

The beauty of the format is that the teams from the Championship should enter it with a winning momentum.

Contrast that to Leeds’, and others, current fortunes and maybe promotion could be possible.

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