The Grand National

The carnival atmosphere of having six sets of supporters in the ground at once, plus the ever-present neutrals of course, is amazing. And, for me, the added attraction is seeing the best of each division do battle.

The greatest game I’ve seen so far was the Leigh versus Whitehaven final of 2004 that took the NL1 decider into extra-time. The sheer agony of seeing ‘Haven lead 16-15 with seconds left on the clock before the crucial drop goal that drew level. Of course it was the Leythers who took the cherished spot in Super League.

Not far behind that was the ding-dong NL2 clash of 2003 between Keighley and Sheffield. It was impossible to pick a winner till the very end when the Cougars squeezed in at the corner to steal the win. It took the video referee what felt like an eternity to decide on the touch down, but eventually the decision came leaving the final score at 13-11.

Apart from those the games that really stand out in my mind are the NL3 finals. Two years ago I had the pleasure of seeing my first NL3 game live when Coventry beat Woolston 48-24. Although the game itself wasn’t a classic, I thought it was fantastic that the Midlands side had come so far.

Similarly last year it was great to see the revived Bramley back among the elite with a truly astonishing following of 500 fans when they took on Dudley Hill. Eventually Dudley Hill came away with the win – a deserved 28-26 victory.

And this year it’s all on again. The return of Bramley and Sheffield to right the wrongs of yesteryear, new faces with Swinton and Hemel Hempstead wanting to go down in rugby league history, and of course the much-anticipated battle between Widnes and Hull KR.

As far as sport goes, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Super League Heads To A Conclusion

Warrington emerged from Saturday’s defeat at Bradford with a great deal of credit, and confidence to take into next season. Their comeback from 18-0 down was heroic, and the final score of 40-24 was no reflection of the evenness of the contest.

But there could be no doubting that Bradford deserved to win, and it looks as though the Bulls will fight tooth and nail to retain their trophy. Having last year won the play-offs from third, could they now win it from fourth?

Bradford will first have to make it past Hull. The Airlie Birds showed the form that took them to second sport in their narrow 12-8 loss to St Helens; so much so that coach Peter Sharp is convinced that he can coach his side to victory if they meet Saints on the big stage.

I wouldn’t like to say which side will reach Old Trafford, as both have the ability to do it. Bradford want desperately retain the championship, while Hull are anxious to reach their first Super league Grand Final. But whichever side makes it, you know they’ll have a tough time trying to topple the mighty Saints. 

Lyon Gets His Chance

It was good to see Jamie Lyon given a chance to pull on the green and gold jersey this autumn. Even those in Oz who doubt the quality of the British league would have to concede that the Saints player is one of the best centres in the world.

However, I think the only reason Lyon got his call-up was because of his move back to the NRL with Manly Sea Eagles. And I can see why the ARL selectors are reluctant to elect British-based players.

It is well documented down under that player often head to the northern hemisphere for the money – Super League pays better than the NRL. The ARL obviously then have to find a way of encouraging top players to stay in Australia, and their selection policy is a means of doing that.

We have criticised in the past, but I think if the boot was on the other foot we’d want to see our top players plying their trade in this country.   

Keep Your Eye On Rugby League

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