Two Horse Race?

Eye On Rugby League by Tony Williams

After the classic engage Super League clash between Leeds Rhinos and St Helens on Saturday many people are saying that the end of the 2006 rugby league season will be a two horse race between those clubs. And, at the moment, there is little evidence to suggest that that won't be the case.

St Helens and Leeds go into this weekend's Powergen Challenge Cup semi finals having successfully avoided one another and therefore look favourites to meet in the final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. The two teams are also battling it out for the top two spots in the league and will likely meet in the first Grand Final qualifier and in the big game itself.

But we have to bear in mind that twelve months ago we were in the same position, indeed I wrote an article at the time pointing out that it was a dead cert that that the trophies would be heading to either Knowlsey Road or Headingley, yet it was Hull FC and Bradford Bulls who took the silverware.

So this year I'm going to hedge my bets a little. Who's to say that Huddersfield Giants or even Hull Kingston Rovers can't pull off an upset in the weekend's cup clashes? Is it realistic to rule out the chances of Bradford and Hull of reaching Old Trafford in mid-October?

I don't think so, and I look forward to seeing the unpredictable sport of rugby league dish out yet another shock outcome at the back end of another thrilling season. 

Haven Denied Super League

Whitehaven were once a club with aspirations of joining the rugby league elite. They reached two consecutive Grand Finals and had all their plans in place for making the step up to the top flight. Yet it would seem that Haven's chances have been written off for at least a season after the RFL have, reportedly, stated that they do not fulfil Super League criteria.

Okay Haven currently lie fourth in the LHF National League One table, so you could argue that their chances of promotion this year are limited anyway. But that's beside the point and, besides which, their 22-12 win at Leigh Centurions suggests that you can't rule them out just yet.

I have to ask whether the Recreation Ground is really worse than Belle Vue or Hilton Park, both of which were deemed good enough to host Super League football. I don't think so. And if it is, would it really be so bad to allow haven to play their games at Carlisle, even if that is some distance away? 

For me there are two points. One, at a time when there is talk about franchises in Wales, the south, London, France and even a rumour, unsubstantiated, of a Super League team in Moscow, perhaps we should be giving more attention to our ‘forgotten heartland' of Cumbria.

Two, if Haven can be denied promotion because of this, could it be that Leigh's Hilton Park and Hull KR's Craven Park are next on the hit list? Is this just one more step towards the outlawing of any promotion from the National Leagues?

We'll see.

Kear The Man For Wakefield

In my opinion John Kear is the man that can help keep Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in Super League. Kear has tasted success with Sheffield Eagles and Hull and the situation at Wakefield is not so different to that.

Kear was quick to point out that he hoped to bring the ‘cup run mentality' to his side and replicate his famous Challenge Cup triumphs. Like Wakefield now both Hull and, more so, Sheffield were the underdogs but just kept grinding out the wins.

That is precisely what the Wildcats need to do now. With just six games left in the season they can't afford to target games, they must win every one to keep themselves in the top flight.

Kear has already brought in Paul Broadbent to work alongside him, the man who captained the Eagles side that lifted the cup in 1998. It looks to me as though the former Hull boss knows exactly what he is doing.

And if Kear can achieve this the rugby league world may start to belive that he can work sporting miracles. 

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