The return to form of a number of sides who missed last year’s playoffs, combined with the continued improvements at others is helping to make Engage Super League XV the most compelling to date according to RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood.
After six rounds of the 2010 campaign not one side boasts a 100 per cent record, all teams have recorded at least one victory and just four points separate the top nine sides – all of which is making for an extremely invigorating competition which has so far seen attendances and TV viewing figures on the increase.
Wigan Warriors currently sit top of the table whilst three clubs who missed the playoffs last year – Warrington Wolves, Hull FC and Bradford Bulls – are second, fifth and eighth respectively and it is their return to form after disappointing campaigns in 2009 which Nigel Wood believes is making this year’s competition one of the most exciting yet.
Nigel Wood said: “This year’s competition is proving to be the most competitive yet with some great excitement, superb contests and nearly all sides looking capable of challenging for a play-off spot.
“The majority of clubs who made terrific progress last year in reaching the playoffs continue to improve and impress however this year they are facing a fierce battle to maintain their top eight spot as a number of sides who missed out in 2009 return to form and mount strong challenges.
“Having so many strong sides fighting for the top eight makes for a truly terrific competition whereby every fixture is a compelling encounter with no team confident of victory.
“The result of such a keenly contested competition is that the sport is becoming even more attractive to supporters and viewers alike and as a consequence we’ve seen crowds and TV viewing figures on the increase.
“At the start of the year we said that we thought Engage Super League XV had the potential to be the best yet and so far it’s certainly living up the hype.”
Despite one of the coldest winters for three decades, figures show that crowds are up on the same stage in 2009 which in itself saw a record number of people go through the turnstiles at Engage Super League grounds.
So far an aggregate attendance of 388,342 has watched 42 Engage Super League games, an increase of 2.5 per cent on the corresponding total last year.
Attendances at Warrington Wolves are 36 per cent up on the same stage last year and the club posted the ‘House Full’ notices for their home match against Wigan Warriors – a fixture which attracted the biggest TV audience for a regular round of Engage Super League since April 2008.
In Wales Crusaders RL have attracted over 17,000 people to their two home matches at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham, including a sell-out crowd of 10,334 for their opening fixture against defending champions Leeds Rhinos. This match was watched by a television audience on Sky Sports which was 35 per cent higher than the fixture between the same two clubs at Headingley Carnegie which kicked off the 2009 season.
Further big crowds are expected next weekend as six sides in the top nine places of Engage Super League go head-to-head and former British Lions captain Gareth Thomas is expected to make his debut for Crusaders RL at home against Catalans Dragons.