VETERAN COACH John Kear has devised a new format he claims would make the Super-8s fairer on part-time players.
Kear reckons the system used this year – and which will be repeated in 2016 – places a “far too demanding” strain on teams like his own Batley Bulldogs.
Batley played 33 competitive games – only three fewer than treble winners Leeds Rhinos –during a draining campaign and Kear feels that workload is risking players’ welfare and damaging England’s chances at international level.
This year, teams in First Utility Super League and Kingstone Press Championship played their 11 rivals home and away, plus an extra game at the Magic Weekend or Summer Bash.
The competition then split into the Super-8s, Qualifiers and Shield, with an additional seven matches.
The top-four in the Super-8s and Shield faced up to two more games in the play-offs and the teams finishing fourth and fifth in the middle-eights met in a one-off ‘million pound match’ to decide the final place in next year’s top-flight.
“It’s too much,” Kear – whose part-time side were in the Shield – said.
“We started in February and we had one weekend off up to the end of the season in October. We didn’t even get the (August) bank holiday off this year.
“If they want to increase the number of games in Super League, that’s up to them – they are full-time players.
“Ours are part-time and they are playing too many games.
“I don’t think I have known a season when there has been as many one, serious injuries and two, bumps and bruises.
“Players were getting jabbed up to go out and play and that is something we need to address.
“There’s a lot of focus on state of mind (mental health) at the moment, but we need to look after the players physically as well.”
Kear – who recently guided Wales to success in the European Championships – has a proposal he says would reduce the workload on players in the lower divisions, without damaging the competition.
“If you play everybody once, that is 11 games,” he said.
“Then you could play another six to make it 17, plus the Summer Bash – which is 18 – and then go into the split.
“That’s 25 games before the play-offs and I think that is manageable.”
Kear fears this year’s extra games will have a serious impact on pre-season.
“We gave our players six to eight weeks off, so we aren’t going to start pre-season until mid-November,” he said. “We have a Boxing Day game and a friendly against a Super League side – which we need to keep the club going – and then we’ll start (the Championship season) again.
“The way things are going, we will end up not having a pre-season.
“It will affect the international game because more and more players will be pondering whether they want to extend the season by playing international matches at the end of it,” he said.