GARY HETHERINGTON has heaped pressure on Warrington Wolves by saying they have to win their opening Super 8s game at Headingley.
The fixtures for the second phase of the First Utility Super League and Kingstone Press Championship campaigns were confirmed in Salford yesterday.
Leaders Leeds Rhinos host Wolves in their first contest next Friday and the Leeds chief executive feels the heat is already on their rivals who finished sixth, four points adrift of the top-four.
For any of the top-eight sides to reach Old Trafford they first have to make that leading quartet after seven more rounds but Hull FC are also already six points behind Huddersfield Giants in fourth.
“The Super 8s concept is fascinating as everyone’s trying to predict what might happen and no one knows,” admitted Hetherington.
“But we all know that the best eight teams coming together and playing each other every week, where results are absolutely crucial, will bring out the best and, indeed, the worst in teams.
“Some I suspect will ultimately buckle and fold under the pressure and others may strive, carry on and come home with a real wet sail.
“To go into the semi-finals of the play-offs on the back of seven league games is going to be emotionally and physically a huge challenge not only for players and coaching staff but the fans, too.
“And it sets off like a handicap race; teams like Catalans and Hull are heavily handicapped as they have to have a flying start.
“And someone who many people would have fancied at the outset to win the comp’ – Warrington – they have a big handicap, too.
“When they come to Headingley next Friday they have to win. In many ways, for them, that’s a sudden-death game.
“They not only have to win that but they have to win the week after... and the week after that... as do Catalans.”
Leeds then host Wigan Warriors in another televised game on Friday, August 14 before heading to Hull FC a week later.
Rhinos welcome St Helens to Headingley on Friday September 4 before heading to Perpignan the following Saturday.
Brian McDermott’s side are on television again when they visit Castleford Tigers on Thursday, September 17 before rounding off at Huddersfield on Friday, September 25.
Castleford Tigers – chasing fourth themselves – open their account next Friday when they host Hull before heading to Warrington for a critical televised fixture the following Thursday.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats begin their quest for Super League survival in the Qualifiers at Salford Red Devils on Sunday, August 9. Also on that afternoon, in the Championship Shield, Dewsbury Rams welcome Hunslet Hawks, Featherstone Rovers entertain Whitehaven and Batley Bulldogs trek north to Workington Town.