I HOPE fans aren’t going to stay at home this weekend thinking Super League is a poor competition – because it’s not.
A 3-0 defeat in the World Club Series was tough to take, but I still think we have a vibrant, exciting league which is great entertainment and fantastic to watch in its own right.
There are things we need to do better. Everybody knows that and I don’t think anybody was under the impression Super League is the finished article. It has been a work in progress since it began 19 years ago and everybody involved with our sport wants to keep developing and improving.
Last weekend probably showed how much work we still have to do to catch up with the NRL in terms of playing standards, but that is something we have got to aspire to.
It might take five or 10 years until we can think about winning a World Club Series 3-0, but we should stick at it.
When the Rhinos won the World Club Challenge in 2005, 2008 and 2012, we probably didn’t get the credit we deserved – and I think that goes for the other English clubs who’ve won it as well.
At the time people said we’d only won because the Aussies weren’t taking it seriously, which definitely wasn’t the case. When it comes to playing against the Poms, Aussies always take it seriously.
Now people will be saying there’s no point carrying on with the World Club Series, because the NRL clubs won all three games. That would be the easy option, but I like the competition and I hope it continues.
As players you always want to test yourselves against the very best and it’s also a chance for fans to see players and teams they normally only get to watch on TV or in Test matches.
There were big crowds at all three games and that proves the interest is there. Warrington and Wigan could both have won, so it wasn’t a case of Super League being embarrassed.
I think if we are being honest, a week ago we would all have admitted that the NRL is the stronger competition. The three matches we’ve just seen underlined that, but I think people are too quick to write off our competition and our players.
We have a great product, we have seen some good games already this year and under the new format it is going to be close and exciting all the way through. The difference between Super League and the NRL is that their competition is more intense week-in and week-out.
I honestly don’t think there are any easy games in Super League, but you do sometimes get blowout scorelines.
There’s fewer of those in the NRL, though Souths won their Grand Final by 24 points last year and the players are better prepared to handle a really tough, tight game that goes right down to the wire.
That is something we need to replicate in our game. I think we are getting there and the new format – and reducing Super League to 12 teams – is a step in the right direction. It is something we need to keep working on, because the Australians aren’t sitting at home with their feet up thinking they’ve hit perfection and they can’t get any better. They are always looking at ways to improve, so we have to do that as well.
Overall though, I don’t think we should be too downhearted at what happened last weekend. There is still a gap, but I really think it is closing and it wouldn’t have taken much for Warrington and Wigan to both get a win, in which case we’d be celebrating a World Club Series victory now.
We need to have more faith in our own game and in the entertainment and action it provides every week. Just because St Helens lost heavily to Souths doesn’t mean a game between them and Leeds is poor quality; we still have a fantastic product and what happened last weekend doesn’t change that.
But we have to keep striving every week and every season to get better. As players that’s certainly what we are doing.
I SAID a couple of weeks ago I thought everyone should lay off referees and let them find their feet at the start of the season.
There has been a lot of criticism of match officials so far this year and watching the World Club Series games last weekend, I thought there was too much emphasis on the referees and touch judges.
There were a few controversial incidents, such as high tackles at Warrington and St Helens and the penalty that led to Brisbane’s winning goal, but overall I thought the referees did a good job.
It is tough for them, especially in high-profile matches. There could have been a couple of yellow cards but I didn’t think any of the tackles were worth a sending-off. The ones on Kevin Penny and Gareth O’Brien looked bad, but they were both reaction tackles and there was no malice involved or injury caused.
None of the players involved has been charged, so the match review panel obviously agreed with the refs’ decisions.
I can understand where the Warrington coach Tony Smith was coming from when he said their game was refereed differently to Super League.
There were fewer penalties, but I’m not too fussed about that. I would rather see a referee let the game flow, because I think that leads to more excitement. Award penalties for blatant offences.
When they award a lot of penalties, referees get stick for interfering too much and spoiling the game; when they don’t blow the whistle they are accused of being too lenient.
It is a tough job and they have to strike a balance, which I thought all the match officials did last weekend. Neither do I think the referees were kind to the Aussies, as has been suggested.
But I do think they were trying to contribute to an entertaining spectacle and on the whole I thought they did that.