IF IT was down to me, I would scrap relegation from Betfred Super League.
What we need in the competition is consistency, and relegation achieves exactly the opposite. I know it creates excitement at the bottom of the table, but, in my opinion, all the attention should be on what happens at the top.
The Million Pound Game is a dramatic end to the season, but it is only exciting on the outside looking in. For everyone associated with the clubs involved – players, staff and fans – it must be a nightmare. It creates nothing for them other than fear or uncertainty.
Hull KR did well to bounce back last year after losing the relegation decider in 2016, but Leigh have been struggling so far this season and their coach has already gone.
Neither of the teams relegated in the last couple of years was the worst team in Super League and I feel sorry for players who have had their contracts ripped up and backroom staff who might be without a job. I think franchising is a better solution and it will stop teams yo-yoing between the Championship and Super League. At the end of 2016 Leigh came up and Hull KR went down and last year they swapped places. That’s not good for anyone.
If franchises are awarded it gives clubs time to establish themselves and adjust to the higher level and it also means years of hard work aren’t ruined by one bad season. Under a franchising system the 12 or 14 teams in Super League would be there because they are the strongest and most stable clubs, they have the financial backing and they can take the competition forward.
It is not just a personal dislike; I want what is best for the game here and I can’t see how relegation produces anything positive.
We all like to see rugby league as a big family which takes care of its own. But relegation contradicts that, it puts clubs and players’ livelihoods at risk and it weakens the game. I know it works in other sports, like football, but that’s a totally different ball game. The money sloshing around in football is ridiculous and we can’t compete with that. If we do, it will just kill us off.
We have to do what’s best for our sport. I know people will say ‘what about the Championship clubs and their history and tradition?’
Those clubs and that competition can be strong in their own right, without the prospect of promotion to Super League. The Championship is a good competition and it’s worth winning for itself. Why does promotion have to be the be-all and end-all? I don’t think it does. And the bottom line is, we have to get Super League right. That is the elite competition and if that is weak, everything else will unravel.
There are ties between Super League and Championship clubs. Mik Oledzki has been playing for Featherstone Rovers the last two weeks and he has done a good job for them and gained some valuable experience and game time. But, in my opinion, the best way to develop young players is through a Super League reserve competition.
The under-19s league isn’t strong enough and it is too big a step-up from that to the first team. Players come into the senior side and they have never played against men before. Physically, it is a massive shock. If the young kids could play against men in a reserve league it would benefit them in that regard and also keep them within the system, which will help with the transition to the first team.
They would be training alongside first-team players and using the same systems, rather than going somewhere else – with different ways of doing things – on loan to gain experience and get time on the field. They will also have come through the ranks with the players they will be alongside in the first team. I thought Melbourne Storm were a good example of that when we played them in the World Club Challenge.
They have lost Cooper Cronk, but the young kid Brodie Croft came in at half-back against us and had a fantastic game. It was seamless. He has played for Storm’s reserves, he knew the systems and the players around him and he slotted in like he had played 100 NRL games.
Young players do come through in this country and make a big impact – for example Stevie Ward and Jack Walker – but it is much tougher to do that over here.