THERE’S A lot of umming and ahhing about what’s going to happen with the Super League structure from 2019 onwards and whether or not to bring in franchises, so I thought I’d give my opinion in this week’s column.
This is not me being critical, it is more about being passionate about the game and wanting the sport I love to flourish and grow to its full potential. Super League needs to evolve and create a hype around itself to be able to compete with this country’s other elite sports, such as football and rugby union.
The main problem we’ve got in Super League at the moment is there’s too much emphasis on quantity rather than quality. I think most – if not all – players would agree with that.
If you have 30 league games before the play-offs, like we do now, the competition loses its intensity because it is not possible to batter each other at the level we rugby league players would like to for so many weeks back to back.
Playing the same team four – or even more – times in one season dilutes the quality. Fewer games will ensure the viewers get more entertainment value and the players will be performing at the level they are capable in every round.
The focus going forward should be on ensuring the game is at its strongest every week and the fans get to watch high-quality matches back to back.
What I would like to see is everyone play each other once home and away and then go straight into the old-style top-eight play-offs.
That would give 22 league games, or 26 if the comp goes up to 14 clubs, which is plenty. It would mean there’s less strain on players and more meaningful matches. At the moment some games don’t have much riding on them. When it comes to the Super-8s, only four teams can get into the play-offs and most of the rest know right from the start they aren’t going to get there.
There is a lot of hype around the Super-8s, but I think the buzz has gone out of it. Crowds seem to go down in the Super-8s, when they should be going up as they are the most important fixtures. There’s no problem with the start and finish of the season, but sometimes it flags in the middle and the last few games before the semi-finals.
If it’s home and away and then straight into play-offs, every game is going to matter. Teams will be fighting for places in the top eight and then they’ll be into sudden-death games when everything is on the line.
We need to have a long-term plan and then stick to it and make sure we go back to having tough, intense games at the end of the season.
That will go a long way towards making the competition more exciting and I also think it will benefit the England team.
At the moment, one of the differences between England and Australia is they have more intense matches in the NRL and the Aussies players are more used to coping with the pressure.
We saw that in last year’s World Cup final. Creating more intense games that really matter will prepare the players who are in with a shout of getting picked for England for what they will face in Tests against the Kangaroos and Kiwis.
In the semi-finals and Grand Final the game changes, it gets tighter and tougher and more intense and the more experience England players get of that type of rugby, the better they will be when it comes to internationals.
I hope whatever happens they will stick with an international break in the middle of the season, which gives Super League teams a bye.
It benefits clubs who don’t have players on Test duty, but it’s good to have a rest halfway through the year and it allows players to get over injuries and recharge their batteries.
It is also good for the national side because, unlike Super League clubs, England don’t play enough matches and the top players need more experience of the elite level.
Another big question is, should we stick with promotion and relegation or bring in franchises so clubs like Toronto can buy their way into Super League?
Basically, I don’t like relegation.
We had it hanging over us two years ago and I think it’s negative and it does nothing but harm to the teams involved, but that’s something I’ll talk about in a future article.