Leeds Rhinos: Injury crisis set Wildcats up to fail at Warrington – McGuire

James Webster.
James Webster.
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I HAVE got some good mates at Wakefield Wildcats and I feel for them at the moment.

Eight straight defeats is tough, but last week’s 80-0 scoreline at Warrington was a shocker. You can’t sugar-coat it, it was a bad result for Super League. I know it got noticed in the Aussie media and it’s not a great advertisement for our competition.

Wakefield will be embarrassed by it and they’ll admit it’s the sort of scoreline that shouldn’t happen in an elite competition, especially one with a salary cap. Players do take things like that hard. I know sometimes fans accuse players of not trying, but I don’t know any Super League professional who goes out and deliberately holds anything back or isn’t bothered about the result.

The Wakey boys will be hurting. To be honest, I think they were set up for a fall. They had a tough Easter, playing a very physical Catalans side on the Thursday and then us away on the Monday. They’ve got a load of injuries, especially in the forwards and then they had to go to a very determined Warrington side who were fired up to get back on track after a few losses.

Once a team like Warrington get on a roll they are tough to stop and when you are down on troops, form and confidence, it’s almost impossible. Wakey are three points behind at the bottom of the table now and I know they are talking about focusing on after round-24, when they’ll go into the middle-eights.

But the new format means they could still survive, even if they don’t win another game before the split and I don’t think their score last week means Super League is a poor competition this year.

If you look at the table as a whole, it’s incredibly tight. Everybody has been beating everybody else and I think it’s shaping up to be a fantastic fight at the top and bottom of the table.

Who finishes in the top-four is anybody’s guess and the way things are going, somebody unexpected could drop into the middle-eights.

Warrington went from ninth with a points difference of minus 40 this time last week to fourth – and a points difference of plus 40 – before their game against Wigan last night.

For most teams it’s a case of win a couple and you shoot up the table into the top-four, lose two and you’re down near the bottom. I think it will stay this tight all the way through.

Injuries are having a big bearing and I think there’s a lot of uncertainty about the new format and the impact that’s going to have. There’s been some really tight games so far and not many blow-out scores, but the best quality rugby hasn’t been on show yet. Nobody wants to be at their best this early and I think once the grounds firm up and the weather improves, the standard of rugby will improve.

That’s what everybody wanted when the new format came in and it’s going to be really interesting seeing what happens over the second half of the regular season and after the split.

That’s why this week’s Challenge Cup ties are so nicely-poised. The draw couldn’t have come out better if it had been arranged. All four Super League clubs are up against Championship teams who will fancy their chances of getting into the middle-eights, so it will be a good indicator of what might happen after July. Leigh versus Salford should be a cracker. I don’t think there’s much love lost between those two clubs, especially with Gareth Hock up against his old club. Salford are a good team and they gave us a really tough game last week, but they’ve got a lot of top players missing and I think Leigh will fancy their chances.

Halifax will be the same at Wakey and Hull and Hull KR will have their work cut out against Sheffield and Bradford. I think there could be at least one upset and that’s what the Challenge Cup probably needs.

We won it last year, so I am not going to say it has gone stale, but there’s been some blow-out scores and not many surprises in recent years and the competition needs some tight games and shock results to get everybody excited again.