TITLE-CHASING Leeds Rhinos’ chief executive Gary Hetherington claims the prize for winning the League Leaders’ Shield is now greater than ever.
Leeds are table-toppers heading in to the Super 8s – they host Warrington Wolves first up tomorrow week – just a point clear of St Helens.
In the past, clubs argued they received little reward for finishing top but Hetherington says that has now all changed.
It was confirmed yesterday that the World Club Series will again be hosted in the UK but qualifying has altered for the six-side competition involving three NRL teams.
In 2016, not only the First Utility Super League champions but the League Leaders’ Shield winners and Ladbrokes Challenge Cup victors will also earn the right to take on the southern hemisphere’s best from February 19-21.
Rhinos, of course, could qualify on all three fronts given they also face St Helens in a Challenge Cup semi-final tomorrow night.
Hetherington admitted: “We are very, very focused on winning the League Leaders and have been from day one. Not only does it deliver a £100,000 cash prize, the same as winning the Challenge Cup (and double the 2014 amount), it also delivers a home semi-final spot and entry into the World Club Series.
“There is such a lot at stake in terms of coming first this year, more so than any stage in the past. It’s quite historic.”
Hetherington was one of the biggest supporters of an expanded World Club Challenge but, when it was increased from a one-off game for this year, three-times champions Rhinos ironically failed to qualify.
If a club, meanwhile, does win two of the three trophies this season then the third World Club Series place would go to the Super League beaten Grand Finalist.
If a side completed the treble - Leeds and Saints are in the running - the RFL board decides who takes the last spot.