View from the pitch: Super League’s schedule is sacrificing quality for quantity – Ablett

Castleford Tigers (celebrating their Magic Weekend win) have brough quality to the competition this year, says Carl Ablett. PIC: Alex Whitehead/
Castleford Tigers (celebrating their Magic Weekend win) have brough quality to the competition this year, says Carl Ablett. PIC: Alex Whitehead/
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GAMES ARE coming thick and fast at the moment, but I can guarantee there will be a drop in intensity next weekend.

The sport needs to decide whether it wants quality or quantity, because you can’t have both.

We’re about halfway through the season now – there’s 30 league games and this weekend is round 15 – so most players will be carrying bumps and brusies and feeling a bit fatigued.

It is only six weeks since Easter, but everybody has just about got over that period and now they have to go again with two games in four or five days over the spring bank holiday, followed by another match next weekend.

It is possible to do that, but not without a dip in intensity and quality.

Everybody wants to see the best teams winning trophies.

People say it’s refreshing that Castleford Tigers and Salford Red Devils are leading the way on the table, because they are new names up there and they haven’t won league leaders’ shields or Grand Finals.

From what I have seen Cas are obviously the best team in the league at the moment. They are executing really well and they are difficult to play against.

A few teams, us included, have seen that if you are off your game they can really punish you.

Salford have crept under the radar a bit, but they showed at the Magic Weekend they have got some players who can score points and defensively they are good as well.

They are where they deserve to be and that is good for the competition.

But it’s good for the competition because they are the best two teams at the moment, not because they haven’t finished in the top-two before.

When Leeds and Saints were dominating that was a good thing as well because we were the two best teams and other sides had to raise their standards to match.

People wanted different teams in the final for the sake of it or to make a change, but it should be all about quality.

The Super-8s mean you have to be consistent all year, to get into the top-four and then win two more tough games to be crowned champions.

That’s a good thing, but playing three games in eight days is bound to have a negative effect.

The competition is sacrificing a bit of quality for quantity and not just on Monday and next weekend, but for a few weeks to come.

Playing tired leads to more injuries so some top players will be missing for future matches and the ones who do back up won’t be at their best.

It is all about how teams manage it and keep people fresh.

Usually we have one ‘Easter’ period and you can prepare yourself to get through it, but we’ve just got over Easter and there’s another one to come.

People probably don’t realise the effect it has on players physically and mentally, and asking players to back-up twice in a season is really tough.

Everybody wants to play in and watch intense games. I thought our game against Cas last week was one of those – the ball was in play a lot and it was an absorbing first half of great quality and surely everyone wants to see more of that.

For me, that’s much better than 42-38 scorelines or sides winning because the other team has injuries. We all want an even competition, but one that retains its quality.

The next few weeks are going to be really difficult for teams who get injuries over this weekend and what happens now could determine who gets into the top-eight or top-four.

Also, it is not an even playing field, with some teams having longer between matches than others. Huddersfield’s game against Saints on Monday has been postponed and that gives them both a big advantage next weekend.

They are out of the Challenge Cup so can play the Super League game then, which isn’t fair to the teams they play next week or ones around them on the table.

I think what the competition really needs is fewer games, of higher quality.

That would make Super League a better competition to watch and would also boost England’s chances at international level, because, at the moment, they are playing opposition from the NRL who are much fresher and more used to intense matches.

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