Top-five format fulfils the Super League brief believes Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar
LEEDS RHINOS boss Richard Agar reckons Betfred Super League has found a winning formula.
This year’s bottom club after 29 rounds, London Broncos, were relegated to the Championship and the top-five are now contesting play-offs which will decide the 2019 champions.
Unlike previous years, every fixture in the final round of the regular season had something riding on it, at one or both ends of the table, and Agar reckons the current system is an improvement on the controversial Super-8s format which was scrapped at the end of last year.
Despite Rhinos’ battle against relegation – which wasn’t won until their victory at London in round 27 – Agar is in favour of promotion and relegation.
And he believes five teams is the ideal number to go into the semi-finals series.
“I like the top-five play-off,” confirmed the former Hull and Wakefield Trinity coach.
“It rewards the teams that have been good and consistent all year.
“With an eight, I have been there myself at Wakefield – we got in there with a 50 per cent record.
“The counter argument to that is you can cop some injuries and you get form at the right time and all that, but I think a top-five comp’ creates a quality play-off series.
“Everybody gets rewarded for where they finish in the comp’ and they are all high-level games, generally.”
Sixteen points was the previous record for a team finishing bottom of Super League, but London were relegated on 20 – and only points difference separated them from 11th-placed Hull KR. A 14-team top-flight would produce a 29-game regular season – home and away against each other club, plus Magic Weekend – without the need for ‘loop’ fixtures which see sides play each other a third time.
Agar, though, reckons the closeness of this year’s relegation battle was an “exception” and still feels 12 is the right number of clubs for Super League.
“I think 14 teams is too many to go on with a five,” said the coach who took interim charge in May and has now been appointed for the 2020 season. I think we should be about shortening the season rather than extending it. I am a bit of a believer that less is more – you’d get more quality and stronger squads if you had a few less games to play.
“We don’t like the loop fixtures and I didn’t like the super-eights and middle-eights.
“I thought that did the exact opposite of what it was supposed to create – every minute matters.
“Every minute didn’t matter; teams were getting themselves ready for the middle-eights and there’d be four or five weeks’ dead footy.
“The season comes to a crescendo and that should be the exciting part, celebrating the top and everybody in with a chance there, but I thought the old system was a bit of a damp end to the season.”
Another argument against 14 clubs is that there is not enough top-quality players to go around. Agar said: “Utopia would be trying to make the second tier full-time on a smaller basis.
“I think the first step to regenerating players in the game is reserve grade next year and it’s wonderful that’s coming back.
“It might take three or four seasons, but I think [that will] increase the player pool and give players longer in the game before we have to make a call on their future.”