IT’S the calm before the storm.
Attention shifts to the Challenge Cup quarter-finals this week but the following few days will be a defining stage of this Super League campaign.
A quick glance at the current table shows it is tighter than a submarine door as the Super 8s loom
A quick glance at the current table shows it is tighter than a submarine door as the Super 8s loom.
Wakefield are resigned to dropping into the middle ‘Super 8’ (called ‘The Qualifiers’) but the identity of the other three remains a mystery.
Just four points split Catalans, in sixth, and Hull KR in 9th. But intriguingly, both Hull FC and KR – 8th and 9th respectively – have games in hand, which will be played next Tuesday and Wednesday, giving them a chance to pile the pressure on Catalans and misfiring Warrington.
Indeed, the 7th-placed Wolves are in danger of missing the cut. And Wigan can tighten the screw on their near-rivals if they are triumphant at the HJ next Thursday. A few Warriors fans may be hoping Leigh win their Cup tie on Saturday afternoon in the hope it bruises their confidence even further ahead of the derby meeting.
Two wins should secure them a place in the top eight, and while they should beat Wakefield, they also face tests against St Helens (h) and resurgent Castleford (a).
Of course, Warrington will only need to amass more points if those teams below them pick up points.
But Hull KR have proved they can perform without injured talisman Terry Campese, winning their last two. Widnes will need to pick up to win games at Castleford and Wigan, sandwiching a home game against Catalans.
After Wigan overcame Salford 19-12 on Friday night, the Red Devils look to be heading for ‘The Qualifiers’.
But they are only three points behind 8th-placed FC, and if they can win their game in hand against KR early next week they could make the scrap for Super 8s positions even more interesting.
OUR back page story yesterday proved a sharp reminder that not everything is rosy about the impending Super 8s.
If you missed it, Wigan are looking to arrange reserve-level friendlies because – from next month – they won’t be able to use the week-to-week dual registration.
With no concessions for open age players in the Under-19s, fringe players like Lewis Tierney, Sam Powell and Rhodri Lloyd have figured for Workington in the Championship.
But when the Super 8s begins, Wigan must make a decision – either keep them at the club or let them stay at Workington until the end of the season.
The presents a problem for Shaun Wane, who may be reluctant to let any of those go for so long – with no recall option – in case injuries and suspensions bite into his squad. But at the same time, it’s not fair that a promising player like Tierney may need to wait from the end of July to next February to play a game!
The clubs voted against a reserve level competition – too expensive for some, apparently – leaving Wigan to sort out their own games.
Surely, a solution would be to have an Under-21s, with provisions for two or three open-age players?
MARWAN Koukash says he wants to take over an NRL club. Good luck with that one. I can only imagine what the authorities Down Under think after his press conference this week.
Last week there was a story that five County Court Judgements had been made against Salford in two months. Now Koukash is talking of suing players and swearing in media conferences. Will the NRL welcome him on board?
ST Helens have lost a third full-back to injury this week, with Shannon McDonnell joining Jonny Lomax on the sidelines.
But the week belongs to the other one.
Their long-standing No.1.
Paul Wellens has called time on his long career.
Yes, I know there is a deep-rooted rivalry between the two clubs (I get angry emails from fans every time I write anything touching on praise for them!) I know us Wiganers love to laugh at some of those on the dark side of Billinge Hill – especially the grannies caught on TV giving the fingers during games.
But there are some you have to respect.
Keiron Cunningham was one, and Wellens in another. A thoroughly decent person, he wasn’t the flashiest of players but he was brave and solid defensively. I wish him all the best with his new career.