Talking RL: Is it really must-win again?
Last week was '˜must-win'; week before, too.
This week will be the same. ‘Must-win’.
But have you stopped and thought about what happens if Wigan lose against Castleford on Sunday?
With just one more round to go after that, would their hopes of a top-four finish – and a place in the semi-finals – be dashed?
Well, it depends.
Largely on what happens in
tonight’s match between Wakefield and Hull FC.
Quick recap: Wigan are 3rd on 31 points. Hull (4th, 31), Wakefield (5th, 30) and St Helens (6th, 29) are so close behind them, they could smell it if they had bad breath or BO.
Saints appear in the weaker position, but they have the best for-and-against of the four teams (95) and arguably an easier run in, against Salford and Huddersfield.
Let’s presume, for a second, Saints win both their remaining matches.
They will finish on 33 points, with a healthy points-difference, too.
So, tonight: Wakefield or Hull FC? Who should we cheer for?
Well, if Wakefield win, it would put them a point clear of Wigan.
In that instance, the Warriors could lose to Cas’ on Sunday and still make the top-four – on condition they beat Wakefield in their final game.
But if Hull win tonight, and Wigan lose on Sunday, they would not only need to win against Trinity – they would also need Lee Radford’s men to lose their last match of the
season, against Cas’.
Now, consider this: those last examples were based on Saints winning their
remaining two games.
But if they lose at home to Huddersfield tomorrow night (my view: unlikely) and Hull win tonight, then a victory for Wigan on Sunday would guarantee them a place in the top-four.
And something else to consider: unlike football, the final round of fixtures aren’t on at the same time.
Saints travel to Salford next Thursday night. Which means – if Hull and Wigan win this weekend’s fixtures – they will both know before their last games that they have a play-offs spot, should the Red Devils get one over the mob from the Dark Side of Billinge Hill. Interesting times.
I listened to an interview with Nigel Wood, the chief executive of the RFL, on Radio Yorkshire’s rugby league talk show on Monday night.
One of the newsiest lines to come out of his chat was that the England Knights – a second-string side – may be revived next year.
He also gave assurances Catalans would be relegated if they lost the Million Pound Game – and Bradford will drop into League One – which put some conspiracy theories to bed.
But I found his thoughts on the academy/reserves the most interesting.
His explanation for allowing clubs to choose whether they develop players or not just didn’t wash.
Leeds, he pointed out, prefer using the dual-registration system rather than running a reserves team.
“I’m not going to tell Gary Hetherington or Brian McDermott what is best for developing their players,” he said.
Fair enough. But what about those who don’t develop players at all?
Two Super League clubs don’t run academies, many more don’t have reserves; and while Leeds may have a comfortable arrangement with Hunslet and Featherstone which works well for them, we know the motivating factor for many other clubs – to save money. The governing body needs to show some governance.
Wakefield’s Dean Hadley was never going to play against his parent club Hull FC tonight.
It was part of his loan agreement – a clause which is common-place across the league.
But he will still be able to serve his one-match ban tonight, for a ‘crusher’ tackle, as the “agreement between the clubs does not fall under the league’s operational rules relating to suspensions.”
Does that quirk of the rules sound daft to anyone else?
And now we know that, and the players know that, it throws up an interesting – perhaps, worrying – possibility.
If a loaned player knows he won’t be playing against his parent club, then the week before, he effectively has a green-light to go and commit a ‘one-game ban offence’ knowing he won’t really be punished!
And there are a few to choose from, ranging from light headbutts, four types of punches and disputing calls with referees!
Anyone else prefer Wigan’s ‘one-off’ kits much more than their regular strips?
Their latest design, to be worn on Sunday to celebrate 30 years since the win against Manly, is all class.
Maybe it’s the lack of sponsors I like – many modern shirts are plastered with so many logos, they resemble Formula One cars! But I also liked the World Club Challenge shirts in 2011 and 2014, and the Superman top, too.
Wigan could do a lot worse than keep this Sunday’s retro look for next season.