The 18th Man Column: The current concept simply does not work
Our 18th Man panel look at this week's rugby league topics.
The EGM takes place tomorrow to vote on whether to retain or scrap the Super-8s - what do you hope happens?
Sean Lawless: I am not too confident or too sure what the EGM will bring about, it seems to me that the Ian Lenagan-led “revolution” (as some of our friends in Yorkshire would have us believe) looks to have a set and clear plan.
I hope that whatever that plan is, it is granted the opportunity to start. It is very important to the future of the game that progress is made, and I would rather see someone like Lenagan leading us into that future rather than Gary Hetherington. Much like the commentary on Brexit would have us believe, no deal is a bad deal and that could be the same for Super League, or SL-exit?
Darren Wrudd: I sincerely hope that not only are the Super-8s scrapped but the number of games that we subject our players to is reduced. The concept of Super-8s simply does not work for me although I know some do like it.
All eyes are once more looking down rather than up. Who will face the cruellest million pound game where we are meant to celebrate a club’s demise as one is cast adrift in the Championship, with half the staff looking for another job instantly?
Instead people should be engaged and excited about the top four playing off for glory. Not the top two thirds having a chance at another final for their greatest achievement of finishing eighth out of 12.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for promotion and relegation, but a simple and fair solution would be that the bottom Super League club played the top Championship club in a one-off game.
Providing that the Championship side measures up to Super League standards for ground, club structure and finances, winner takes all. As for the Grand final, the top four play off for the pleasure of Old Trafford glory.
Jon Lyon: I am firmly in favour of keeping the Super-8s. A lot of criticism seems to be that teams like Catalans and Hull have nothing to play for and the top four was all but decided.
That may have been the case, and maybe there is a way of tinkering with the current system to help with that like starting from scratch, points wise. Without the 8s though, everyone below fifth place would have had nothing to play for, for weeks now, with Widnes nailed on for last place.
The issue relating to late organisation of Super 8s fixtures, and I sympathise with clubs who can’t advertise games until a few weeks before, but would attendances really have shot up if all these teams with nothing to play for had a few months more to sell tickets?
How many more Hull fans would be turning up to games against Salford or Catalans the way their season has gone? There was a reason why we introduced the Super 8s in the first place which seems to have been forgotten. Certainly no-one can claim the middle 8s isn’t fascinating either.
David Bailey: Robert Elstone has a huge job to bridge the divisions at all levels of the game and for me the Super-8s have to go.
The only excitement generated is at the wrong end of the table as clubs fight for Super League survival and the million pound game garners as much attention as the Grand Final which surely can’t be right.
I also hope that clubs are told to run both reserves and academy sides in order to be accepted into Super League as it is a huge chasm at this moment. It’s all well and good people like Gary Hetherington complaining about the costs of running a reserve side but are happily paying out for a ladies side. While I think it’s fantastic how well the ladies game has taken off, surely reserve sides are the bread and butter of the sport.
Robert Kenyon: I really do hope the Super 8s get scrapped, it’s too much of the unknown for me. How are people supposed to book Catalans away at a couple of weeks notice? It’s another one of Big Nige's ideas that needs throwing in he bin as soon as possible. Instead of change for change's sake and trying to be innovative for the sake of it why not just go back to how things were and how all other leagues work?
It appears Wigan are trying to recruit a halfback (Lam, Hastings) for next year. Is that the position they most need to strengthen?
Sean Lawless: Wigan’s lack of size in the pack was always an area I felt they would need to strengthen, and it looks like they have done that now heading into 2019, with Bullock, Kibula and Greenwood aiming to all be key components in 2019 – that is one heck of a big pack. So next on that list has to be the halfbacks, the fact that Leuluai, after a really good season at hooker has now moved back to the halfback role speaks volumes about Sam Powell’s lack of confidence as a half and his subsequent improvement since moving to the hooker role. Jackson Hastings and George Williams, now that is a pairing to whet the appetite.
Darren Wrudd: You only need look at the difference that an ageing yet brilliant Thomas Leuluai made at half-back when he gave us structure and a great kicking game. George has looked lost at times when given the responsibility of creation for the team, but when Tommy took charge it seemed that George had the room he needed to operate at his best.
I still think that George was perhaps handed the pressure too soon and it has done him no good at all. As for Sam Powell, when younger he was one of the best young stand-off prospects that I had seen for a long time. But necessity plonked him into the hooking role which after some dammed hard work has made him a real prospect at No.9. I think a class half-back in the squad we have now would give consistency and control of the game.
So yes I hope we look to bring another quality half into the team. Perhaps young Lam would fit the bill, now that would be good.
Jon Lyon: A creative half back to compliment and take the pressure off George Williams is probably what we need most, especially considering George is quite likely to be off to the NRL after next year and needing two half backs at once is not ideal.
With Bateman and Sutton leaving we could do with a bit more depth in the back row position, especially as Lockers isn’t likely to play every game.
Centre-depth is also a bit weak as those in reserve don’t seem to be impressing the coaching staff this year, though Hardaker can cover that position too.
The way he has played I would be happy with Jackson Hastings, though Adrian Lam would have to be sure his problems are behind him, as both he and Hardaker are a calculated gamble.
David Bailey: I don’t go along with the train of thought that Wigan necessarily need a new half back.
If you’d have asked me a few weeks ago I’d have snapped your hand off but the change of position between Powell and Leuluai has reinvigorated the Warriors’ season. With all the signs pointing that Tommy will play on along with the emergence of Josh Woods and the return of Jake Shorrocks there are several options for Lam to choose from.
Throw into the mix that Escare will more than likely be available to play a multitude of positions and half back looks to be well stocked. I’d be looking for a world class centre (yes I know there aren’t many) or a rough-house prop as more of a priority.
Robert Kenyon: Next season we have Zak Hardaker who I think is everything you’d want in a fullback, he’s an old school fullback and I like his style of play. We also have Joe Bullock, the prop from Barrow coming in too, I don’t know too much about him but he does has a good reputation. I’d like another second rower, much in the same mould of James Greenwood who is a big tall lad who runs good lines. I’d like a big tall prop who’s a work horse, someone who is 6ft 5 and 18 stone and a grafter, not an impact prop. I’d also like a proper hooker and a proper scrum half too. Ideally Matt Parcell from Leeds would be top of my list for a hooker, Paul McShane after that and I’d move heaven and earth to try and sign Cooper Cronk for a swan song, if not then Josh Drinkwater would be nice, Lachlan Lam looked good in the World Cup but I think he’d be an extra.
Wigan-Warrington. What do you hope for, anything you’re concerned about?
Sean Lawless: The Warrington squad seems depleted and that leads to a feeling that they may now be settling for fourth place in order to rest certain key figures to ensure they have a better shot in a likely semi-final against St Helens.
Warrington missing key players does give them a free hit on Friday which could be dangerous, nothing to lose but all to gain – Wigan need to be wary. Wigan need to build on this winning run and hopefully we will see the return of Dom Manfredi, eventually!
Darren Wrudd: No one wants to say it but the mathematics are still possible for Saints to lose the League Leaders’ Shield.
We just need to keep ticking off the wins and watching the scousers struggle. Now the big threats from Warrington come thick and fast. Josh Charnley needs no introduction and we are all aware of what he can do.
Speed will be our friend and the fitness of both sides should be tested to the max. I suppose I am not worried at the prospect of facing Warrington, but we need to keep the winning habit right up to Grand Final night.
Jon Lyon: This game has all the makings of a classic. Warrington have won both games at their place and we have won at the DW and Magic Weekend so far this season. Both teams are in good form and entertaining to watch. There’s also a good chance we could meet either in the semi-final or final, so laying down a marker is very important.
We need to get back towards the intensity of the St Helens game after the understandably flat performance last week. If we play as we can I don’t think we have to worry about what Warrington do. Joe Greenwood is a big loss with the form he has been in but we have enough players playing well to be confident of a win, especially if our forwards continue to dominate both in attack and defence as they have been.
David Bailey: Depending on how the semi-finals pan out, for me this is the Grand Final waiting to happen. Saints have tailed off dreadfully since Ben Barba’s head was turned to the NRL and Wigan and Warrington have quietly gone about their business under the radar.
I hope Wigan can kick on from the last couple of weeks and put down a marker in a similar way to the way they despatched Saints. Joe Greenwood will be a big loss after his confusing ban for an innocuous tackle that hurt himself but Wigan have plenty of players available for the back row. My worry is Warrington are gaining form at the perfect time and a win at the DW could well set them up ahead of the semi-finals in a few weeks. Josh Charnley will be looking to get one over the Warriors and I hope Manfredi makes his long-awaited return.
Robert Kenyon: Im just worried about injuries, making sure we get our team through the next few games nice and fresh and we need to keep the points gap between us and Castleford so that we get home advantage in the semi finals.