Talking RL: Hey, Super League, don't forget the common sense

Super League clubs have got their wish.

Thursday, 20th September 2018, 9:23 am
Updated Thursday, 20th September 2018, 10:27 am
Super League chief executive Robert Elstone can now begin to tackle the issues he feels are needed to revitalise the competition

The Super-8s is being scrapped, the structure is reverting to a simpler, more straight-forward format next season.

‘So,’ you may ask, ‘are we expected to believe changing the format will revive Super League?’

No. You’re not. It absolutely, definitely, is not going to create stars and create a buzz about the competition again. Not on its own.

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Yes, it was an important step. The clubs believe it will help them increase their attendances and raise their income – which seems obvious, given they will know their fixtures and can plan well in advance.

This was a divorce from the Championship, in as much as they are kept separate – no more poor-quality Qualifiers matches in front of poor crowds (Toronto the exception).

And it allows Super League to do what they set out to do when they nudged Nigel Wood out, took control of the competition and brought in their own chief executive, Robert Elstone.

Crowds are down. Viewing figures of rugby league on Sky Sports have reported dropped 27 per cent over the last two years.

They are taking action now because, frankly, they didn’t trust the RFL to do it.

The RFL, they say, have enough on their plate with other things. That much appears true.

Within the last week, we’ve seen a club field 12 players in a League One match (they finished with 10!) – which was the 15th time this season a club in the professional game had been unable to field 17 players.

We’ve seen London being told to bring a home game with Salford forward a day for TV... at five days’ notice!

Salford fans reacted angrily. Some had already forked out on train tickets. London later issued a plea for a new matchday sponsor.

So, yes, I’m encouraged about talk of making tweaks to the game to make it more attractive and more watchable.

But I’m also hoping that, by taking control of Super League, they put common sense – fixture planning, minimum standards (reserves?) – front and centre of their thoughts, too.

I’ve seen many players battle back from major injuries before.

But I can’t recall being as happy seeing anyone return as much as when Dom Manfredi ran out against Warrington last Friday.

Reporters visiting the training ground have often seen Manfredi hobbling on crutches, then heading in and out of the treatment room, then – down the track – watching his team-mates train through the gym window while pedalling an exercise bike, then get his hopes up of a comeback one year after his injury.

And then do it all over again.

Sam Tomkins urged fans and the media not to burden Manfredi with expectations on his comeback.

We obliged.

And then he responded with two late, great tries which reminded everyone of his abilities. The players mobbed him. It meant a lot to them.

Meant a lot to many of us, too.

Given Toronto, Toulouse or an English club may be hosting the Million Pound Game, it has been given a Sunday evening slot.

RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “(It) could be played in either England, France or Canada which goes to show how global the game of rugby league is.”

Stop laughing at the back.

I always thought the Million Pound Game was too gimmicky, too X Factor. Even the name sounds like Dr Evil came up with it.

Thankfully, this will be the last one before it is cast on the rugby league scrapheap.

If it’s in Canada, will it be rebranded the $1.7m game?

I heard from several people I respect at Orrell St James about the scenes down at West Bank on Saturday.

Swinging arms on it, confrontations off it. Several clubs have refused to play the Widnes outfit this season, and they have seven ‘24-0’ wins this season – the score awarded when a team ‘scratches’.

Credit to the RFL for kicking West Bank out of the league.

It is a tough enough sport without allowing such ugly scenes to go unpunished.

Finally, good luck to Wigan’s Under-19s in their semi-final against Huddersfield on Saturday. Their game against Leeds last week was high quality and highly entertaining. Well worth heading to Orrell to watch.