With Super League closing in on the Super 8’s, the question I ask is – is it a good concept? Any Super League or Championship fan you speak to will have an opinion on the system, whether that’s positive or negative.
One thing nobody can argue with is its uniqueness. We in the Super League have previously been accused of copying and replicating the ideas of either the NRL, or even different sports. Take the recently adapted video referee procedure, for example. The fact that the Super 8’s is a completely new and innovative concept is great for British rugby league.
One criticism has been the treatment of teams finishing in fifth to eighth at the end of 23 rounds. There’s a good chance that when the regular season finishes, those teams will have nothing to play for as they are too far adrift on points from the top four sides. Last season, for example, out of the top eight teams to finish, only Hull FC, Warrington, Wigan, St Helens and Catalan had a chance to make the top four.
Arguably the most exciting part of the concept is the ‘Million Pound Game’, which has created a blockbuster end to the past two seasons. It prompted, however, a heated rant from former Bradford coach James Lowes, who argued that players shouldn’t have to be playing for their mortgages. And he’s right. The Million Pound Game has the potential to leave a whole team without contracts, which isn’t the right way for the game to be going.
The Championship teams benefit the most from the Super 8 concept. Regular outsiders such as Batley and Featherstone can now test themselves against Super League opposition. The recruitment drives for the Championship have also gone up a level, with every team looking to bring in big name players to bolster their squad. This in turn increases the quality of the competition as a whole, creating bigger and better games and allowing fans to see matches of a higher calibre.
As a whole, the system works and its individuality makes it exciting for sports fans in general to watch. Given a couple of small tweaks, it could become one of the best play-off competitions in the world.