Here's what I wrote for the Wigan
Evening Post's 18th Man page this week....
Only time will tell how this “New
Era” of Rugby League pans out but my starting thoughts on it are quite simple.
It can’t be any worse than the Top 8 Play Off format we’ve endured for the past
I never liked the top 8 format. I
think it lowered the bar of intensity in the regular season and whilst play off
results like 42-18, 44-0, 46-6 and 57-4 recorded by Wigan in recent years are
good for us, they are hardly conducive to a televised grand spectacular towards
a big finale.
Increasing to fourteen teams in
2009 also played a big part in the lowering of intensity and just by relegating
two of them things should be better. I don’t know who made that decision to go
to fourteen teams but it was a terrible mistake and the sport has been lucky
that only “Crusaders” were lost as a club with Salford, Wakefield, Bradford and
London all having gone through financial difficulties.
I appreciate some might not
understand what this new format is all about with its mid season split but just
the fact the play offs will be between the Top 4, in a simple two semis before
a final format, means teams will be sweating on their play off position for
pretty much the whole season. A contrast to top 8 when for the big teams their
position was practically secure by Easter!
It was hard to find any positives
from Wigan’s two main pre season hit outs at Leigh and St Helens to be honest but
the time to judge proper is at Widnes on Thursday.
Against our first four opponents
this year we only picked up one point (and that was lucky at Hull KR) out of
eight in the corresponding fixtures last year, so a win at Widnes would be quite
a huge start I think baring that in mind.
Not just because of that though
but also because Wigan have failed to win their opening fixture in nine of the
last thirteen seasons. That is a
terrible record for a club like ours and intrigued by that record, I worked out
that of the 19 Super League Champions so far, only three won the title (Saints
2000 & Bradford 2003, 2005) having lost their opening fixture.
Yes I know it seems daft to
suggest that the opening game can go a long way to Grand Final success but
that’s what history seems to prove. Perhaps this Thursday is a bigger play off
game that the ones to come in September. We shall see!