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Evening Post 18th Man - 3rd February
Posted by Bilko on February 05 2015 - 08:56

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 six seasons. 

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!

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