I thoroughly enjoyed the NRL Grand Final, and congratulations to Craig Bellamy and Melbourne Storm on another success.
It was tough on Penrith Panthers, who had been the dominant side during the regular season, losing just the one game, and they gave it a real go at the ANZ Stadium.
But the Storm’s big-match experience came to the fore, especially during those nerve-jangling final few minutes when they were down to eleven men.
The way the NRL got the season back on track has been one of the real sporting success stories of this pandemic.
You have to admire the Aussies for the way they go about their business, and that extends to their slick presentation and coverage of matches.
Talking of Grand Finals, our own is to be held at the KCOM Stadium on Friday, November 27 – a different sort of showpiece in a different sort of season.
A lot has been made of the choice of venue, and I suppose ideally it would have been good to still play it at Old Trafford on a Saturday night, just as the Challenge Cup final took place at Wembley on a Saturday afternoon.
But with that stadium unavailable, it had to go elsewhere, and given there will no fans present, why not a Friday night in Hull?
The facilities are as good as any of the other grounds that were in the running to stage the match, and with the stadium decorated with banners and the like, it will look as good.
The two teams involved will just get on with it, as all Super League sides have since the competition resumed, and while we all desperately want fans back, we are getting more used to seeing those sadly empty seats. And players are getting more used to the lack of atmosphere which the absence of spectators creates.
The quality of the big matches we have enjoyed so far this year has been excellent, and hopefully the Super League Grand Final will follow suit.
It’s a tough call on which sides will make it, and after the postponement of Catalans’ game against Warrington because of two more confirmed Covid cases at the Dragons, the club will be desperately hoping they can complete the 15 matches needed to be eligible for the play-offs, should they make the top four on points percentage.
St Helens remain the favourites to take the title, but their Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat by Warrington will have sown that little seed of doubt about coping when the pressure is on and it will have given their rivals some encouragement.
We’ve already mentioned the Wolves’ desire to win trophies, and their willingness to spend to further their bid, while Leeds will have been lifted by their Challenge Cup triumph as they bid to become the first double winners since they managed it back in 2015.
Then we have Wigan, where Adrian Lam will surely be feeling the pressure as he approaches talks over carrying on his twelve-month rolling contract.
Apparently, he has won 30 of his 48 games in charge, which isn’t a bad record, but at a club that likes to think of itself as the biggest in the European game, it’s trophies that count, and they have so far been absent since he took the helm.
Ian Lenagan has a big decision to make.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.