Every minute matters, apparently.
That’s what we were told last year when the Rugby Football League launched their bold, brave new league structure – and for the most part, that was how it turned out.
Take last year’s treble winners, Leeds, for example. They would preach to anyone about how every single split second was crucial on their quest to the Super League, League Leaders’ Shield and Challenge Cup – not least that dramatic night at Huddersfield when they finished top in spectacular fashion.
But events in another sport recently have suggested that no matter what we perceive to be the edge of possibility, there is always the chance of something more extreme happening. Leicester City’s miraculous Premier League title win is one that, although wasn’t confirmed until Monday, was scarcely believable right up until the moment they were confirmed as champions.
As the season wore on, talk went from how they were relegation certainties, to how they might make the top half, to how they’re going to qualify for the Champions League – and even then, people doubted whether they could win the league.
And if you flip that chain of events on its head and factor in the possibility that anything could happen at any time, you have to wonder whether Leeds Rhinos are genuinely in danger of relegation in 2016.
Of course, Rugby League is a different kettle of fish to football, and Leeds dropping out of Super League means they’d have to succumb to at least one part-time side in the Qualifiers.
But from being one of the favourites to retain their Super League title, the talk has gradually shifted from whether they’ll be at Old Trafford towards more like whether they’ll be in the Million Pound Game. Performances have been seriously inconsistent, and although recent efforts are suggesting Leeds are improving, defeats are still racking up for the reigning champions.
This weekend’s Challenge Cup clash at Huddersfield could well turn out to be a turning point in their season – but if they lose that, where do they go next?
There is mitigation aplenty for Leeds in that they’ve had a huge number of injuries to key players throughout this season. But with a gap to the top eight now opening up and the weeks running out for the Rhinos, the bottom four finish that would have been inconceivable in February is looking more and more possible.
As mentioned, though, the saving graces the Rhinos have is that they must surely back themselves to be too good for the rest of the Qualifiers if they fall into the middle eight. Leeds have so many big names to come back, and the fact they are competing against some part-time outfits and teams that have played at a lower intensity for the first 23 rounds also works in their favour.
We’re still in the part of the season where it’s way too early to suggest Leeds are genuine relegation candidates – but Leicester City have proven that absolutely anything is possible in sport.