It’s great to see Super League is on its way back, even if behind closed doors, as we suggested on the front page of League Express on 29 June with a photograph of players from the six clubs that will make their return at Headingley on 2nd August, but is there a danger that the Super League season won’t resume on 2nd August?
If you had read our news item on page 3 of this week’s League Express about the state of negotiation on player contracts, you would have had to accept that there was a real possibility that the season won’t resume on that date, although thankfully it appears to be a declining possibility, with more clubs reaching agreements with their players during the course of this week.
Perhaps a bigger worry about the season resuming is the potential injury crisis that we will see, particularly when we start to introduce midweek matches towards the end of the season, when the players will be faced with playing eight games in six weeks.
Unfortunately I think that the Super League clubs are trying to get a quart out of a pint pot.
They are expecting players to take pay cuts, which I can fully understand, while asking them to play more than one game per week.
That has to be crazy.
Those of us who watch the NRL matches on Sky Sports will have noticed how many injuries are being suffered by NRL clubs.
Today in the NRL the Roosters played their 2019 Grand Final opponents, the Canberra Raiders, and the two teams between them had about twelve players missing from the match through injury.
Before the weekend just gone the Raiders were already missing one Englishman in John Bateman. But now they are also missing Josh Hodgson, who went down with an anterior cruciate ligament injury last Saturday.
So what awaits Super League players when they will have to play eight games in six weeks towards the end of the season?
The new rules will put greater stresses on players’ bodies, but the one thing the NRL would not do is to schedule more than one game per week.
The only time players would play more than one game per week is when they return from State of Origin games. And that will not happen this year.
Apart from anything else, the decision to play midweek matches will ensure that the quality of Super League games at the culmination of the season will be nothing like what we have been watching from the NRL.
That can’t be a good thing from Super League’s point of view.
This article is an amended and updated version of Martyn Sadler’s ‘Talking Rugby League’ column in League Express this week.