Even at this early stage of the season, in these days of win percentages, we’ve got the equivalent of a four-pointer between Huddersfield and Leeds this Sunday.
Before the campaign began, it would have been hard to envisage these two each having only one win from five matches going into the derby.
Huddersfield’s sole victory was against Leigh in the Challenge Cup, while holders Leeds are out of that competition.
They only have Super League to go at, and it’s going to take a major improvement if they are to have any genuine chance of success.
I know they have been without a string of key players, but some of their performances have been very lacklustre.
That was certainly true at Hull KR on Friday night, and fair play to Tony Smith and his team for taking advantage.
Rovers have some decent players, they play an entertaining brand of rugby, and they are especially dangerous on their own patch, even in the absence of fans.
I really don’t see why Huddersfield keep playing Lee Gaskell at fullback, because he doesn’t look comfortable there, as we saw when St Helens won at the John Smith’s Stadium on Thursday.
If it’s done in order to fit Jack Cogger into the side, I think Ian Watson is making a mistake, and if Gaskell and Aidan Sezer are reunited in the halves, I reckon Huddersfield will beat Leeds by seven.
My tips for the weekend
It was interesting to see confirmation that Andrew Henderson and Lee Briers will both leave Warrington alongside Steve Price at the end of the season.
It signals a new broom when Daryl Powell takes over, and I’m sure neither Andrew nor Lee will be short of offers.
Lee has been a terrific servant to the club as player and assistant coach, and a spell away will give him a fresh perspective and a different experience ahead of a possible return to Warrington as head coach at some point in the future.
Warrington had a great win against Catalans over in France, and I fancy them to deny Hull KR a third successive win when they meet at the Halliwell Jones on Saturday – Price’s men by ten.
Round five starts with Wigan versus Hull on Thursday, and with the Warriors rolling along pretty effectively – they certainly had too much for Castleford – and Hull still missing Josh Reynolds, I’m going for Adrian Lam’s boys by twelve.
It doesn’t take a genius to predict that St Helens, the only other side apart from Wigan to have won four from four in the league, will keep up their perfect record on Friday at Leigh, who were okay in the first half against Salford but dismal in the second.
But Saints need to shed that look of a team who think they can turn the tap on and off when it suits them (they should have scored more than 18 points at Huddersfield), because against stronger sides, it could be costly.
The margin of victory at Leigh will be all down to attitude, and I’m tipping Saints by 36.
I can’t see Salford following up their first league victory of the season over Leigh by beating Castleford, who I believe will bounce back after their Wigan setback and win by ten.
Friday’s other fixture pits Wakefield, who are undoubtedly giving 100 per cent to the cause, against Catalans.
In many aspects, Trinity were the better side against Hull, but they lack that crucial cutting edge, and it could again be costly as the Dragons try to respond to their defeat by Warrington. Steve McNamara’s men by 13.
A timely reminder
We got another timely reminder of the importance of fans to clubs of all sizes and sports through football’s proposed European Super League.
The whole sorry saga brought back memories of the formation of our own Super League back in 1996 after Rupert Murdoch’s approach.
Remember the plans to merge Castleford, Featherstone and Wakefield into Calder, Hull and Hull KR into Humberside, Salford and Oldham into Manchester, Sheffield and Doncaster into South Yorkshire, Warrington and Widnes into Cheshire and Whitehaven, Workington, Barrow and Carlisle into Cumbria?
They came from folk with no respect for the history and traditions of our great game, or the people who put their hard-earned cash into following their clubs and whose horrified reaction meant the idea was given the boot.
That was a quarter of a century ago, and the pandemic has underlined that supporters are still as important as ever. Fingers crossed we see them back in grounds from the middle of next month.
The creation of Super League was supposed to raise standards and entertainment value through all clubs going full-time while preventing domination by one or a group of them via a salary cap system.
You could debate the first point until the cows come home, but given that only four clubs, Leeds, St Helens, Wigan and Bradford, have been champions, it’s hard to argue a case for the second.
I think there was also a reminder of the motives of the clubs who forced the formation of a Super League body that was separate from the RFL.
Just as with the twelve football teams who had the idea of breaking away and creating their own competition, it had nothing to do with the overall health of the game and everything to do with greed.
Play golf to help Rob
I’d like to say a big thank you to all those who have already contributed items to be auctioned at my golf day in aid of Rob Burrow and the fight against motor neurone disease.
And it goes without saying that if any clubs, sponsors, businesses or individuals want to join the list, I’d love to hear from them via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The date has had to be changed a few times for obvious reasons, but there’s been lots of interest.
And while there are a couple of team places (four players) left for the event at Normanton Golf Club on Thursday, September 23, please don’t delay if you are interested in joining in with what should be a great day.
We’ll be playing for a fantastic trophy donated by Berry’s Jewellers of Albion Street, Leeds.
Group operations manager Simon Oxby said: “Berry’s are very happy to sponsor the Rob Burrow golf day to help raise awareness of MND and raise funds for a legend of the Rugby League game and for many other people with the illness.
“When I was contacted to see if we could help source a trophy for the event, our long-standing relationship as a Leeds Rhinos shirt sponsor and a friend of both Rob and Garry made us want to help in any way we could.
“We’ve had the bespoke trophy made with Rob’s famous number seven standing proudly at the forefront and donated it to Garry to present to the winner of the annual event.
“We wish Garry and all involved with organising the day all the best, and we are so pleased we could help.”
Items to be auctioned include a signed golf shirt from Lee Westwood, a Wigan shirt from Hummel, an Ireland rugby union shirt from Andy Farrell, a France rugby union shirt from Shaun Edwards, two signed New Zealand Warriors Indigenous shirts from the ‘mad butcher’ Sir Peter Leitch, a signed centenary shirt from Leeds United, a signed print of the team that faced the Pakistan tourists in 2020 from the England and Wales Cricket Board and a fantastic gin hamper from Morrisons.
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