MARTYN SADLER, the editor of League Express, looks ahead to week 3 of The Qualifiers in the Super 8s
In Rugby League we tend to be a glass half-empty sort of sport.
If we can find something to make us pessimistic about the game, you can bet we will be.
So it’s hardly surprising that there are some siren voices predicting that the Super 8s are a flop, demonstrating that no Championship club will be successful in getting into Super League next season.
On the Sky Sports website, for example, Sky pundit Phil Clarke is suggesting that Saturday’s game at Leigh, when Wakefield are the visitors, could be decisive in destroying the Centurions’ hopes of achieving their aim of playing in Super League next season. If Leigh lose again, they will have lost three in a row, and their prospects of being promoted will have suffered a possibly mortal blow.
It would be easy to make the same claim in relation to Bradford Bulls, following their heavy defeat to Wakefield last Saturday. It was demoralising for their supporters, admittedly, but they don’t need to give up hope yet, even if they don’t beat Salford on Sunday.
Whatever happens I don’t accept that Leigh or Bradford’s season will be over if they lose this weekend.
For both Leigh and Bradford the really crucial game is likely to come in round 6 of the Super 8s, currently set down for 20 September, when they meet each other at the Leigh Sports Village. That game is likely to determine which of those two teams will end the season as the highest-placed Championship club in the Qualifiers.
And it means that the winner would then qualify to play in the Million Pound Game, which is likely to be against Wakefield but could still be against any of the other three Super League teams currently playing in the Qualifiers.
So the reality is that there is still plenty to play for, and both Leigh and Bradford have to aim to be in that one-off game that will be played at the start of October, when they will have to visit Wakefield (or Salford, Hull KR or Widnes) to win what will effectively be a knockout game.
Leigh at least have shown that they have what it takes to win such games, and I’m sure the Bulls will have learned a lot from the spanking by Wakefield last week.
Wakefield will be desperate to avoid the Million Pound Game, and if they are to do so they will need to beat at least one out of Hull KR and Widnes in Rounds 4 and 5 of the Super 8s. Those games will also be absolutely compelling.
So I’m confident that reports of the death of the Super 8s are premature at this stage of the season.
And who knows? If the Centurions and the Bulls can both conjure wins against Wakefield and Salford respectively this weekend, we may even find them raising their ambitions once again to aim for a third-placed finish in the Qualifiers.
So let’s dispense with the pessimism and look forward to some fascinating clashes this weekend.
Full reports of all the Super 8s matches will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express