Dave Craven: Gulf between Super League and NRL should be much wider

St Helens v South Sydney Rabbitohs earlier this season.

St Helens v South Sydney Rabbitohs earlier this season.

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NOW the furore over Super League’s failure in the World Club Series has died down a little, the question should be: are we actually over-performing?

It seems ludicrous given English sides lost 3-0 over a weekend trio of club games between the domestic competition here and the NRL.

However, on the back of seeing NRL champions South Sydney sweep past Brisbane Broncos 36-6 in their season opener this week, it became clear just how good that side truly is.

Broncos became the third opponent running to have more than 30 points emphatically posted against them by the Rabbitohs following on from Canterbury in last season’s Grand Final and St Helens in last month’s World Club Challenge.

So, maybe our champions Saints losing 39-0 to them wasn’t that astonishing after all and should not so readily sound the death knell of the British sport?

However, it was a conversation earlier this week with Jamie Langley, the Sheffield Eagles forward, that sowed the seed for me in this debate.

The loose forward, of course, knows plenty about elite rugby league given he won the 2005 Grand Final with Bradford Bulls and added a World Club Challenge title the following Spring as Brian Noble’s side vanquished Wests Tigers 30-10.

Yes, that reads 30-10; the one-sided scorelines have not always been in the favour of the Australians.

Furthermore, Langley also played in the 2008 World Cup with England facing the eventual champions New Zealand.

He offers that the two competitions – Super League and the NRL – should not even be compared given the vast disparities between them.

Those disparities, he argues, include such issues as sheer numbers of players at the Australians’ disposal given participation at junior level is around 10 times greater there than in England.

Add in the fact there are better playing conditions for kids to learn their craft, far bigger sums of money invested into clubs, not just on the field in terms of salary cap but off it too, a shorter playing season at senior level and a longer break between campaigns and he contests it is remarkable Super League clubs can actually be so competitive, given Wigan Warriors only lost to Brisbane in extra-time and Warrington fell 18-12 to St George Illawarra after a raft of strange refereeing decisions.

I think Langley has a valid point and, to take it further, why does the sport here even feel the need to claim it is better? Granted, you could argue part of this is that British people – especially those in the northern heartlands of the game – are naturally competitive and passionate types who pride themselves on their ability to challenge.

But, in reality, Super League teams should not even be getting close to their NRL counterparts.

The fact they do says plenty about the alchemic quality of those playing and coaching the sport here, from the grass-roots level through to Super League.

Granted, at international level, for England, the top 17 players have fewer reasons to fall behind their peers in the Australia and New Zealand sides as they are the elite that have found their way to the top of the tree here.

However, at club level, squads are punching far above their weight and so if that 3-0 series whitewash is ever reversed, it would be a truly remarkable feat worthy of real and lasting praise.

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