Romance of the Cup is fine but league needs to be realistic

The romance of the Cup...
The romance of the Cup...
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I am all for the romance of the Cup but, equally so, am a realist too. Boring, I know.

It means, though, I recognise there is as much chance of Hunslet Hawks defeating Wigan Warriors tomorrow as there is of a kestrel swooping down into the DW Stadium and lifting the home side’s mascot – you know, that Max the Ultimate Warrior character – clean off his feet and flying off to Blackpool Beach.

I am not being all curmudgeonly. It is just the truth.

And also it’s one of the reasons I am increasingly in favour of suggested changes to the Challenge Cup which could possibly see Super League’s top eight sides seeded and placed directly into the last 16.

In an era of full-time professionalism, the chances of a part-time team like Hunslet, or Doncaster who head to Warrington Wolves tomorrow, coming away with victory against one of the elite is nigh on impossible. Of course, sides at the upper end of the Championship will often give the lower-end Super League sides a contest, as Batley Bulldogs have consistently proven in recent years while Featherstone Rovers did beat Castleford in 2012.

But the way the current format is set up means there will be two Championship sides in Monday’s quarter-final draw given Swinton Lions face Keighley Cougars tomorrow and Leigh host Fev’.

That could make for two uneven quarter-final ties to come or even, if the victors of those clashes are paired together in the last eight, then a Championship club will be in the semi-finals, too, which could produce a very one-sided and uninviting fixture broadcast live on the BBC.

The chasm in class between Super League and the lower divisions is – generally speaking – too great.

Obviously, Championship One Hunslet should secure a pretty hefty pay day from their game with the holders tomorrow and that cannot be sniffed at.

But – in a revised concept – there would still be ways for such clubs to raise much-needed cash without necessarily receiving a hiding on the field.

If the bottom four of a 12-team Super League in 2015 – unable to play each other – were put in the hat with a dozen Championship and Championship One sides, the eight victors could head into the last 16 and, if drawn against a top-flight club, have the option of whether they wanted to play home or away. It would not be a failsafe way of ensuring there are no more lopsided scorelines or that the poor attendances, which understandably have been the norm in the competition in recent years, discontinued.

However, it would go a long way to bringing more competitive games without denying the chance of part-time players to have their day in the sun against the sport’s superstars.

The opportunity to strive towards playing against that level of opponent should never be sacrificed even if the resulting experience can be largely unedifying for everyone.

All of that said, if Featherstone did defeat Leigh and were drawn at home to Keighley or Swinton in the quarter-finals, then subsequently won that to reach the semi-finals where they found themselves up against 
Castleford perhaps for a place at Wembley...

A Championship team in the final just 80 minutes from glory? It could, maybe, be possible.

There goes the romantic in me again...