Dave Craven: Reasons for optimism as RFL outline their vision for future

Halifax and Featherstone could find themselves challengeing for a spot in Super League under the new format next season.
Halifax and Featherstone could find themselves challengeing for a spot in Super League under the new format next season.
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My overriding emotion after leaving Thursday’s latest RFL briefing about Super League’s new format was one of excitement – and not just because the hosts had generously handed out free Cornettos.

It will take more than a complimentary ice cream to persuade some of the vast numbers of media – surely a good sign in itself given dwindling column inches? – assembled at the Brighouse hotel that the Super 8s, as it will be called in 2015, can be any good for the sport.

There are some who seem intent on looking for ways for it to fail before it has even begun.

Yet that all seems so futile. In essence, the competition’s new format was agreed upon some months ago after what, the RFL insist, were lengthy consultations with everyone from broadcasters, to clubs, players and fans.

All Thursday was about was adding a little flesh to the bones and giving the finer detail on how the new-look Super League and Championship will operate. It is happening, that’s for sure, and it is now set in stone so why continually strive to degrade it?

There will, of course, be teething problems and not everyone will be happy with various aspects of the competition’s make-up but that was inevitable given such a significant change in approach.

The RFL had used the slogan “Every Minute Matters” as the title for their address and, when you study the concept a little further, you can see how there should be something riding on not only every game, but also every minute too with the expected introduction of a bonus point system. People will say that for all, in theory, four Championship teams could be promoted to Super League for 2015, the more likely result is that no second-tier sides will earn themselves the desired elevation.

There is a possibility that will happen when The Qualifiers –the middle eight division of Super League’s bottom four and the Championship’s top quartet – takes place.

In a reduced 12-team Super League, that bottom four next season should be far superior to anything we’ve seen this term and far more heavily financed given the differences in central funding between them and the Championship sides looking to replace them.

Furthermore, only three clubs so far – relegated London Broncos and Bradford Bulls plus current Championship leaders Leigh Centurions – have stated they will be full-time in the second-tier next season.

Yet, for all that, when we boil it down, we know for certain there will be at least one Championship side within 80 minutes of promotion at the end of next season.

The top three in that middle division after seven rounds automatically secure their spot but the final place being determined by the Million Pound Game, a play-off between the clubs finishing fourth and fifth, will give one lower side a crack at glory.

Bradford, if they recruit and retain correctly, know that is their chance.

Or what if Leigh arrive in fifth, too, to face – and we’ll take the current table as an example – a Wakefield Trinity or Hull FC?

That would generate huge interest and potential and, with the likes of Featherstone and Halifax sure to make their own bid, the possibilities in that middle eight over those seven weeks are intriguing.

My only gripe is it should be played on a neutral venue rather than at the home of the fourth-placed side.