Dave Craven: There is nothing Super in timing of weekend’s final climax

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OFTEN it is the throwaway comments that really hit the mark bang on.

Take Richard Agar, for instance. On Sunday night, after witnessing his side secure a last-ditch win over Widnes, the Wakefield Trinity coach was telling us all how he had got a little nervous driving in to work that afternoon listening to Radio Humberside.

He had heard how Hull KR were 26-0 up against mighty Wigan and were threatening to make the two-horse race for eighth spot a three-way jostle once more with his Wildcats and Bradford.

“We’ve nearly seen a lot of twists and turns today,” he said.

“Hull KR were very, very unlucky not to get the result against Wigan which would have thrown things up again.

“It would have been like Super Sunday, wouldn’t it, next week?,” he queried.

You got what he was getting at. Certainly Super Saturday.

If Rovers had not squandered that huge lead and seen Wigan complete the biggest comeback in Super League history to clinch both the game and that ugly wheel hub, then this weekend would have been all set for a real bonanza of sporting drama to rival the football Premier League’s historic endgame.

Wakefield holding that much-envied eighth spot on 24 points, Rovers in ninth on 23 and Bradford behind only by virtue of an inferior points difference, would all be capable of grabbing that final play-off place in the last 80 minutes of the regular season.

It is one of the reasons the RFL extended the play-offs to eight clubs – to make sure the competition would be meaningful and important to more of them right up until the dénouement, effectively rendering “mid-season mediocrity” a term of the past.

Undoubtedly, the fight for all three to secure that spot would make for compelling and fascinating television.

Clearly, Rovers’ dramatic demise – they lost 42-36 – means they are now out of the equation but Wakefield and Bradford still have their test of nerve to come so everyone tune in.

Yet, just minutes before Agar had addressed the post-match press conference, details of this weekend’s televised matches were announced by email.

Wigan v St Helens, as usual, on Friday (8pm) with Bradford in Catalan (3pm) via Sky’s red button provision.

Wakefield, meanwhile, would kick off against Salford City Reds in ‘Greater Manchester’ at 6.15pm.

So it quickly emerged that, if Catalan win, by the time Agar’s boys step out for their warm-up tomorrow they will already know their place in the end-of-season jamboree is secure.

Where is the drama in that? It should be the climax of a fascinating battle. Let us face it, given their differing circumstances – financially-stricken Bulls shrugging off a six-point deduction and new-look Wakefield recovering from last year’s administration to time their run to perfection – both clubs boast remarkable stories and each deserve a place.

Yet, unfathomably, all the intrigue has been removed.

It is very rare rugby league can look to football for any form of inspiration but one lesson they can learn from that gilded sport is the obvious benefits of having a uniform kick-off time for every fixture on the final day of the season. The Premier League’s final Sunday was ‘Super’ because all the crazy antics occurring at the Etihad Stadium, or up on Wearside, or at the Britannia, were happening simultaneously within 90 intoxicating minutes.

Even if it is just in the name of fairness, next season’s Super League counterpart should follow a similar path of one, single designated time-slot.

Give the competition a finale it deserves instead of this mishmash spread over three days which only causes embarrassment.

But, given Salford cannot even play their final home game at ‘home’ due to Sale Sharks – hence the move to Leigh elsewhere in ‘Greater Manchester’ – that seems as likely as Keighley Cougars winning promotion.