THE common consensus is whoever wins between Hull KR and Wakefield Trinity on Sunday will secure their Super League future but wary Robins chairman Neil Hudgell is not that naive.
As a good friend of Wakefield chief executive Michael Carter, he admits “messages have been exchanged” in recent days building up to the relegation battle at KCOM Craven Park.
With four games to go, both clubs, along with Huddersfield Giants, sit just two points above London Broncos in last spot.
As matters intensify, it is easy, then, to see why such importance has been placed on the fixture.
Moreover, as much as it is a twitchy time for the players involved, the owners – who have invested such money, effort and time into building up their clubs – are under even more pressure.
Hudgell, of course, has been through it all before, painfully suffering demotion after losing the Million Pound Game in the dying seconds against Salford Red Devils in 2016.
He dare not envisage another relegation. The year before that, on the other hand, Carter witnessed his nervous side edge past Bradford Bulls in the same fixture to secure their safety yet has seen them finish top-five in each of the last two campaigns.
He certainly did not envisage being at this end of the table again now but such has been the bizarre nature of the current Super League campaign that even illustrious Leeds Rhinos are embroiled in the mire.
Ahead of Sunday, Hudgell told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s a funny season; nothing’s guaranteed until the maths are done.
“If we think it’s done with a win we can potentially walk complacently into relegation like we did last time. Remember we have both still got London to play, so there’s four points up for grabs. It could still come down to points difference, and ours isn’t great currently. We have shown improvement most weeks under Tony (Smith), so we know it’s within us to get the job done.”
Wakefield, though ahead on points difference, have won just once in their last 11 league games and yesterday saw influential prop David Fifita ruled out for the rest of the season injured.
“I get on well with Michael and I respect what he’s done there massively,” added Hudgell.
“To get that club cash positive in those facilities, and so hugely competitive on the field has to be admired. He’s having it tough at the minute. I can relate to that.
“Like us he is expecting ground acquisition to provide a platform for growth. It has to. The game can not afford to lose responsible and passionate owners.
“We’ve exchanged messages the last few days. Whoever wins or loses, we’ll have a drink after; the camaraderie among most owners is bigger than the result.
“There’s no gloating in victory, mostly empathy for the loser.”
There is, of course, no Million Pound Game this year after the Qualifiers were disbanded in favour of the more traditional one-up, one-down form of promotion and relegation.
It was supposed to bring less uncertainty for the elite clubs yet, ironically, five are still mathematically under threat.
“Probably no one envisaged that,” conceded Hudgell.
“But I think that’s mostly down to (promoted) London confounding everyone, and huge credit to them.
“They where expected to be cut adrift a long time back. But they’ve kept picking up wins, including over us. They remind me of Hull KR in 2007 when we were tipped to go straight down.
“We’d a togetherness that’s never quite been replicated. Ironically in that ‘07 team was (London boss) Danny Ward!”
Meanwhile, Hudgell “hopes” that Smith, the former Leeds and Great Britain coach who arrived on a short-term deal in June, will agree to stay in 2020.
He said: “The signs are positive but we need get through the next few weeks first.
“Longer term I can see him making an impact on the club way beyond the playing group.”