IT’S the start of Super League’s play-offs this week – but it would be wrong not to start with that dramatic relegation battle.
I thought London Broncos probably had a really good chance of staying up with the way they have been playing.
I always felt they were playing with a little less pressure than everyone else; there was not as much expectation on them.
I knew that would be a real pressure-cooker match for Wakefield against them on Friday but Trinity seem to have handled it pretty well and did what they had to do to stay up –and send London down.
That win certainly helped some other clubs.
The relegation battle went down to the wire and that’s what you want if you are having relegation – four sides all battling. But the Broncos have been an excellent addition to Super League so it is a real shame that at the end they are going to be heading back into the Championship next year.
To anyone not involved in relegation it’s quite entertaining but it’s just those in the middle of it and particularly the club’s planning for the future, it makes it very, very difficult.Gareth Ellis
Danny Ward’s team, pictured, can hold their heads up high, though, knowing they gave it a really good shot.
Inevitably, it brings up the argument about promotion and relegation again especially as even those clubs who have survived will now find it hard having seen their futures not decided until so late in the day.
The argument comes from the teams in the Championship that have aspirations of being in Super League that they have little time to prepare to come up.
But for those who are in it already, it’s very hard to plan or build for five, six, seven years down the line as you just don’t know where that will be.
The difference between playing Super League and playing in the Championship is a million miles apart so it does make it difficult for those clubs who are playing year on year and in that danger.
If you want to grow Super League and have that forward-thinking – a 10-year plan where we want the competition to be – there is a very good argument for licensing.
I don’t think it’d be a bad thing making it a 12-team league and just play each other home and away, getting rid of the loop fixtures. It is probably the opinion of most people.
But the format has just been changed again for this year and we have lacked some stability. It’s important, too, that we get some stability in the structure of our game.
It just takes the edge of it; the competition almost lacks history because the format of it has changed so much. So, there is an argument for that.
To anyone not involved in relegation it’s quite entertaining but it’s just those in the middle of it and particularly the club’s planning for the future, it makes it very, very difficult.
As for the play-offs, you have to be in it to have a chance and we at Hull FC have no complaints at missing out.
We had our chances over the last four weeks to get in there. When you leave it to the last game of the season against the best team in the competition (St Helens) who have set records with the margin of how much they have won the League Leaders’ Shield by, you always leave yourself a tough task.
We have no complaints. Of the top-five, Salford Red Devils are the surprise package who have timed it well.
They have the toughest tie this week: Wigan Warriors away. I know Wigan finished second behind Saints but I wouldn’t even call them dark horses going into these play- offs.
I think they’re the favourites for a lot of people given the way they are playing and the winning-run they are on.
They have brought themselves to the boil at the right time. But the pressure will be more on Wigan than Salford come Friday.
Salford will go in with Jackson Hastings pulling the strings against the club he’s joining next year and I’m sure he’ll be wanting to impress. If he has a good game then Salford have a chance.
With the other tie, you’d probably go Warrington to beat Castleford on Thursday; the way they have played throughout the year – they were competing with Saints at the start – they showed what they can do.
Yes, they have probably had a bit of a hangover from winning the Challenge Cup but I feel that will be at the back of their minds now and they’ll be firmly focused on getting the win they need.
Finishing fourth, they don’t have a second chance. Castleford, having got ahead of us on points difference, will have no pressure on them.
They’ll fancy their chances but they will realise they’ll have to play better than they did at Wigan last week.
Warrington will be favourites but Cas have less to lose; they have got into the five and will be looking to have a crack.
Obviously today could be Mad Monday for a lot of rugby league players – the time they go out for a few drinks to mark the end of their season.
It’s probably changed a little bit now, though. It tends to just happen directly as your campaign concludes.
For us, with a Friday night game against Saints, a lot of us went straight out afterwards and had a few drinks together.
A few of the lads went out Saturday as well. I had a dinner at Myton Warriors, though, so I couldn’t join the boys.
But I think I’m a little bit past doing two nights running now! One night is enough for me.
Mad Monday has changed a little bit over the years; they are not quite to the wild extent of what they used to be.
I think these days, with the mobile phone culture, it’s difficult to get away with some of the stuff the lads used to get up to.
They behave themselves a little bit more.