Now I must admit that I like the Super League playoff process… well, most of it. Remove that God-awful ‘club call pick a team to play even though we all know they’re gunna choose the lowest-ranked side’ rubbish and I think you’ve got a brilliant formula.
And we’ve seen pieces of magic that remind you just why you fell in love with the greatest game in the first place. The wide to West try, the Lee Briers (who, evidently, League Freak thinks is s!!t) drop goal at Headingley and Huddersfield’s Leroy Cudjoe’s breakaway try at Warrington last season to name just three. It’s bloody difficult to get to the final and only 4 clubs have ever won the damn thing; the late Terry Newton lost in 3 finals himself.
So basically, for those of you who, like me, forget how it actually works and have to brush up on it year-on-year: the top 4 teams contest 2 games, and the bottom half of the draw play in the other two matches. The highest-placed losers play the winners of the second half of the group; the highest-placed winners get a week in the sun and the losers from the bottom half of the group are done for the season.
I feel a bit for the fans of clubs who do not make the cut. Watching the playoffs when you’re not involved must be like watching Euro 2008 when the English football team failed to qualify. Which is exactly why I’m chuffed that my club, Hull KR squeezed in by a conversion. We’re playing Catalans away and Hull travel to Leeds. In the top half of the draw Warrington hosts Huddersfield and Saints go to Wigan.
I see it playing out like this:
Warrington beat Huddersfield by 20 points and get a week off. Hull KR, despite winning in France 2 weeks ago, lose marginally against the Frogs and Leeds sneak past Hull. Wigan beat Saints.
As the highest-placed loser of the first round, St Helens play the Lowest-ranked Elimination winner in Catalans and thump them. The lowest-placed loser, Huddersfield, then have to play Leeds and are eliminated after suffering a second home defeat against the Rhinos in the space of three weeks.
Warrington topped the table at the end of the regular season and opt to play Leeds (as they finished in the lowest regular season place of the teams remaining) and beat them handsomely to book a place in the final. Wigan, who had a week off, then meet St Helens again, through no choice of their own, and a packed out DW stadium see’s Michael Maguire’s men win by 10 points.
Warrington beat Wigan at Old Trafford in front of over 70,000 fans on Saturday October 8th to claim the SL grand final for the first time ever, and their first league title for God knows how long.
So sit back, crack the bevvys open, kick the missus out and get ready for the madness that is the 2011 playoff series to begin!