Super League XVI – Quarter Finals

September 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Posted in Rugby League, Sport, Super League | Leave a comment
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The play offs didn’t really get started last week did they?  I did think that only one of last week’s games would throw up something exciting but I didn’t think it would be in Wigan.  We strive to have games like that in the knockout stages, where heroics are amplified and legacies are made.  I’m in agreement about the restructuring of the play offs and I favour the Australian model which is currently in use.

That’s a sensible version and it also helps to keep the top two apart unless they lose so if you are a top two team and you win all your games you would only face the other team in the final.  Under the top five system you have that one game where the top two face off in their first play off game (teams who finish second should not have to go to the league leaders for their first play off match, it doesn’t make sense) and the winner goes straight through but I think you should have to win more than one game to get to a Grand Final i.e. have two proper semi-finals so that one team doesn’t get a week off advantage over the other because we want our teams to be facing off in a context that isn’t undermined by structural issues like Team X had last weekend to rest and recuperate whilst Team Y didn’t.

I also like the Aussie system because it rewards you for finishing higher in the table.  We have to get rid of those 1v4 and 2v3 games as an opening round because they undermine the play off system by throwing huge games like those into the opening round when instead we should be building towards the pinnacle.  Currently the seeding system isn’t working properly that’s all.  It just needs shuffling to something more akin to a real battle for supremacy.

Before organised sport if you wanted to be the champion you had to seek out the best and beat them.  Every single round of Super League, every contest is a straight head-to-head test and what more fitting a way to be crowned champion than to have done it by beating the best.  Champions shouldn’t be selected on the basis of who has managed to win the higher percentage of victories.  They should be selected on who is able to climb the highest to perform because that’s what a champion performance is made of.

Champions are assessed not on how many they win it’s how they perform.  How they respond to adversity and the challenge of beating the best.You earn the champions tag through performance not consistency.  Consistency helps to put you in a position but when you go to war, when you go to battle it’s out on the field it’s decided mano-a-mano.  You shouldn’t learn that you’ve become champion because Tony Smith’s men have lost at a battle in Hull which means you win the title.  You should defeat them yourself.

You rise to the top and you stay there until somebody comes along and knocks you off your perch.  You only lose that spot when somebody beats you in the arena and not by suffering a depleted squad in the first ten games of the year.  To be a champion team you need to be special and not just lose less games than the team below you.  After all why wouldn’t you want your sports most important game of the season to be the last one?

The greatest moments in sport are created when the chips are down.  It’s when titans rise to the top.  It’s how we assess individual performance i.e. the ability to perform at the highest level and to the highest standard when it means the most.  When people talk of Wally Lewis, Darren Lockyer, Andrew Johns etc. they talk of them as champions because they have done it when it mattered and not because they managed to rattle up a six try haul vs Goldcoast Titans.  If we constantly assess our players’ legacies against their performance in games that matter why shouldn’t we do that with our teams also because we do.  Sean Long is considered a modern day Saints great.  Why?  Because he was a big game player.  Champions are made in the arena not on a league ladder.

This week we are presented with two closely matched games.

Huddersfield v Leeds
No real surprises last week for either of these two.  Maybe the size of Huddersfield’s defeat was an eye-opener but knowing they had another shot this week I can understand why they’d switch off after Wire’s hot start.  Leeds found it predictably easy and certainly go into this with the better form.  Can Huddersfield find something from somewhere because at the moment I cannot find a way into this game for them.  There is some hype hovering around Leeds and I’m keener to look at the run of weak opponents they’ve had than the results.  One of those opponents was the Giants in that final round.  Had Huddersfield slacked off?  The home fans are hoping they did.  The roll is with Leeds currently and though I can’t see them going all the way who knows where another win and a great start in the semi-final will lead.  Leeds.

Wigan v Catalans
Wigan’s defeat was not as catastrophic as Huddersfield’s.  It was a difficult loss to take near the end of a successful season.  Of greater concern was the look of fatigue.  Previously, in matches against Saints, energy levels remained high even in adversity and have been critical to securing two of the three wins Wigan had.  Will they have enough in the tank to hold off Catalans?  Rovers were nothing last week so they won’t have used up too much and should be fresh to face a team they’ve done the double over.  It takes a lot for me to back against the champions at home.  With the imposed media ban there’s a train of thought about this being a motivating tactic which might just work against Catalans.  Will it work next again next week?  And then the next?  Madge needs to squeeze every last drop out to get past here seems to be the thought and think Wigan have got more than that in them.  How much more we can guess again on Monday if we need to.  Wigan.

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