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The greatest Grand Final there has ever been

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George Riley George Riley | 19:30 UK time, Monday, 10 October 2011

Of Leeds' record five Super League Grand Final victories, Saturday's was by far the most remarkable. A disjointed, troubled campaign blighted by early-season injuries and a growing lack of confidence from fans in the coach was rescued by a stunning run to a barely believable Old Trafford success.

Written off all season, and again in the final at 16-8 down, Leeds produced something very special to come out on top. You have to feel for St Helens, who have now lost in five successive Grand Finals, four of them to the Rhinos. The image of young Jamie Foster lying face buried in the drenched turf as Zak Hardaker evaded his ankle-tap to score on the hooter is still vivid.

Saints youngsters have been a revelation this year. Perhaps this was a season too soon and they will no doubt return stronger. Maybe the outcome would have been different had Paul Wellens and try-scorer Michael Shenton not gone off injured, reducing a Saints side who had produced a near perfect 20-minute purple patch to hold sway after half-time to a tiring defensive line through which the rampant Rhinos ran riot.

But you just got the feeling that Leeds were going to prove their knockers wrong with the ultimate achievement, an unprecedented triumph from fifth in the table.

Leeds hold the Grand Final trophy aloft

Dismissed all season by the experts, Leeds produced something special at Old Trafford. Photo: Getty

Rob Burrow, Super League's smallest player, produced the best performance of his life to light up what in my view was the greatest Grand Final there has ever been with its greatest ever try. In our commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, John Kear likened the score to Jason Robinson's famous try for Wigan against Leeds in 1998.

Brian McDermott's insistence on using Burrow as an impact sub rather than a starter has also been questioned. But the form it has triggered from the scrum-half has been exceptional. The break and sidestep away from Wellens for his try was stunning but arguably eclipsed by the break and dummy past Francis Meli which ended with Ryan Hall going over for the game's key score.

The match was also a triumph for video technology, with officials using it to great effect in some crucial calls. Andrew Dixon was denied a try for Saints, Brent Webb rightly awarded one for Leeds, while Tom Makinson was handed a score that no-one inside Old Trafford had seen. Referee Phil Bentham wanted to check the award of a drop-out after Webb had appeared to guide the ball behind but video official Ben Thaler spotted that Makinson had actually got his hand to the ball for the strangest of tries. A brilliant bit of work by the officials.

My main emotions as I witnessed the celebrations and commiserations from the rain-soaked Old Trafford touchline were a strange mix of pride and deflation. Five successive Grand Final defeats is tough on Saints. Sometimes sport is just not fair.

I was absolutely made up, though, for Rhinos coach McDermott and man-of-the-match Burrow. McDermott was being booed by the Leeds fans in the last home game of the season. Angry and miffed, he vowed to prove his doubters wrong. Beneath that iron exterior is a pretty sensitive guy. Even his chief executive Gary Hetherington, who deserves credit for backing his under-fire coach unreservedly, tells me McDermott needs to develop thicker skin.

But my main pride as a rugby league fan and journalist fighting to gain the sport the recognition I feel it deserves was that we had seized our opportunity to show the world what a great game ours is. For the first time ever, our entire Saturday 5 live Sport show was based at Old Trafford and our commentary live on the station, too. This was a thrill for me and I was so pleased the spectacle lived up to the billing. Reading back through Twitter messages on Saturday, there were plenty from first-time fans who are now hooked and that is brilliant.

Saint Helens' Jamie Foster lying on the ground

Jamie Foster lying face buried in the drenched turf still lingers in the memory. Photo: Getty

It was a game that also vindicated the play-off system. I still believe that six teams rather than eight should make the play-offs but the epic theatre produced by a Grand Final in front of 70,000 supporters should never be removed.

There was some bad blood, however. St Helens forward Jon Wilkin was angered - again - by Ryan Bailey's actions at the end of the game, arguing that the Leeds forward showed a lack of class when celebrating victory. Bailey is far from popular and I can see Wilkin's point but Rhinos fans will see his comments as sour grapes.

Both Bailey and Wilkin were selected in an intriguing-looking 24-man England squad for the Four Nations. There is youth, experience and a bit of foreign blood in there. As expected Rangi Chase, Chris Heighington and Jack Reed are in, while I'm looking forward to seeing how good a player Gareth Ellis has become during his time in the NRL.

Leeds are rewarded with seven players in the squad, underlining their remarkable run of form given that not a single player made the Super League dream team. Eyebrows were raised by the exclusion of Burrow and Ryan Atkins but Burrow always planned to get his rib injury sorted while Atkins tells me he made himself unavailable for personal reasons. That excuse was also used by Wigan's Joel Tomkins, who now looks increasingly likely to quit league for union.

The shock inclusion in Steve McNamara's squad was Leeds second-rower or centre Carl Ablett, who was supposed to be jetting off to Las Vegas for his stag do this week. Maybe that can wait.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Leeds and Saints should have never been there.
    Warrington and Wigan have been the best sides all season.
    The play-offs are a joke.

  • Comment number 2.

    "It was a game that also vindicated the play-off system"

    A playoff system that saw how many one-sided borefests?

    I think the game of RL in general was lucky to get this decent game as a finale (despite all the gaps in the crowd), but it's papering over the cracks of a broken product right down to amateur game. You can guarantee in three weeks time there'll be a call for a review of the whole game after England get soundly beaten by Aua & NZ, and fail to hammer Wales.

  • Comment number 3.

    Brilliant game and excellent BBC coverage. John Kear, Brian Noble especially are the best pundits in any sport. Leeds surely feel like they have won a cup competition rather than the league after that run of results following 5th place finish. Warrington must be regarded as the best team over the season.

  • Comment number 4.

    Great article George. For all the haters and moaners, why cant we see, like George, how much of a great spectacle this was for the sport of Rugby League? YEs Warrington and Wigan were the best two sides of the elague, but this is play off football. Leeds have won it from 2nd, and if im correct Bradford won it from third. So instead of Wire and Warriors fans complaining that the play offs are a joke, see what this final has done to raise the profile of our great game, and look in to how much money is made from the play offs and the Grand Final for all of our clubs.

  • Comment number 5.

    Congratulations to the Rhinos. The only team to play every round of both competitions, and to win the Super League and come runners up in the Cup is a great season for them. When Shenton scored in the second half after 10minutes of non-stop St Helens pressure it felt like the dam was about to burst, but Leeds have players who can score from nothing and Rob Burrow was just in a zone that we usually only see Australian half backs in. The injuries came at crucial times for Saints as well and they visibily grew more and more tired as the game suddenly slipped away from them. Feel sorry for them with the season they've had coping with horrendous injuries and bringing the youngsters through.
    Yes Warrington and Wigan were better over the full regular season but Leeds beat the Wolves at Warrington a fortnight ago and Saints beat Wigan home and away in the past four weeks so amongst the top four or five teams there isn't a massive gap between them. The League Leaders shield was awarded to Warrington for winning the league so they got their reward for consistency. Would still love to have seen them pick up the big one though.

  • Comment number 6.

    Great piece of journalism to go with what you wrote about a great game,one think i dont understand is fans know the rules before the season starts so comments like the play offs being a joke are a bit silly especially when those same fans wanted their team to win them whilst they were in the competition,dont think when Wigan won last year they thought it was a joke or when Tony Smith took Leeds to the finals neither did he.Sport all ways throws up an underdog every now and then that's whats great about it but just remember Leeds bad start to the season due to injury's,without that we may have started from position one,just as we finished......

  • Comment number 7.

    Unbelievable....I was on a plane flying home so missed the game, but watching the highlights packages even knowing the result, don't think I could have sat through it live.

    The usual whinings above from supporters of teams who finished higher in the league (or should we call it 'the qualifying ladder'?).

    Don't forget when reading this that George is a Rhinos fan, and he's done as well as he can in his article to contain his delight.

    PS...Ryan Bailey....decent player, but you wouldn't want him in your pub quiz team.....

  • Comment number 8.

    Sorry George, as fantastic a game as it was, it did nothing whatsoever to "Vindicate" the play off system.

    The team that people will remember this season is Leeds. The very same Leeds that finished a staggering 13 points behind minor premiers Warrington, who in the process scored over 300 points more than the Rhinos and conceded over 200 points less.
    Thats a staggering difference of over 500 points during the course of the season. Leeds in the regular season only won 55% of their games yet are deemed to be the pinnacle of our sport now. I think the rest of the Superleague would have loved a playoff run of the very much out of sorts Hull at home, an ever fatiguing Huddersfield away. I won't take anything away from the performances away at Warrington or Saints in the Grand Final. They were staggering but to be crowned the best team in the country off what amounts to 2 games... well it's beyond belief!
    Saints on the other hand had two physically and mentally fatiguing clashes against fierce rivals Wigan... 6 times these two great rivals faced off this season. You are right George, Sport isn't fair and until this unfairness is dealt with RL will be seen to be a laughing stock by our supposed rivals for tv airtime.


    I see Garry Schofield was gloating on twitter that a team can get to Wembley and win the Grand Final. Well I am sure Leeds run of Cas, Hull, Quins and Crusaders although all Super League clubs, isn't really a comparison to Wigans run of Saints Warrington Bradford and Barrow (Barrow being the only weak side and the only one at the DW)

    My final point which shows you why it is wrong to base the Playoffs as the be all and end all of defining the Champions of our sport. If you say that Wigan Saints and Warrington are the other major teams (Reasonable enough i think considering Wigan won the Challenge Cup, Warrington the Minor Premiership and Saints the rivals for the Grand Final) Leeds REGULAR season record against these clubs reads
    Played 6 - Won 0 - Drawn 1 - Lost 5.
    Yet all we will see is the fact that 2011 Super League Champions = Leeds.

  • Comment number 9.

    Brilliant game and thanks for the article and the coverage.

    However your analysis of video technology leading to a "brilliant bit of work from the officials" is entirely wrong. Whether or not Makenson marginally knocked on, what was 100% certain from the video replay was that Brent Webb was in contact with the ball (with his chest) while his legs and feet were over the dead-ball line. The clear rule is that the ball is dead before Makenson even got a hand to it. No try: drop out, not even a debate.

    I can understand supporters or even commentators not knowing the rules of the game, but a full-time referee really should, and, not for the first time, the Video Review system has served only to give an official a different opporunity to display his incompetence.

    It didn't effect the result, so nobody's made a big deal about it, but let's not pretend that black is white and that it was an example of brilliant officiating.

  • Comment number 10.

    I thought it was a cracking match and yes, Warrington were best team over the season but the play-offs are always going to bring up some odd results. It doesn't seem to bother our Anzac cousins that the NZ Warriors (finished 6th I think) made the NRL Final does it?

    Rather than ranting about whether play-offs are fair, I am more concerned about players like Joel Tomkins going to Union to get bored for a couple of years. Can't English Union develop any talent who can run, sidestep and pass the ball? Well given the rubbish served up down under, I think we know the answer.

  • Comment number 11.

    Had the Super League been a first past the post league format, the season would have been dead for most teams well before the end. That's not a problem for Premier league football with a large guaranteed fan base and a huge TV deal, but rugby league is one of the other sports below fighting for a bigger slice of the pie. The play offs add to the product, create drama and generate extra interest. I'm constantly reading people saying that we don't have anything to match State of Origin as a step up in intensity, yet people here are asking for a reduction in sudden death rugby!

  • Comment number 12.

    10. At 10:00 11th Oct 2011, dirtygumshield wrote:
    Rather than ranting about whether play-offs are fair, I am more concerned about players like Joel Tomkins going to Union to get bored for a couple of years.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Exactly. If the figures being banded about are true (Joel reportedly being offered an increase from 80k at Wigan to 400k with Saracens then we are pretty powerless as that takes up a 1/4 of the cap). Then how do we stop it. Wigan seem to be affected more than most by the RU (possibly because the likes of Mike Ford, Andy Farrell, Shaun Edwards, even Ray Unsworth at Sale) but it doesn't bode well with Superleague leaking talent to the NRL and the RFU at an ever increasing pace.
    Sad thing is Joel has won the GF and the Challenge Cup, what else can we offer him apart from a spanking by the Aussies every few years.. Nothing.

  • Comment number 13.

    As has been pointed out elsewhere the playoffs and Grand Final were introduced in the Super League to generate more interest and more money from TV contracts.

    It has worked, though it does mean from time to time teams that were not top of the table will win the Super League and win the plaudits.

    That may seem unjust, but try and remember how backward RL was before the Super League. Our sport was a joke outside of Lancs/Yorks.

    As a Rhino fan I was always impressed by the Bulls (under Noble) who had a shocker of a season until midway, and was on the wrong end of a few thumpings, but then showed great managerial skill and determination from the players to have a blinder in the second half of the season, finish third (I think) then win the Grand Final. Statistically not the best team over the course of the full season but worthy winners in my mind, even though it was against my team who finished above them.

  • Comment number 14.

    What a Disgrace Super League as become, Wigan were forced to play a world club challenge game in the middle of a regular season whilst other teams had a week off and then had to make up the fixture in a mid week game, as well as the bank holiday fixture build up and all the challenge cup games, did Wigan actually have a week off at all this season?? But yet after playing all these games and finishing 2nd in the league by only a point we still have people banging on about how good Saints and Leeds have been this season. The Grand final should be contested by the top two teams, who this season blew every other team away and thats Wigan and Wrarrington.

  • Comment number 15.

    Not the greatest final ever. First half was dire. And it proved what Jose said that 'the best team doesn't always win'. But Leeds are Super League Champions and everyone knows the rules. Wigan were obviously out on their feet as #14 points out and Wire underestimated Leeds (though I don't mind too much, cos I bet on Leeds to win SL before the Wire game). Wire and Wigan are the best two teams by a mile. St Helens not far behind and then Leeds.

    Agree that Joel leaving is worrying - how long before Sam goes as well, which would be a massive loss to the game, never mind Wigan.

    As for the play-offs - I like them. It means that you can have a few off weeks and still win the competition. Also adds to the game - but it needs changing. Only the semis were worth watching. Maybe just have top 4 playing for the title or straight knockout 1 v 8, 2 v 7 and so on.

  • Comment number 16.

    Wigan didn't blow away Saints in the semi did they?

    The Wire didn't blow away Leeds in the semi did they?

    Both choked under pressure.

  • Comment number 17.

    No way of determining champions is ever totally fair. Wigan finished second to Warrington in the League, but had to play every round of the cup, the WCC and a midweek fixture, not to mention having to play the Wolves the week after the Wembley final. So had Wire won would the league really have shown the "best" team?
    Every team knows that the object is to win the grand final and Leeds have done it and deserve to be Champions.

  • Comment number 18.

    What a tremendous advert for the Superleague! After listening to the Wire on the wireless in the pub all season, I was delighted to get the Grand Final on satellite television here in Malaysia. I watched the game when I got back from the pub next door, and again in the morning, and it was even better without the six pints! Of course, if I'd known it was going to be on TV, I'd have been even more distraught when Warrington were knocked out...
    I agree with others that the League Leaders' Shield should be built up more, but the play-offs make for a great climax to the season; although this season there was excitement right to the end all down the top half of the table, this is not necessarily the case in a league, and the play-offs make every position important.
    It might be a good idea to have something similar for relegation as well, to keep the lower teams on their toes...

  • Comment number 19.

    16.At 11:21 11th Oct 2011, The Desert Ferret wrote:
    Wigan didn't blow away Saints in the semi did they?

    The Wire didn't blow away Leeds in the semi did they?

    Both choked under pressure.

    .............................................................................................................
    Or maybe Warrington and Wigan ran out of steam after consistanly putting in solid winning performances over the WHOLE season? Not just ambling from mediocre performance to another like Leeds (who were incidently booed regulary by there knuckle head fans). Them two idiots on sky were actually saying after the match on Saturday that 'Leeds have proved yet again that they are the best team in the league' !
    If Leeds would of lost that semi to wire, there would of been a mass clear-out called for by the fans after another disappointing season!

  • Comment number 20.

    "If Leeds would of lost that semi to wire, there would of been a mass clear-out called for by the fans after another disappointing season!"

    But they didn't lose the semi.

    Every team knows the rules at the start of the season. The aim is to win the Grand Final to become Champions. Not win the league leaders shield. Obviously, the better you do during the regular season, the easier your route to the final should be (home games, playing the lower teams etc...)

    The playoffs need looking at in regards of their format (if there is a top 8, why not have 1 v 8, 2 v 7 etc.. and have it seeded all the way through like in NFL or NHL so the strongest team is always at home to the weakest). But no one can have any complaints that Leeds are the Champions. The rules were set at the start, and Leeds timed their run to perfection.

    And it was a great game on Saturday.

  • Comment number 21.

    As a southerner born and bred , all I can say what an excellent game of Rugby League the Grand Final was. Being a football season ticket holder and in the area where union is the main form of Rugby played, many people , including the wife wanted to know why I watched it. Answer - if you wanted to see running Rugby, excitement , tension, dispair it had it all.

    Compare the Grand Final to the curent bore fest in New Zealand, no comparision. It's just a shame that League is not the main game world wide, instead of Union.

    Also can someone explain what a 40/20 is. I understand mosr rules but this one goes over my head

  • Comment number 22.

    Can I remind all you whingers that this was the 16th play off Grand Final and not the first. That means that this concept has been around in one format or another for quite a long time now. Personally I'm surprised that it has taken this long for a team to come from the bottom half of the play-offs to win it but there you are it has happened.
    I admit Leeds were nowhere near as good as Warrington and Wigan over the course of the season and their reward was to fight it out for the League Leaders Shield - well done Wolves you deserved it. Then there starts another competition for the Grand Final just like there has been for the previous 15 seasons. Warrington and Wigan were rewarded for their league finishes by playing their matches at home and neither of them were good enough to take advantage of this in these one-off matches.
    Leeds came into form just at the right time and Brian McDermott is a genius in my opinion for masterminding this timing (can I say at this point that I was not one of the fans who booed him at the end of the Wakefield game). Titles are not won in February, March or in fact September but in October at Old Trafford and every player, official and fan knows this.
    So get over it and give Leeds the recognition they deserve. The match was a superb advert for RL especially given that farce played by the other code on Saturday morning.
    Saints and Leeds were there on merit because they put themselves in a position to take part in the play-offs and then won all their games to reach the GF. Warrington and Wigan only got the first part right.
    Well done Saints - your club and fans are a credit to RL and your time will come again.
    Leeds - you are an amazing club and it was an honour and priviledge to cheer you on last Saturday.
    Now I can't wait for February when we do it all again!!!

  • Comment number 23.

    Woodley..

    40 20 rule is that if a team makes a kick from inside their own 40 metre area and the ball bounces and then goes out of play in their opponents 20 metre area, then instead of the scrum being awarded to the defensive team, the attacking (kicking) team gets the head and feed at the scrum. It's a way of rewarding attacking kicking.

  • Comment number 24.

    40/20 is where a kicker kicks the ball before his own 40m line and it bounces into touch (not on the full, has to bounce) in the opposing last 20m of the field.

    The kickers team then gets put in at the resulting scrum and tackle count goes back to 6 as well.

    And you're right - was more entertaining than yawnion - we forget how lucky we are. Try and get to a game. Will blow your socks off.

  • Comment number 25.

    What would peoples feelings be if next season Warrington had an excellent start and didn't lose a game and basically started to run away with it, and then teams like Wigan and Saints who were second and third started to rest players in july and August so that their players were fresh for the play-offs? This is why rugby league is looked at by other sports and laughed at, because it is flawed and you can have mediocre teams like Leeds who had a shocking 55% win record, lifting the major showpeice and representing our country in the world club challenge? It'll be like Everton representing the premier league vs Barcelona !
    Who cares how great the game was? The sport is suffering and blinded fans can't see it.

  • Comment number 26.

    What a mug sumo82 is... Leeds have consistently been the best team in super league of the last 5 years. Admittedly they didn't have a good season, they were desperately unlucky at Wembley against Wigan and have gone from strength to strength.
    The Grand Final proved what an open and exciting sport RL is, you wouldn't be getting a team outside the top 3 in the Premier League winning anything like that.

    The Playoffs were designed for a reason and what an advert for RL that was.

  • Comment number 27.

    I think its quite timely that when, yet again, rugby league fans are criticising innovation in the game (the play-offs), yet another of its brightest young stars (Joel Tomkins) is off to Union

    It's always going to happen. We can try and match salaries like Sts did with Eastmond, but RU offers a lot more than just money.

    Their World Cup in front of sell out crowds, even for the minnow nations, the Heineken Cup, premiership games taken to Wembley and Twickenham. Or he can stay in league, play in front of 4k fans for England v France, a whole 14k against the Exiles with England fans booing his brother, a 3rd full Millennium Stadium at Magic when every SL club is playing, or 5k at the DW in a key play-off game against Catalan.

    So he can have the glamour and camaraderie of union or the parochialism of league. RL fans need to look at themselves before they villainise Joel Tomkins, as no doubt they now will.

    In the last year Tomkins has played in a Challenge Cup Final and a Grand Final. What else has RL got to offer him? A stint in the NRL maybe, but why leave friends and family behind when union can offer him so much here?

    It's a shame, but we'll keep loosing these players if RL doesn't grow in prestige and in income generation (via sponsorship and bigger TV deals that come with sell-out events), but RL fans seem so resistant to it. Please stop knocking innovation in our game and embrace it

  • Comment number 28.

    @ Post 25 - Exactly Sumo82 - Couldn't have worded it better yet I tried. Leeds basically saying to season ticket holders. "Well lads as long as we win about 15 games we will get into playoffs so we won't try for the other half of the season"
    Talk about ripping your loyal fans off! Yes we all know the rules. Yes it is a knockout competition at the end, but to describe Leeds as CHAMPIONS of the British game is laughable. Leeds are the "Premiership" winners when all is said and done, but as Sky rule the roost they deem that as more important than consistently beating your rivals. Something Leeds managed to do in 2 games out of 9 (Saints and Wire in Playoffs as opposed losing to Wire, Saints, Wigan in the league and cc final and drawing once against Wigan in reg rounds)

  • Comment number 29.

    Sumo82 your correct, the league as been had this season with teams like Leeds and Saints playing against the rules! Leeds purposely rested players like Danny Mcguire and Jamie Peacock (faking injuries) at the beginning of the season so they would be fresh at later stages along with resting guys like Rob Burrow(so called selling him) and Keith Senior(made up injury) later in the season AND St Helens resting Leon Pryce, Paul Wellens and Ade Gardner so they had a fresher side later on. Its people like Wigan and Warrington i feel sorry for fielding the strongest sides at all times! You dont see this kind of behaviour in Rugby Union and thats why the English rugby Union side are doing so well, and our league national team are poor.

  • Comment number 30.

    Without the play-offs, how would you get the thrilling climax to the season that the Grand Final gives you? After the Challenge Cup, it would just be a nail-biting 'hang-in-there' ordeal for a couple of teams, and the rest could concentrate on their marbles. As it was, everyone down to Castleford was struggling right up to the last game of the league. Maybe all the teams should be involved in the play-offs, and they could make the competition rules even more arcane... This was the only Superleague game shown here, and it was a far more entertaining spectacle than the NRL Grand Final; only the State of Origin games came close, and my own nationalistic interests in the World Cup in New Zealand.

  • Comment number 31.

    @Streetcowboy.
    Exactly (but inadvertantly) We are promoting the idea that mediocrity is ok. I know how about we ask all teams to perform as well as they can, week in, week out, and the team that outperforms their rivals on more occasions than most gets to be known as the best!. Crazy I know. Instead you get lots of mediocre teams playing within themselves as they know they will qualify for the end of season showcase, where they will promptly get battered by the top teams....

  • Comment number 32.

    A hearty congratulations to Leeds on winning a classic final. You've had a terrific run since losing to us at Wembley. Well done Saints for playing your part in the drama too.

    You can't really argue with the concept of deciding the title with a big end of season finale, not when it produces such a great contest and spectacle. I do think it would be worth tinkering with the play-off structure a bit more though - less teams involved and more evenly fought / must win games being the priority.

    I also hope the most is made from a PR point of view of that great final game of this season. So often you hear the phrase 'great advert for the game' after a Rugby League match is played, but what good is a great advert if nobody gets to see it.

    Roll on next season. Come on Wigan!!

  • Comment number 33.

    Without the playoffs how would you get the thrilling climax to the season that the grand final gives you??????
    What are you on about???? That is the whole point of a league!!
    A league is to reward the team that plays better in the early and middle stages of a season not just the end!
    If you want the thrills and spills of a knockout competition, then watch the challenge cup?
    We shouldn't be mixing them up, to raise the profile of the game.
    A major sponsor would probably be put off investing into the super league, because the game is so un-stable the big wigs can change the rules/format whenever it suits them, people who invest don't like an unpredictable market.

  • Comment number 34.

    mickysausage - I can't make my mind up whether you're (notice the spelling here!!) trying to use irony as a form of humour or as I suspect just a little bit dim.
    Faking injuries eh!! JP and Danny Mags out for the first part of the season with very highly publicised injuries. Had they been fit and available then Leeds would definitely have pushed Wolves and Wigan all the way. Keith Senior has a made up injury does he? Is that why he played such a vital part in our play-off campaign and Grand Final? Oh wait a minute he didn't!! And when was Rob Burrow rested - oh yes, he sat on the bench at the start of the match and then ran rings around the opposition when he came on.
    I'm not sure who or if you support but IMO you're (again spelt correctly) a bit of a muppet.
    And finally - have you actually watched any of the kick and run exponents in that so-called World Cup? By saying that the English RU side are doing so well I'm afraid you have totally discredited anything else you may have to say.

  • Comment number 35.

    As a Cas fan, I am still gutted about the semi final defeat to Leeds, so seeing them win the grand final is another kick in the teeth...

    ...I personally don't like the play-off's as Wigan and Warrington were consistently the best teams over the course of the season, and the argument that 'lucky/bad decisions even themselves out over the season' surely carries no weight if you get all your luck during the knock-out period!?...

    ...Anyway, for a team like Castleford, we don't have the resources to challenge for top spot, so the play-off's keep life interesting up until the last kick of the last game (even though we did blow it this year!)....

    ...Roll on next season, and let's see how Ian Millward gets on.

  • Comment number 36.

    ...29.At 14:05 11th Oct 2011, mickysausage wrote:

    You dont see this kind of behaviour in Rugby Union and thats why the English rugby Union side are doing so well, and our league national team are poor.

    ...That doesn't make any sense.. Unless you are being sarcastic, and even then it doesn't make any sense?? What does resting players for club games have to do with the form of the national team, and how does getting drunk and jumping off ferries etc after being humiliated by France for the first 40 minutes of a game show that "the English rugby union side are doing so well" !?!?!?

  • Comment number 37.

    My main gripe is the 8 club play off as oppose to the 6 club format. The top six works alot better as it gives the top 2, 2 genuine bites at the cherry and is more weighted in favour of the top 2 getting to the final. Also, the "club call" this year ,which is somehow meant to be an advantage, was barely that this year. Both Wigan and Leeds would have been dangerous picks to make for different reasons. Warrington were never going to risk picking 2nd placed Wigan in a play off.

    And finally having teams who finish in the bottom half of the league taking part in the end of season play-off for the title is a farce and an attempt just to keep mediocre teams interested with no relegation to fear.

    Having said that the try from Burrow was one of those magic moments that even as a neutral make you remember why we love the game.

  • Comment number 38.

    Sumo82- Joel Tomkins doesn't seen to horrified at the idea of Saracens being RU champions despite finishing 2nd in the table - he gonna join them.

    It amazes me that people pretend that RL is the only sport with play-offs. Football is virtually the only sport that doesn't domestically, but very much does use this sort of system for their 'Champions League', and RL fans are the first people to slag off football. What a mixed up bunch we are!


    A 21st century sport lives and breathes by it's well-branded TV-orientated competitions (Premier League, Champions League, Heineken Cup). Yet RL fans never stop moaning about ours.

  • Comment number 39.

    To be honest, I think that one of the reasons rugby is less popular than soccer is that there is less chance of the underdog winning; results are much more predictable; so there is less to hope for, and, for the same reason, its unlikely to prove popular in Asia - less opportunity for gambling.

  • Comment number 40.

    38. At 15:09 11th Oct 2011, Non-ChavGav wrote:

    Well if someone came to you and said. Hey, you can do pretty much the same job, just a few variations and I will give you 5 times your current salary, would you say no. I would think if you asked Joel where Saracens were in the league table he wouldn't have a scooby. Probably the only thing he would know is that they play RU, Andy Farrells a coach there and its in London.

    Look at the other playoff models. Champions league... well you have to achieve at least a great deal of consistency to qualify for them... PLUS Manchester United are still CHAMPIONS of England, but Barcelona Champions of Europe. It didn't devalue Manchester Uniteds domestic achivements.
    NFL. Yes the superbowl champions are determined by a playoff but you HAVE to have won far more than 55% of your games to qualify.
    Show me a playoff system where such medicority is encouraged as it is in RL.

  • Comment number 41.

    I have to say it was a thoroughly enjoyable game to watch. I'm a big fan of the play offs, I think the added drama is needed to keep everyone interested, if the wire had wrapped up the league back in august would there have been any interest in the rest of the matches after the CC final?? I think not and the GF is such a spectacle for our game it would be a tragedy to lose it.

    However the format of 8 teams should be reduced (only 3 of the playoff games were contests) and the 'clubcall' will always be a joke!

    By the way everyone, mickeysausage was being sarcastic.

  • Comment number 42.

    If you think the League is so much more important than the Play-Offs, why are you building the play-offs up so much? We're the League Leaders, and no-one can take that away from us. We might have lost a couple of crucial MUST-WIN games against Wigan and Leeds in the course of the season, but we won twenty-two ordinary run-of-the-mill games out of 27. I'm more proud of the fact that we scored over a thousand points in the league, and had a points difference more than two hundred points better than our nearest rivals.
    Let's face it - Finals rugby is special. And I'm glad that this was the game I got to see, though I was considering going to Dubai to watch the Challenge Cup Final... Perhaps if people spent less time whinging, and more time building up the excitement and joy in the sport, it might prosper. I mean let's face it - to average almost 40 points a game!

  • Comment number 43.

    41.At 15:39 11th Oct 2011, coup1 wrote:

    By the way everyone, mickeysausage was being sarcastic.



    ... But still isn't funny, nor does it make any sense in the context of any of the above discussion...

  • Comment number 44.

    I understand that it keeps some teams interested until late on in the season but you can't keep everybody happy, as i said before that is the beauty of a league, you have some teams challenging at the top and some teams battling relegation, but that also leaves a chunk of mid table teams who unfortunatley are left in between.

  • Comment number 45.

    Great match, worthy of being called a Grand Final.

    The play off system worked perfectly - why bother at all if 1 and 2 are going to always make it?

    @coup, only 3 of the playoffs were contests? I would say at least 5 were! Even comparing to the NRL, there were only 5 playoff matches that were contests.

    Too bad BBC didn't give it the coverage it deserved, no live text commentary unlike previous years. Maybe they were all busy covering Georgia v Namibia or something...

  • Comment number 46.

    689908, only point I was trying to make to sumo is that he suggested using play-offs makes RL a joke. I was just trying to point out that RU uses play-offs, and RU is seen as a massive success story, generating enough money to cherry PCM our best players.

    The current play-off structure for me is just a temporary structure while their is no P&R. That will return once enough clubs meet liscencing criteria, with promotion being acheived by the winning team in the Championship if they meet criteria. I'd bet that relegation would come with parachute payments to ensure the clubs with the right facilities are super-competitive once relegated, and a reduction in the size of SL, to improve the intensity of the competition and provide the championship with enough clubs with the right facilities to get promoted. The RFL is being coy about this to mean that the likes of Wakey don't try and blag there way to the end of SL liscencing without making the required improvements.

    So the current play-off structure is just a temporary measure to keep an over-sized and relegation free SL exciting to the final day for most teams (see HKR v Cas). In a 12 team SL you would have top 8 fighting for 6 play-offs and 4 teams fighting relegation.

    Other sports have European qualification to add to the excitement of a league campaign. We don't. So all the more need for play-offs. Growing pains of a sport being dragged into the 21st century, but if we don't investors and sponsors will want less and less to do with RL. Give em sell out competitions and events, clubs with 21st century facilities they can invest in, and parachute payments to mean relegation doesn't mean financial ruin, and RL is a very investible landscape. We aren't that far away now ...

  • Comment number 47.

    45.At 16:18 11th Oct 2011, arzr wrote:

    The play off system worked perfectly - why bother at all if 1 and 2 are going to always make it?
    ..........................................................................................................

    Because they deserved to be there. I can't beleive people think that the play-offs are the fairest way to end a season?
    If pepole are so obsessed with having an 'end of season thriller' in a knockout format then the challange cup should be moved back to play the final after the league is finished (like football with the FA cup).
    Would all the Leeds fans be happy with Leeds doing this every season? Under-performing in the league and then hitting form to win the grand final?
    If i were a Leeds fan i'd feel it to be a shallow victory personally.

  • Comment number 48.

    @watzinho and everyone else on here i am being deadly serious and i genuinley think that Leeds and Saints were deliberatly resting players to give them more chance of success when it came down to the business end of the season, lets get things clear here Leeds and Saints's reserves could probably get into the top 8 anyway and that is all that is needed. What needs to happen here is we should have the Super League as the league, Challenge cup as like an FA Cup, and then maybe have a grand final tournament (European cup type format) throughout the season were the 14 teams will play for the Grand Final Trophy at the End. This will surely create more revenue and interest and stop the farce of this season when two teams like Warrington And Wigan slogged it out all season to be rewarded with nothing!

  • Comment number 49.

    I agree with mickeysausage, the league is de-valued by the grand final, I think Warrington should of been the team with the live television game and the fireworks and the column inches for scoring over 1000 pts, winning 22 of there 27 games, having by far the best points difference, beating every team in the league at least once and finishing top of the pile. Not the team that lost 11 games and finshed with a points difference of over 500 off the leaders and 13 ponts off the pace.
    That is the whole point of a league!
    It seperates the best from the rest.

  • Comment number 50.

    All i can hear is a load of Wigan and Warrington fans Boo Hooing.

    Have some self respect. Just because Wigan and Warrington have had things thier own way all season, you throw a wobbeler when things dont.

    The fact is neither teams have had major injury problems this season, where Leeds and Saints have. Leeds at one point having 11 first teamers out. Did we cry or moan, no our players just got on with it and shut all the critics up showing that when we have a fully fit team we are the best in the business.

    The fact is that the playoffs have been going for 16 years each team and fan knows exactally what to expect and if you are moaning that your teams are tired out at the end of the season then that clearly shows that they didnt deseve to win the Grand Final as only a championship team can win when it really counts.

  • Comment number 51.

    Instead of bagging Leeds as being mediocre consider this: prior to Saturday 24 out of 26 Grand Finalists came from the top 2, the only 2 teams to miss out were an inexperienced 2nd placed Leeds in 03 and an injury hit 1st placed Saints in 05. Wigan and Wire have neither of those excuses. Home advantage and a second bite of the cherry has been enough for every other finalist. Wire and Wigan were just not good enough when it mattered.
    As for fatigue Leeds have played every round of super league, every round of the cup, the cup final, every round of the play offs and the final. In the second half they were without the ball for 20 minutes yet finished like a runaway train.

    Champion teams find a way to win.

  • Comment number 52.

    @ 40.

    Considering you can finish 4th in the Premier League and can become Champions of Europe the next season, football is a poor example to use to back your point up.

    Also, in last seasons NFL, Seattle qualified for the playoffs (and won a playoff game) having won less than half of their games.

  • Comment number 53.

    Leeds had Peacock & McGuire out for virtually the entire first half of the season. McGuire even when back played injured and had a relapse. Finally back the problem was positions players were playing in - Sinfield 6, McGuire 7 or off bench, Burrows split hooking with Buderus, Ablett at centre, Delaney at 2RF. Lots of effort but it was not working. In Challenge cup final there was still 2 hookers and sinfield at 6. Against Warrington Sinfield started at 6, McGuire at 7, Clarkson 13, Burrows bench but after 20 mins Clarkson goes off Sinfield goes to 13, McGuire to 6, Burrows to 7 and Buderus plays the full game. Just as important the bench now has 4 recognised forwards - prop + 3 2RF. This additional weight to counter Warringtons pack made the difference. Hookers are only good as attackers, having 2 lightens the bench and means the rotation of the props/2RF is 7 players as opposed to 8. This is a small but significant advantage.
    That said the turning point in the game was Grahams dropped ball, Leuluai drops on the ball at the same time as Wellens and it appears that is when Wellens gets injured. Shenton & Lomax also get inhured later on but the game had swung.
    I've watched the game in slow motion loads of times & Wheeler is metres offside when the ball is kicked, when the ball is dropped by BJ Bishop just before the Saints try. No matter how I look he is offside at all stages of the ball being kicked. For the Makinson try you can definately see his hand touch the ball and the ball bobble just before he makes another attempt and grounds the ball. Even the grounding is inconclusive as it looks like its both line & ground at the same time (that would be no try).

  • Comment number 54.

    good all round blog - bit OTT about the greatest Grand Final ever- certainly not that george, Nowhere near the Bradford v Saints games, anyway we can all argue this way and that- overall it was a good contest- first half wasnt sensational but it was close Rob Burrow coming on set things moving and from then on -good contest which is what i paid my £40 for

    As for the best team who cares really , we all know how the competition works and i would point out that the team who topped the NRL regular season also didnt make their GF , Leeds are a very good side - and came good when it mattered , Wigan prob think they should have finished better and as for Warrington ,great to watch -real entertainment and a very tough pill to swallow after playing so well for so long. - the good thing is a team can come late and win from outside the top 2

  • Comment number 55.

    Paul Wood is Warringtons best England qualified forward, he is far better than Carvell and does more work than Morley and Westwood. Saints rely too much on Roby, Graham & Pulatua for their go forward, Leeds play more as a team with greater workload distribution (incl. backs). 7 players from Leeds is too much, though only Hall, Sinfield & Peacock will play (as will all the Saints). Attack is not Englands weak point its Endurance. We compete in stages but tire. Aus/NZ centres & wings are big enough to easily play at 2RF so England need to counter that with big men at centre. Briscoe, Yeaman, Reed & Hall are decent going forward at club level but will struggle against the bigger men, will be out jumped close to their line, and will struggle defensively. Brough is the best open field kicker qualified for England, but his line defence is poor (thats why not chosen) as is Chases & Widdops (they are poor open field kickers). McGuires is far better but will not play/be picked. There are no organisers / talkers in the team (lead by example will take place), someone who constantly pulls and pushes players into position. Result - can compete in patches but will be tanked in the end

  • Comment number 56.

    Leeds fans did not boo him at the last home game or the game before, etc. It was when Leeds lost to a injury hit Bradford at home 24th June (then only by the hard core South Stand element). You don't boo a manager when the previous home game was won 56-0 against Cas., when you nearly but not quite won the Challenge cup, and when you trounce Wakefield 64-20 and never look in trouble. Against Bradford the team looked lost, too many players playing out of position, Sinfield tried to play 6, 7 & 9 at the same time & had a mare. Leeds played badly away against Harlequins and Salford and at Salford when BM came onto the field at warm up he was applauded/cheered as was the team (I was there as was E. Crabtree). The manager was only booed because he persisted in playing players out of position even when McGuire + Peacock were fully fit and it was not working. Leeds fans know the time is ticking on this squad and few chances for winning remain so the manager has to get it right immediately as the next year might be too late (Senior, Lauititi, Diskin gone - Sinfield, Burrows, Peacock, McGuire, Webb, Leuluai all in their twilight years).

  • Comment number 57.

    Top article - again - thanks for the publicity, how RL needs it, oh and without the RL Grand Final we'd get a fat zero in headline. Its been ten years now - move on, or at least discuss something constructive (why oh why do RL fans moan soooooooooooo much?), for my money though the plays-offs should be top six only.

    In terms of Joel, at least we'll get some compo, the king is dead, bring the next one in. How Sarris can afford £400k is beyond me, we can't and shouldn't compete with that - good luck to him. All that Sarries will do is put too much pressure on him to perform in a new sport too quickly...oh and they'll have to give a few other pay rises out. Joel i'll have to learn Afrikaans ! St's and Pies and Leeds youth systems are doing the sport proud.

    My solution, top six play-off. Bring back GB & the Ashes - tour every four years - something for all players to work towards. Oh and lets reduce overseas players year on year...reward with SL licences for producing local players....reduce the number of o'seas players to 3, and pay the difference to 'our' better players.

    ps Leeds fans don't deserve McDermott - and thats from your captain. Roll on next season - proud to watch the greatest sport ! oh someone bring back SBW from rah rah - Wigan might have a few quid spare....see you all next year...happy moaning !!!!

  • Comment number 58.

    I get the feeling from reading the forums and responses to articles like George's that a lot of British RL fans don't 'get' the concept of the playoffs. My guess is that they don't do so because they have been brought up in a soccer culture, where first past the post rules the domestic comp. However, RL has almost always had playoffs in one form or another so they really shouldn't be that hard to understand. This year the playoffs have really worked. I don't like having to play the same team twice and so I would turn the comp into a straight knock out, 1 to 8, 2 to 7, etc, then the semis and the GF. This would cause all teams to put on their best showing from the outset and take away one element of the RFL's system that is ridiculous. I think Saints twice beating Wigan by the same scoreline accidentally underlined the stupidity of that element.

    The playoffs are a separate competition. They are not an extension of the league. Final league places qualify teams to get into the playoffs (or not, as the case may be). I would agree that much more attention should be given to the team that wins the league. I would have them being awarded the Premiership cup (take that cup back from Wigan, who have no right to keep it anyway) with full pomp and ceremony. And then the playoffs begin. With the Championship Cup awarded to the winners, with medals, and pomp and ceremony at Old Trafford. But I would also have the Challenge Cup earlier in the season so as to create a greater chance of competitive matches happening throughout the season and also to ensure greater focus is given to each of our competitions. At present they all run into one, and not only does this mean so much of the league season can be wasted watching dull matches, it also makes the sport expensive for fans, especially when internationals are also factored in, and lessens the exposure of the Challenge Cup.

    As for Saturday's Grand Final, although I think George has been very restrained in his piece, given his allegiences, I am still bemused by the fuss made over Leeds winning the thing. They are almost the same team that won it in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Why is it such a miracle that they have won it this time, just because they were fifth in the league? Again, I think that shows a surprising lack of insight into the playoff system.

    The real over-achievers this season are Saints. We played only three foreign players and of the remaining 14, 11 were local lads brought up through the Academy. Not just that but of those 11, five were 21 and under and two were GF virgins. (There were other GF virgins but they were over 21) Our average age was 23 and a bit. There has been more than one occasion this season when Saints have had 11 players out of commission and at one stage we had only 17 fit players in the squad, so they played. We have also had to adjust to a new coach and playing all our games away from home. We have also had the disruption caused by Eastmondgate and of two other longstanding players announcing their departures. Finally, we have blooded two young, rookie English halfbacks, which is an amazing feat given the huge gulf between the u20s comp from which they came (to beat Leeds away in March, ironically) to the first team in which they featured on Saturday night. Much kudos to Royce Simmons, the coaching staff and certain senior players who have mentored them throughout.

    Contrary to some people's opinion, the game was not lost to Saints in the first half. We were behind against Wigan in the semi final. So long as a team is within touching distance at halftime then first halves don't count in the playoffs once halftime has arrived. It is a minute by minute comp when the size of the win doesn't count and where every piece of grass should be fought over. That became impossible with two absentees, one limping halfback, and a bunch of players playing in the wrong places in order to fill the gaps - all for the crucial last quarter. It was a heartbreaking night as a Saints fan because we had Leeds on the ropes for the first time in our four meetings. I felt as cheated on Saturday night as I have felt all season: just when we have got things together, along comes multiple injuries to ruin everything.

    One of the most poignant images I have ever seen in a rugby match was James Graham consoling Tommy Makinson, who was outstanding on Saturday night. 19 years old, first senior Grand Final having only played half a season at that level. He left everything on that pitch but still his team lost. Not one media outlet has commented on how well he played. His try alone was an amazing testament to his never say die attitude and ability to think and act with incredible speed. All the glory has gone to the winners, obviously, but Tommy Makinson deserves a mention.

  • Comment number 59.

    Hi George - a great read, and I must agree I thoroughly enjoyed the game!! whats with all these play-off bashers? Every team and fan knows the rules at the start of the campaign, stop your moaning! I for one love the system, yeah the start of the play offs was a whitewash (how can 1st place nil 4th place and score nearly 50 - no wonder the aussies/union give us stick!) - but the semi finals and final were all fantastic games! Leeds are nowhere near the best team in superleague and have had some awful showings this year, but this is the playoffs and fair play to them - they prepared well for the job and got it done, so in my books they deserved the spot - Well done rhino's.

    also, a bit off topic, but how about some more RL articles like this next year and over the winter (four nations)?? I know RL isn't as "big" as football or union, but more regular articles would be great!! come on George pull ya finger out ;p

  • Comment number 60.

    @arzr only 3 of the playoffs were contests? I would say at least 5 were! Even comparing to the NRL, there were only 5 playoff matches that were contests.

    Beating another team by more than 30 points is not a contest! I'd rather watch either of the saints v wigan playoffs than wire dismantle the giants by 47 points to nil! To see catalans put 50 points on kr and then have 44 scored against them by wigan surely justifies the point that there are too many teams in the play offs.

    Winning the league leaders shield should count for more, week off, home draw and if won straight through to the final.

    1 v 6, 2 v 5, 3 v 4 - highest placed team at the end of the league thats wins their play off goes straight into the GF while the other two play off at the second seeded team's home ground. Simple knockout rugby, no club call and no second chances.

  • Comment number 61.

    Get it into your heads boys and girls, it's not a 'league', its a qualifying ladder to determine the playoff fixtures.

    Simples!!

  • Comment number 62.

    Agree with 59, 61 and others - the play-offs are here to stay at least for a while yet. As pointed out above the GF gives RL an event to generate attention in a cramped sporting calendar. Even my RU pals enjoyed the Burrow try. Now bring on the internationals, even if it means the usual battering v Australia.

    57 - spot on. I also liked Darren Lockyers(?) suggestion a while back: 6 Nations every 2 years, bring back GB for tours in between (before anyone moans about one sided contests; RU World Cup - Wales 66 Fiji 0 and other mismatches to boot).

    That way you could have Aus, NZ, GB plus one other to participate in a tour schedule. Meanwhile, other nations fight for some qualifying spots for the next 6N. Maybe this idea also allows RFL to save face by keeping home nations when GB should never have been scrapped, a key part of League heritage.

    That and a proper WCC formed of 4-6 teams (replace the Magic Weekend) should keep players motivated, a chance to earn extra cash, attract sponsors etc. Am sure folks will criticise this or come up with something better, but touring overseas should be a key attraction to playing and staying in League.

    Keep up the good work George.

    Cheers

  • Comment number 63.

    Think people moaning about Leeds injuries at the start of the season are missing the point. That helped Leeds at the end of the season, in the play-offs they had players in the team who hadn't flogged themselves for 27 rounds and who weren't carrying injuries. Also they did not have matches of the same intensity to reach the cup final as they had much easier draws than Wigan. Warrington don't have the play-off experience of Leeds so no surprise they beat them and they had a huge psychological advantage over saints having beaten them in three finals previously. Plus Wigan and saints had to play each other twice much higher intensity games than Hull and Hudds. If Wigan weren't good enough how come in six meetings with saints this season they ended up 3-2 ahead? How come Leeds failed to beat them in three meetings and lost to them in the play-offs last season? Wigan beat the other big three teams in the cup, none at the DW. The play-offs take four games took four games to win. Wigan won thirteen games in a row during the season. And the person who said Leeds have been the best team over the last five years, they've only finished top once, and the last two years finished fourth and fifth. I agree 55% win rate is not the stuff of champions. Well done on winning the final but don't get carried away, you won four games in a row. Not whining, as a Wigan fan I wanted saints to win, that's hard to admit, but it would have been better for the game.

 

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