BBC BLOGS - George Riley

Archives for September 2012

Super League final four has a familiar look to it

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George Riley George Riley | 09:57 UK time, Thursday, 27 September 2012

So here we go.

Four teams are bidding for two places in the Super League Grand Final. And yet again it is the familiar faces fighting the business end of the rugby league year.

The final four comprises the two best sides over the regular season and last year's two Grand Finalists. We appear set for a fitting finale and potentially a dramatic denouement.

Wigan and St Helens are the sides with home advantage after a week off. And it is the Warriors who have chosen to play Leeds Rhinos, sending Warrington Wolves to Saints.

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Hargreaves' sad exit is yet another wake-up call

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George Riley George Riley | 20:47 UK time, Thursday, 20 September 2012

Amid all the excitement of the Super League play-offs this week, there was another reminder of the challenges rugby league still has to conquer.

Bradford prop Bryn Hargreaves' decision to pack in the game at 26 is dreadfully sad, and demonstrates that whatever fireworks the play-offs produce, the skies they briefly illuminate remain dark.

My love of rugby league allows me to get lost in its brutal brilliance for 80 minutes each match day. But off the pitch the battle is for mere survival, a reality explained so eloquently by Hargreaves in his damning assessment of the health of the game.

On the day Leeds Rhinos players checked in at Leeds-Bradford airport for their do-or-die play-off date at Catalan Dragons, a young lad down the road was turning his back on a sport he has fallen out of love with.

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Becoming champions is about big-game mentality

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George Riley George Riley | 10:48 UK time, Thursday, 13 September 2012

After the undercard fights and the long muscle-flexing walk to the ring, it's time for the main event.

The 27-round jostle for positions has seen Wigan clinch the League Leaders' Shield, champions Leeds finish down in fifth again and Wakefield seal an impressive play-off spot. But now the action really starts.

Like it or loathe it, the play-off system culminating in the Grand Final has become the way our champions are crowned. You cannot dispute the drama and theatre that it produces. The Grand Final is one huge occasion, 80 minutes of sporting brutality through a wall of noise at a sell-out Old Trafford, to find the season's heavyweight champion.

It may or may not be fair but I love it. Every team knows the season finishes in October. No squad will be thinking during their wintery pre-season hills runs that if they can perform well through 27 rounds, then it is job done.

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