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Why I’m cheering for Warrington Wolves not Leeds Rhinos
So second face fifth today for the right to be named number one.
Yep, it’s that time again when Old Trafford can boast a decent atmosphere.
Super League’s Grand Final is back but without the usual losers. Where are St Helens?
Having come up short in the last five showpieces, the Saints did the decent thing last week and got knocked out at Warrington.
The Wolves make their debut on the competition’s big day, aiming to clinch the double after their Challenge Cup triumph in August.
And, with all due respect to their opponents, it would be the right result for the domestic game if they do.
I’m not knocking Leeds Rhinos for another fantastic charge through the play-offs. For the second year running, they have come virtually from nowhere to time their run to perfection.
Brian McDermott’s troops relish the role of underdog and it would be a brave man to bet against them turning the tables from the Wembley defeat.
But Super League need a Warrington win to restore order – and justify the seven months of hard slog through the regular campaign.
They finished nine points above the Rhinos, with four more wins. That should count for something in the final reckoning.
Since the Bulls last lifted the trophy from third place in 2005, only three of the minor premier winners have followed suit as the ultimate champions.
Some will say that justifies the unpredictability of the play-off format. Nobody wants a one-team procession for the league leaders.
But while the prospect of Leeds winning back-to-back Grand Finals after finishing fifth again reinforces that do-or-die scenario, it also brings into question the validity of the league competition itself.
Why put your bodies through hell week in, week out, from February to September if the only time it really matters is that final month of knock-out rugby?
Wigan will be wondering that when they switch on the telly at tea-time. The shield they received for finishing top of the pile is scant consolation for their bridesmaid role.
Play-off rugby is great to watch and brings added excitement to the end of the Super League calendar. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of what has gone on before.