Sky Sports Rugby League’s Barrie McDermott looks ahead to Super League’s return on Sunday, at the new rules and previews St Helens vs Catalans and Leeds vs Huddersfield…
Super League’s Sunday return…
Let me start by saying I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the NRL. It’s been a joy to watch what they’ve had to offer.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what the Brits have to offer. We only have two games on Sunday now, not three, but two really interesting games and lots of things for us to get our heads around.
It’s a changing and ever-evolving world, and we’re going to be excited, disappointed, frustrated, elated, all in equal measure, so I can’t wait for Sunday.
I’m saddened and don’t really want to go into the Toronto thing and the great shame 2020 has been for the Wolfpack.
From my point of view, for what it’s worth, I hope they come back. I hope this period is a chance for them to get their house in order, they retain the players they want to retain and move forward in 2021.
I certainly want to see them back, but I’d like to see a better version of Toronto Wolfpack back.
There’s a frustration [for Hull KR, who would have been Toronto’s opponents for Sunday] and discussions are taking place all the time.
Hull KR would have looked at that game and thought not only is it a chance to get two points from a winnable game, but a chance to get momentum too, as Toronto hadn’t picked up a Super League point.
Hull KR have played six games and only won one. When you look at teams like Leeds Rhinos and Catalans Dragons, who have only played four games, and then St Helens, Wakefield and Huddersfield Giants only five games, there’s lots of ground to make up.
It’s going to be a roller-coaster.
The New Rules…
There a lot more questions than answers.
In the world we’re living, I know we’re hiding behind science all the time, but professor Ben Jones, who has been heavily involved in our game for a long time, has put a matrix together on the risk and ability to reduce risks.
His matrix involves face-to-face contact. So when you’re making a tackle, if it’s a face-to-face contact, that’s a high risk. If you’re tackling around the legs, that’s obviously a low to no risk tackle.
So trying to put that and manufacture the low-risk tackles as many items as you can in the game is the devil’s own job.
If you were playing a game on the PlayStation, I don’t think you’d be able to do it on that. So trying to get human beings who deal in an art – because I believe rugby league is an art, not a science – trying to make that happen is the devil’s own job.
I wanted to know why we had got rid of the scrum, and the simple answer was face-to-face contact, which puts you at a high risk – you’re not automatically going to get it but it heightens the risk.
If you’re in a scrum, that is face-to-face contact and you’re talking, on average, roughly 12 scrums a game. So on 12 separate occasions, five from one side and five from another would all be facing each other, breathing heavy, gassed and all that projection is heightening the risk.
I feel like I understand it a bit better. Whether I agree with it or not, I’m willing to go with it because I think we’ve all got to have a bit of patience here, because we are not going to see the game we’re accustomed to.
I don’t even think we’re going to see what we’ve been watching in the NRL, it’ll be our version of that.
The NRL introduced the six-again rule, and I asked why have we adopted that?
Is it reducing the risk of Covid-19 because of the three-second rules? Is it a different answer? Or is it purely and simply to emulate what’s been done in the NRL? And it’s probably a little bit of everything.
I didn’t get the answer that I wanted, I didn’t get the answer that makes me sit back and go: Thumbs up, I’m buying into it and ready to go again.
But the laws committee has a coach on it, a player’s representative from the union and it pretty much covers everybody that has an influence within our game.
Everybody sat around the table, on the evidence and after the discussion, decided that the six-again rule would be applied and that they would get rid of the scrums.
We’re going to have to be patient, the people that play the game will have to learn really quickly, and hopefully the people that are sat at home will not get too frustrated when they don’t know what’s going on.
We will do our best, of course, when we’re describing things to let the viewer at home hopefully understand what is going on, but sometimes even we’re sort of picking it up on the run as well.
My opinion on the six-again was I don’t think we needed to speed our game up in this country.
If we do take our game to another level of speed and intensity, I think fatigue will be a factor and therefore there will be more injuries, more mistakes and the game will have a different feel to it.
But who knows? It might improve it. I’m a very glass half-full type of person, so I’m loving getting Super League back on TV and being able to watch our great game and the stories and narratives which will unfold over the next three or four months.
We’ve had 20 weeks off, I can’t believe it. I don’t even know what I’ve done with my time.
St Helens vs Catalans Dragons (Sunday 4.15pm, Sky Sports Arena)…
The opening two matches are fascinating in their own way.
Catalans Dragons in 2019 were a real let-down for me. They failed to string anything like any kind of consistency together and that’s why they were miles off on many occasions last year. And you could hear the frustration from the crowd.
But in 2020, they really started to get some momentum. Sam Tomkins was really influential, James Maloney as well, and they had a nice spine.
Your 1, 6, 7 and 9 should be the most influential members of the team, but if you add a sprinkle of stardust with Israel Folau, who will have benefited from the time to train more and accustom himself back to the ways of rugby league, then Catalans go into this game full of confidence.
You look at St Helens, the last game we watched on Sky Sports was Castleford Tigers vs St Helens at the Jungle and Cas were phenomenal but Saints were way off again.
The previous game, Huddersfield Giants were victorious against St Helens too. So Saints would have benefited from the time to sit back, assess and catch their breath.
The World Club Challenge always affects the team that plays in it. It’s only one match and it shouldn’t really have the impact that it does, but it notoriously knocks the team that plays it off their tracks for about a month to six weeks, and they struggle to re-calibrate.
Well, Saints will now have had the time to mentally and physically settle themselves.
The game between St Helens and the Catalans Dragons is an absolutely mouth-watering prospect.
Huddersfield Giants vs Leeds Rhinos (Sunday 6.30pm, Sky Sports Arena & Main Event)…
Huddersfield are a real chance this year.
Before we were locked up for 20 weeks, look back to what we saw from them. The evolution of Simon Woolford’s team, the influence that Aidan Sezer and Lee Gaskell have had, complimenting each others attributes.
The Giants go into this game with no fear of the Leeds Rhinos, and this fixture always produces good games. I’ve been to watch many of them and been involved in them.
Huddersfield are favourites going into this game but the Rhinos themselves would have had a re-generation period.
I think there’s always a danger when you’ve got one team playing against another where there’s a sprinkling of ex-players, and I’m talking in the Leeds ranks of Kruise Leeming, who looks like he might return for this match, and Alex Mellor, a player who I have a tremendous amount of respect for.
They haven’t had a decent edge back-rower for a while at Leeds, and they’ve struggled to put the right person in that shirt. Well Alex Mellor has been outstanding.
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