The nitwittery of the Super 8s format really hit home in 2016
When the RFL devised the Magic 8s format before the 2015 season, everyone aside of the standard deluded rugby league nut instantly derided it as a nonsense. After receiving that feedback loud and clear, the RFL went ahead anyway, creating bilge hashtags like #EveryMinuteMatters, and this chart to explain it to baffled media organisations:
Truth be told, the entire concept was saved from instant abandonment when the 2015 season produced absolutely no excitement or surprises. Leeds won everything. Wigan lost a grand final. Warrington were the best team for 6 weeks, and folded when it mattered. The same 4 teams made the top four. Marwan Koukash made a series of blunders. Bradford looked like going broke. The usual terrible teams made the bottom four. Those four teams spending twice the money naturally tooled up the semi-professionals in the “Middle 8s” (or whatever they called it), and so the entire 30 game season served as nothing more than proof that #VeryFewMinutesMattered. The clubs were at least able to agree the entire thing did them no damage whatsoever, even if the poor players had to play six more games.
By comparison, 2016 has been an unmitigated disaster. Bradford face another winding-up petition, but not before they failed to qualify for the Middle 8s with a full-time playing roster. Sheffield went full-time, and missed out too.
The real shit-show though was in Super League, where Leeds discovered to their great horror that Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock were holding that championship team together for a decade. New coach Brian McDermott had them solidly in last all season, pinning the blame on injuries, wet carpet in December and other “things beyond our control”. You could tell McDermott was confused and baffled by the mere idea of coaching a shitty team – he though he’d left all of that behind in London. It’s been a pleasure to watch unfold.
Huddersfield went into the Middle 8s in solidarity with Leeds, and the two teams will face the threat of Super League relegation up against Batley, Featherstone, Ealing and 46-year-old Mickey Higham. The RFL had to take points off Salford just to stop them making the top 8. HULL (!) are top of the table. Catalan are a genuine threat.
Big Nige added his considerable weight to the competition structure that everyone (me) despised:
“Nothing will change – the sport has signed significant contracts on the basis nothing will change. That’s not on the agenda. I think it’s started really strongly; the litmus test is ‘will anyone get promoted’, but I think the chase right now in Championship to get in that four will be compelling. There’s no league competition anywhere on the globe which guarantees you won’t have matches of less significance. We’ve got more full-time clubs than ever before, and I’m happy with it.”
OH YEAH. That is the shit. I wanna ferment that paragraph in sugar and live yeast and then age it in a barrel. If the litmus test is the hope that someone might get promoted one day, you may as well pack it in right now. Those extra full-time clubs you mention? Two of them are playing in the bottom 8 of your hideous new structure, and are scrambling to deny the winding up petitions as we speak. We are creating worse clubs, not better ones – no-one thinks we can support 16 full time clubs in Europe. And just because you couldn’t find a competition format in the world without any useless games, doesn’t mean you had to pick the one with the most useless games.
Anyone notice the RFL has not put out any press releases this year about crowd or ratings increases which we were promised with the #NewEra? Here was Big Nige’s quote from the July 2014 #everyminutematters press conference:
“The changes will ensure that every minute of every match in every competition matters. There will be no soft games any more. In 2013…nearly 39m people watched rugby league live (which means Nige was either using Roman Numerals, including the NRL or on crack) more than 40% up on the previous year.”
Which, if not a massive lie, kind of begs the question, why bring in this ridiculous new structure?
One thing that would add some excitement? A live telecast of Nigel reciting that paragraph to Gary Hetherington if Leeds did get relegated, just as he is handed the fixture list for a season containing trips to Oldham and Whitehaven. I would pay four pounds for this, plus have my dog pee on his newspaper.
Look, we hate perspective. We prefer to be callous and judgmental about ALL rugby league administrators, and heap scorn upon them when they fail publicly. This Magic 8-ball format is a dud. Take it out back, and put it out of its misery.
*Note: we rescind all of this if a Championship team gets promoted, and we are exposed for the idiots we are.