There has been a lot of focus on the Kingstone Press Championship this year, with Hull Kingston Rovers being promoted from the second tier to Super League, and the Toronto Wolfpack gaining promotion to the Championship from League One.
After a highly successful Qualifers campaign for the sides in the “not quite good enough league”, the question being asked is whether the standard of the Championship is getting closer to the standard of Super League.
Let’s be honest, Championship sides would not get close to the top four or five of the promised land, but I reckon most sides would be able to put up a decent fight against the bottom half of the table—like the dross from Catalans, Widnes and the like. Especially Widnes.
If we take a look at the London Broncos in the 2017 Qualifiers against Super League sides, they lost by two points IN Catalans, lost by only two points against Warrington (a game of which they were robbed), and only lost by five points against Rovers. Now, although they put up a good fight in all these games, there is one recurring theme. They lost. Many cynics would therefore just disregard the fact that they were close games, but with small improvements (particularly in the refereeing, surprise surprise), those losses could have easily turned into wins.
However, there are two sides to every story. If we look at Halifax and Featherstone’s results, they fared nowhere near as well as Hull KR and London. But I’d argue they are capable of pulling off a shock result. Look what Swinton did to Huddersfield.
This therefore opens up another question – should we concentrate more on the gulf between sides in the Championship rather than the gulf between both Championship and Super League sides? The difference in the results of a team one place below London is astounding. I can’t see next year being any different either.
The side Toronto are building for their Championship campaign next year is frightening. So far, they have signed the ‘Coal Train’ Dave Taylor, who was magnificent for Catalans a couple of years ago and will steamroll every forward pack in the Championship next year, Ashton Sims, one of Warrington’s best forwards of the past few years, although there wasn’t much competition, Josh McCrone, a very creative half back from St George Illawarra, and Salford prop Olsi Krasniqi who will add crucial Super League experience and hopefully let slip Marwan’s deepest secrets.
That is a scary looking pack for the Championship season to come, and the Canadians could well beat London and the tinpot Greater Manchester club that dropped down from the top flight after the Million Pound Game.
Although the gap between the Championship and Super League is arguably closing, there’s still a gulf in quality between most of the sides. Hopefully this will soon change, and providing the current Super 8s concept stays as it is, it will, with Toronto, Leigh and Toulouse holding aspirations of a top flight berth – not to mention capable of defeating top flight opposition.
The Championship is increasing in quality and a drop isn’t as bad as people first fear, despite what people say about Player Wefare. Rovers have already proved this year that a failure to repay a mortgage doesn’t really apply here.
It’s Leigh’s turn to justify that theory in 2018 and prove that the competition CAN match Super League.