There has been a lot of focus on the Kingstone Press Championship this past week, 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.
Ok, lets 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 Leigh, Catalans, Widnes and the like. Especially Widnes.
If we take a look at the London Broncos in the Middle 8s this season 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, cough Warrington), 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.
This therefore opens up another question – should we concentrate more on the gulf between sides in the Championship rather than the gulf between 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 they could well beat London and whichever tinpot club drops down from the top flight come the Million Pound Game.
So to sum up, although the gap between the Championship and Super League is closing, there’s still a gulf in quality, baring one or two sides.
Hopefully this will soon change, and providing the current Super 8s concept stays as it is, it will. As Rovers have proved this year, a loss of mortgage doesn’t really apply here..