Sunday 18 February 2018 / 09:40 PM

WCC expansion the key for Super League improvement

This past weekend saw the three best sides of 2015 from the NRL and Super League face each other in the World Club Series, where each match saw emphatic wins by the Australian clubs.

These results have brought forward much concern from all and sundry regarding the chasm of quality between the NRL and the Super League.

However, past one-off World Club Challenge matches had largely been dominated by the English sides, despite Australia’s dominance at international level through the same period.

This weekend saw the three strongest outfits from Australia last season, full of fresh players, play against an inconsistent St Helens side, thumped 38-12 by Sydney Roosters, and a woeful Leeds outfit – a shadow of their dominant selves from the previous years – crushed 38-4 after a second-half capitulation to North Queensland. Only Wigan were in some acceptable form, although they went down to long-time rivals Brisbane to the tune of 42-12.

Many suggest that the expanded concept definitely has to stay so as to help the Super League competition improve. This is absolutely correct – but the current format would only be doing part of the job.

If the World Club Challenge is to be beneficial to Super League, then every Super League club needs to be participating. There’s no point making the three strongest clubs even stronger. The competition is already far too lopsided as it is.

It’s worth noting that between the Challenge Cup and Super League, three teams have dominated both competitions since 1998, winning 26 of the 36 titles between them: Wigan, Leeds and St Helens.

Those three sides have been the only premiers in the Super League competition since 2006. History and stats shows that everyone else is making up the numbers. So why run a competition which will only enhance those three sides?

Sure, we all remember the debacle that was the World Club Championship run in 1997, but I think a much shorter, simpler system would prevent a repeat of that, whereby teams of the same rank play each other once (the top four teams of the Kingstone Press Championship would play the bottom 4 NRL sides) in the lead-up to the top sides vying to be declared world’s best.

This should also played in England and France prior to both competitions starting their upcoming seasons.

This year we could have seen:

Week 1

Friday 7pm – Halifax v Newcastle Knights

Saturday 12pm – Sheffield Eagles v Wests Tigers

Saturday 3pm – Bradford Bulls v Gold Coast Titans

Saturday 5pm – Leigh Centurions v Warriors

Saturday 7pm – Wakefield Trinity Wildcats v Parramatta Eels

Sunday 12pm – Salford Reds v Penrith Panthers

Sunday 3pm – Hull KR v Canberra Raiders

Sunday 5pm – Widnes Vikings v Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

Week 2

Friday 7pm – Catalans Dragons v St George-Illawarra Dragons

Saturday 12pm – Hull FC v South Sydney Rabbitohs

Saturday 3pm – Warrington Wolves v Cronulla Sharks

Saturday 5pm – Castleford Tigers v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs

Saturday 7pm – Huddersfield Giants v Melbourne Storm

Sunday 12pm – St Helens v Sydney Roosters

Sunday 3pm – Wigan Warriors v Brisbane Broncos

World Club Challenge

Sunday 5pm – Leeds Rhinos v North Queensland Cowboys

Proper trial games for all sides. Having regular clashes like this should be seriously considered if past great concepts like extensive tours by Test sides have been given the axe.

[YouTube – Rugby League Videos]

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About the author

Andrew Ferguson

A rugby league historian and stats buff – most notably as the brains behind the phenomenal Rugby League Project resource – Melbourne-based Andrew has written extensively for Rugby League Review and the Men of League magazine, and is a valued addition to CBS’s rugby league stable.

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