Getting relegated from Super League is never a fun ending for any side.
Some never recover from the demotion, whilst others regroup and hit back in tremendous fashion.
But, just how has every relegated side fared since dropping down a division?
Workington Town 1996
When Super League was created, it was proposed that Workington merge with Barrow, Carlisle and Whitehaven to form a Cumbrian super club to be based at Workington. Of course, that was resisted, but Town didn’t exactly help their case in 1996 as they registered two wins and one draw all season, finishing bottom of the table with significant debts. The Cumbrian side dropped down another league in 2002 but are now in the second division after yoyo-ing between the Championship and League 1.
Oldham Bears 1997
Like Workington, Oldham were one of the founders of the Super League, yet they too have been outcast from the top-flight. They were relegated in the second year of the summer game, with the club going bankrupt in the same year. Oldham Roughyeds were formed out of the doldrums, and they narrowly missed out on promotion to Super League in 2001, but that was as good as it got as Oldham were relegated to League Two in 2006. They are now back in the League 1, the Lancashire club have never reached the first tier again.
Huddersfield Giants 2001
Following a three-year hiatus without relegation, the dreaded drop returned in 2001. A failed merger with Sheffield Eagles left Huddersfield in a bit of a pickle and perilously close to the bottom of the table. Luckily, there had been no relegation prior to 2001, but finally the Giants were caught out in what was actually their best season in Super League with six wins in 28 games. It didn’t take them long to return, though, as they went unbeaten in the second division to come back with a bang after just one season outside. The Giants have stayed in Super League ever since.
Salford City Reds 2002
They had been the first team to earn promotion back in 1996, but the stay in Super League only lasted six seasons before Salford dropped down a division. It was actually incredibly close between the City Reds and Wakefield, with just one point separating the two clubs in the battle to escape. The Lancashire club returned to the top-flight a year later, but once more faced the drop in 2007. They have now, however, been a stable top flight side ever since, rebranded under the Salford Red Devils.
The woes of Halifax in 2003 have always been plain to see; they were relegated with zero points – a record – after winning just one game all year and then having those points deducted for a salary cap breach. A period of uncertainty then followed for the Yorkshire side before they finally became a stable Championship club where they have remained ever since, though they are now known as Halifax Panthers.
Castleford Tigers 2004
The Tigers had been mainstays in Super League since its creation, but slowly but surely, the club had been on a downward spiral since Stuart Raper left in 2001. With a loss of key men heading into 2004, Castleford couldn’t get anywhere near the heights of the previous seasons and ended up being relegated with six wins. They bounced back easily the year after though to earn promotion at the first time of asking.
Widnes Vikings and Leigh Centurions 2005
It was double trouble in 2005, with a new franchise being awarded to Catalans Dragons. This meant that two sides would be relegated at the end of that year. Leigh were in terrible shape in 2005, winning just two games whilst Widnes won six, but the latter finished seven points behind the nearest rival in the table, Wakefield. It took Widnes until 2012 to return to the top-flight – having been awarded a franchise for the second round of licensing – whilst Leigh took four years longer.
Castleford Tigers 2006
It was two relegations in three years for the Tigers in 2006, as new boss Terry Matterson took the club down to the Championship in his first season in charge. It was actually incredibly harsh on Castleford though who didn’t actually finish bottom, but Catalans’ exemption from relegation meant the Tigers were relegated with 19 points – a record at the time. The relegation was made even worse by the fact that Wigan’s salary cap breach was postponed until the 2007 season – if the four-point deduction had been given in 2006, the Warriors would have suffered the drop instead. Castleford once more bounced back at the first of asking.
Salford City Reds 2007
Salford were again in trouble after four seasons in the top-flight, having been cut adrift at the bottom of Super League. The City Reds ended the year with six wins, but finished seven points behind next-placed Hull KR. That didn’t matter too much though, as Salford were awarded a license the following year.
Crusaders RL 2011
In 2009, Welsh side Crusaders RL were awarded a Super League license in a bid to expand the game throughout the UK. It seemed to work at first as Crusaders finished in the play-offs in 2010, however, the club quickly faced financial problems and entered administration in November 2010. Facing a six-point deduction for that administration, the Welsh side withdrew their application for the second round of licensing in 2011, dropping down to Championship 1 as North Wales Crusaders.
London Broncos and Bradford Bulls 2014
After another three seasons of licensing and a restructuring of the divisions, two sides were destined for relegation as Super League was cut from 14 to 12 teams. Whilst London won just one game all year and thoroughly deserved the drop, Bradford had been deducted six points at the start of the year for entering administration. It wouldn’t have mattered though as the Bulls would still have finished five points behind Wakefield in 12th. Bradford have never returned since, but London graced the top-flight once more in 2019, only narrowly getting relegated on points difference.
Hull KR 2016
Hull KR had actually been a strong and stable Super League club after earning promotion in 2006, but that changed with the onset of the Super 8s system. The Middle 8s had almost produced a dramatic swap in 2015 between Wakefield and Bradford, but Trinity managed to keep hold of their top-flight status. In 2016, however, it was between Hull KR and Salford – two Super League sides. Unfortunately, KR were subjected to that incredible Gareth O’Brien drop-goal, before returning to the elite tier a year later.
Leigh Centurions 2017
After swapping league places with Hull KR at the end of the 2016 season, it didn’t take long for Leigh to succumb to the increased intensity. The Centurions lasted just a year in Super League before swapping places with Hull KR once more. Leigh were, however, the beneficiary of Toronto’s demise in 2020 to return to the top-flight for 2021.
Widnes Vikings 2018
After being part of Super League since 2011, Widnes had been a relatively stable top-flight club until a dreadful 2018 soon ended that. With off-field troubles plaguing progress on it – the sale of Kevin Brown to Warrington didn’t help – the Vikings almost seemed beyond saving heading into the Middle 8s in 2018. They won just once in the Qualifiers, exiting Super League in ignominy and have since failed to inspire any hopes of a return.
London Broncos 2019
After stunning Toronto in the Million Pound Game in 2018, nobody gave London any hope of staying in Super League in 2019. Danny Ward’s side, however, came so close to defying the odds, with points difference the only reason for London’s drop in the end.
Toronto Wolfpack 2020
They had taken the Championship by storm in 2019, but Super League was set to be a wholly-different kettle of fish for Canadian side Toronto in 2020. The onset of the coronavirus, however, destroyed any chances of the Wolfpack showcasing their product on the greatest stage and, after pulling out of their Super League obligations, the Canadian club were not allowed to return. The Wolfpack have since announced their place in the North American Rugby League.
Leigh Centurions 2021
Unfortunately for Leigh, their stepping in to the Toronto Wolfpack’s shoes in the 2021 Super League season didn’t really go to plan. They won just two games all season, though were on the end of some heartbreakingly narrow defeats. The Centurions will spend 2022 in the Championship, but they have recruited a side that can certainly do some damage.