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Should we do more to reward finishing first?

At the Magic Weekend, Catalans secured the League Leaders’ Shield with an amazing comeback win over Champions St Helens in a game no one is going to forget anytime soon.

Or perhaps they will. The Dragons still have to win a semi-final before they can even think about going to Old Trafford and then of course at the Theatre of Dreams anything can happen. Despite finishing top, they’re still a long way off becoming Champions and as they say ‘no one remembers the runners-up.’ Ultimately, you have to ask if this is right.

When they won that scintillating game at St James’ Park, the Dragons became the eighth team in history to claim the shield. Of the previous seven, only four clubs have won the Super League trophy. Huddersfield didn’t even make it to the Grand Final in 2013 despite the fact they cruised to top spot.

So, the question remains: should there be more reward for finishing first?

Many would argue yes and it’s hard to disagree after all finishing top means you’ve been the best and most consistent team that year and in most sports that’s enough to see you crowned Champions. Perhaps that should be the case in Super League but what about the Grand Final? Our biggest showpiece event would have to go to waste and I’m not sure that’s what the game needs.

Perhaps then, we need to have our cake and eat it too. I saw someone suggest that the League Leaders’ Shield should be considered more akin to the Premier League title in football whilst the Grand Final should become our equivalent to the Champions League. Maybe you already think that’s the case and perhaps it is but the problem is people don’t view the shield as worth all that much. So, the first think we need to do is begin to change perceptions around the piece of silverware and remember that it is in fact a piece of silverware.

On top of this, perhaps it should yield a greater reward with regards to the play-offs. Right now, they automatically go into the semi-finals and are 80 minutes away from the Grand Final but the same could be said for second place as well creating little difference between finishing first and second. So, maybe the reward for finishing top should be a place in the Grand Final giving that team a concrete shot at Super League glory and prompting greater celebrations when that shield is lifted because it won’t just be a trophy, it’ll be a step towards Grand Final glory.

Finishing top of the league requires quality, consistently and great toil and yet we often dismiss the achievement as unimportant if the team fails to go all the way. Considering how long the regular season is and the number of quality teams in the league, it seems that finishing top is much more difficult than most people think and this needs to change. We need to give the teams who finish top of the pile a greater reward. How to do that and maintain the importance of Old Trafford is difficult, however I’m sure it can be done and it should be done.

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