Super League’s five biggest what if moments

When you look back at Super League history, there are plenty of huge moments many of which were down to the bounce of the ball. But I often find myself wondering, what if the ball had bounced differently, what if things didn’t pan out the way they did in those seismic moments. What would Super League look like then? With that in mind, here’s Super League’s five biggest what if moments as we wonder what might have happened if things had gone differently.

Jack Welsby’s Grand Final winning try

Last year’s Grand Final is rightly regarded as one of the greatest of all time. It was so closely contested that the literal bounce of the ball decided the winners and the losers when Tommy Makinson’s drop goal attempt hit the upright and bounced for Jack Welsby to win the title for St Helens but it could’ve been so different if the ball had bounced out of play plunging us into extra time. Could Wigan have won it? How different would the standings look at this stage now if they had and would Welsby’s career pan out any differently without that amazing moment? We’ll never know.

Gareth O’Brien’s thunderous 45 metre drop goal

Now you might think this moment didn’t have such wide-ranging consequences after all Hull KR returned to the top flight in 2018 after just one year in the Championship. That said, we’ll never know what would’ve happened to Salford had they slipped into the second tier. Would they have gotten out with the same ease as Hull KR or would they have struggled as Widnes did following relegation in 2018? If Salford had been relegated would their amazing journey to Old Trafford in 2019 still have happened and what about their Challenge Cup Final appearance in 2020? Would they have still played in two major finals if they’d have been on the other end of a match-winning drop goal in the Million Pound Game?

The knock on that denied Bradford Grand Final glory

When Michael Withers was adjudged to have knocked on in the build up to Leon Pryce’s supposed Grand Final try, it cemented the trajectory of the game which eventually took St Helens to Super League glory. A year later, they became back-to-back Champions and slowly cemented themselves as Super League’s first powerhouse. However, had this try been given, had Withers’ fingertips not grazed the ball, it could very well have been Bradford dominating the early days of the league. After all they still won their fair share of Grand Finals but with the added boost of success in 1999, they could’ve won even more.

The Old Trafford injuries which derailed Warrington

When Warrington led 16-2 against Wigan in 2013, their wait for Super League glory looked over. They were well and truly in command of the game only for things to suddenly unravel. Wigan began a superb fightback whilst the Wolves lost key players Stefan Ratchford and Joel Monaghan to injury leaving them with a makeshift backline and only 15 players for a huge chunk of the game. I’m not saying these injuries were the sole reason for Wigan’s success, but we’ll never know what might have happened had the duo remained fit. Could Warrington have claimed the crown?

Ryan Hall secures the League Leaders’ Shield

The treble was gone. The fairytale end Jamie Peacock, Kylie Leuluai and Kevin Sinfield longed for had vanished. Having been top since June, Cup winners in August a fourth game without victory looked set to hand Wigan the League Leaders’ Shield as the hooter sounded in Huddersfield. We were in the last play and Danny McGuire chipped ahead. The ball bounced into the arms of Ryan Hall who completed rugby league’s very own Aguero moment to win the shield for Leeds and keep the treble alive. That moment breathed new life into a tiring Rhinos side and carried them all the way to Grand Final glory. We’ll never know what would’ve happened had that ball ended up in the arms of Scott Grix instead, but the Rhinos may very well have lacked the momentum they needed to win the Grand Final. Suddenly the treble goes from three trophies to one if things didn’t go according to plan for McGuire and Hall.

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