The current play-off system makes a lot of sense. The top two are rewarded with a week off and are guaranteed semi-finalists whilst third and fourth get home matches in week one as they look to book their place in the semi-finals themselves with games against fifth and sixth.
It also makes for good rugby with high stakes as the top teams face the end of their season if they lose and the prospect of inching closer to Old Trafford with victory. But after a fortnight, the play-offs are virtually over with only the Grand Final left of the season.
As I say, this is a shame. I suppose it’s like Christmas. Everyone loves it but after 24 hours it’s all over and you’re left wondering where did it all go. The play-offs are the same. They’re the best rugby of the year but these days they’re over in a flash. Surely, we should be trying to maximise this time of year rather than rushing through them?
Compare this system to the month long top five, top six and top eight systems which had up to nine matches handing the fans a feast of play-off top drawer rugby league. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.
The return of one of these older systems with more games over a longer period, would only be beneficial. It would make for more top-class rugby, more TV time and more viewers all of which would benefit the game financially and in terms of the product. All the while giving supporters more rugby to enjoy which is why IMG need to consider this as part of their re-imagining of rugby league.
Furthermore, these older systems provided the top two with more reward for their efforts too as they were handed a lifeline, a second bite at the cherry if they lost their first game which is not what Catalans and St Helens have been offered this term.
Add to this that if IMG have the way their way Super League should grow to be a bigger league and therefore warrant a longer play-off system.
Although there’s a lot to like about the current play-off system, it leaves us hungry for more and doesn’t deliver beyond five games across three weeks. If we were to change this, there’d be untold benefits as well as an opportunity for fans to enjoy more of the best rugby.
Of course, the problem with a longer system is more games. But the sport would be better served with a shorter regular season and a longer play-off system as this ensures a better product and less players dealing with taxing turnarounds.