Imagine if in 1996 someone told you that in 25 years the new league, that was designed – thanks to the salary cap – to provide a level playing field for all teams, only produced four different winners of the trophy? You’d be pretty disappointed right?
Since the beginning of Super League, the same clubs have always dominated. The last new team to win the Grand Final was Leeds back in 2004 and since then they’ve gone onto become the show piece event’s most successful side.
The last time we saw a team other than Leeds, Saints and Wigan win the trophy was when Bradford won their fourth Super League title back in 2005. With the Bulls now playing in the Championship the stranglehold of the other three clubs has been almost unbreakable. Well, until now that is.
This year feels like a genuine opportunity to see a new team win the trophy and maybe even see two sides who have never won at Old Trafford do battle in the Grand Final.
When you look at the usual suspects, at this moment in time they all appear to have issues. Leeds are continuing their rebuild following the end of their golden generation and injuries have made it even harder for them to be a contender.
As for Wigan and Saints, they were expected to run away with first and second in a Man City v Liverpool style fight for dominance. That hasn’t happened. Despite winning their opening seven games of the season, Wigan never looked comfortable and have since lost four games on the bounce. They’re in a real pit compounded by injuries to the likes of Jai Field and Bevan French.
As for St Helens, it’d be foolish to discount the Champions at this moment in time but they’ve not looked at their best this year at all. Their usually fluid attack hasn’t been as potent as people would’ve expected and they’ve suffered defeats to both Catalans and Warrington. Moreover, they have the distraction of a cup final and a chance to end a 13-year wait for the Challenge Cup. That too could stifle their efforts to claim a third consecutive Super League title.
In short, the door is wide open for a new team to take the crown. For the first time in forever it feels like we have a genuine chance of seeing two sides who have never won at the Theatre of Dreams play in the Grand Final. Right now, Catalans are easily the best team in the league with some quality players in the shape of James Maloney and Sam Tomkins. Warrington too look like a force to be reckoned with having shown defensive guts to keep Saints tryless as they downed the Champions 6-2 but also appear able to score at will as Gareth Widdop turns on the style.
At this moment in time, it feels like there’s no reason why we shouldn’t expect the two to do battle in the Grand Final and a fifth winner of the competition to finally emerge and it’s something we should all desperately want.
For starters it would give every other team in the competition hope that it can be done. Hope is something plenty of clubs need right now as they try and resolve the financial problems caused by the pandemic.
Furthermore, being able to say there’s a new winner would no doubt attract more eyes on the sport as people swing by to see history unfold and we could very well pick up some new supporters along the way.
Having eyes on the Grand Final as people await history would also benefit the World Cup. After all, if someone like Catalans can end the dominance of Leeds, Saints and Wigan then surely England might have a chance of ending Australia’s monopoly over international rugby?
Also, think about how good it would be for the game if a new team won it. They’d attract new fans, their attendances would improve and we’d have a new super-power style team to promote the sport.
Overall, now is the time for a new winner. Not only is the door open for them, but the sport needs it. It needs the hope that a new winner would provide, the money a new winner would generate and the fans a new winner would attract.