It has been evident for some time that the top tier teams in the Women’s Super League need to break off into their own playoffs to allow a more evened out game. There is no secret that the difference between the new sides and the bottom teams compared with seasoned sides such as Castleford, Leeds, St Helens and Wigan is vast. Not only is it vast but it appears to be growing perhaps thanks to the pandemic. The scores from this weekend have suggested so.
I’m not going to lie and make these types of games sound better than they are. From what I saw and the difference in ability was nothing more than unfair. It was car crash. Leeds were only playing at 50-75% of their ability and still surpassed the 70 point mark. Whatever was said by Featherstone Head Coach Natalie Gilmour at half time had an impact. However it lasted for maybe 10 to 15 minutes. The Rovers lost their momentum and slipped back into poor defence and unnecessary errors. No team can benefit from these sort of score lines. Four out of the eight teams this week had to walk away knowing they had been nilled – not a nice feeling at all. It’s not constructive to a team’s confidence, well-being or future performances. Yes, we can use these games as reality checks but, when this is happening week in week out, I fear that this could have a determinantal knock on effect to the teams and players.
So, if we are going to point any fingers for this weekend’s score lines, let’s take a moment and consider all the hidden factors that has allowed this disparity to occur. The majority of the WSL players – barring internationals – have not taken to the pitch in 18 months. They haven’t even been able to train. Meanwhile, they have been circled by the uncertainty of an awful year and the constantly changing restrictions and regulations. We need to give each other a break and allow us to gradually return to play. Saying that, if fitness levels and game play do not improve in the coming weeks, then serious questions need to be asked about where the competition goes from here.
Returning to the weekend fixtures it is not surprising who won. St Helens continued their impressive start to the new season with a 90-0 win over Huddersfield underlying their early credentials. Meanwhile rivals Wigan defeated Bradford 38-0. A similar fate befell Wakefield who lost to 2019 runners-up Castleford 44-0. Meanwhile the reigning Champions Leeds soundly beat Featherstone 72-0.