WE GOT ISSUES: Importance of the League Leaders' Shield

18th August 2017, 09:26


WE GOT ISSUES: Importance of the League Leaders' Shield


TO someone who grew up surrounded by southern hemisphere Rugby League culture, it was a startling comment.

Castleford coach Daryl Powell was quoted before last night’s game against Wakefield as saying the League Leaders’ Shield is a bigger prize than the Grand Final. He referred to being first past the post in the old terms of it being “the Championship”.

Now, if you’ve followed the NRL for long enough, you’ve heard the expression “no-one remembers who won the minor premiership” – which is the Australasian equivalent of the LLS.

It’s an interesting discussion point: Do you feel more aligned as a British Rugby League fan with the structures – some comparatively recent – of your own sport or of sport in this country as a whole?

Are promotion and relegation and winning silverware by finishing first as British as fish and chips? Do you find it impossible to see things differently?

Or do you look to other parts of the Rugby League world and see these as optional, a choice made by local administrators which can be fairly changed?

I was ready to write a column about how Powell’s statement meant the Grand Final concept had clearly not been sold properly, how it was still seen by some people as no more significant than the old Premiership, how this was a problem.

Then I watched Cas’ 45-20 win over Wakefield at Mend-a-Hose Jungle and, more specifically, the aftermath.

Again, hearing “We Are The Champions” after what is know Down Under as the “minor premiership” sounded counter-intuitive.

But it was, at the same time, entirely appropriate.

Cas should be allowed to draw a line between the current day where Old Trafford is the holy grail and the previous 91 years when the championship was often first-past-the-post and they couldn’t win it.

We don’t celebrate history enough in our game; in this case we don’t celebrate a lack of history enough, either.

There is no way Melbourne Storm will be popping champagne corks and rolling out the flame throwers when they finish first in a couple of weeks. You won't hear Freddie Mercury over the tannoy unless he's singing "I Want It All". Perhaps the kids will jump the fence to be with their dads for a lap of honour but if the JJ Giltinan Shield is presented on September 2 after the home game against Canberra, some Storm fans will have already headed for the exits. Their focus will be a month into the future.

That’s OK, too.

But looking at the scenes at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle last night, I came to the conclusion that it’s the Brits who get this balance right rather than the Aussies.