Rugby League is always exciting to watch, especially when it comes to the Super League competition, and this year we’ve seen St Helens run riot. They’ve steamed in front of the competition, but does league success guarantee play-off glory? Going by reputation and results, we could say yes. But nothing’s ever a dead cert.
Winners by reputation
If you’re a Super League fan, then you know that St Helens are not just a force to be reckoned with, but also one of the biggest clubs in the league. They’ve been around now since 1873 and are one of the original members of the Northern Rugby Football Union, back when the beautiful game came to light. They’ve got a lot of top credentials to their name. They are the third most successful side in the Challenge Cup. They’re founding members of the Super League and one of only four teams to have appeared each season since it was created in 1996. And in the 2019 season, they’ve been top of the league for most of it, ending in front by a huge distance.
Eyes on the prize
To progress to league champions, St Helens would have to navigate the Super League play-offs. With odds of 20/59 to win their last league match against Hull, it would seem unfair for such favourites to miss out in the play-offs, but rules are rules. Despite having reached the 50-point mark, compared to the next five teams that had only between 30 and 36 points each, the play-offs, followed by the Grand Final at Old Trafford, decides the Super League champions. Of course, St Helens still got the League Leaders’ Shield and advanced straight to the second semi-final, so it’s not as if they were not rewarded.
In 2018 they were in a similar situation. Winning 26 out of their 30 Super League matches, they were beaten in the Challenge Cup and the Super League semis. But this seems to be in the distant past already. Signings Laclan Coote, Joseph Paulo, and Kevin Naiqama were more than just big-name acquisitions. They’ve proven to be a driving force behind St Helens, helping them to the top of the league. Whatever happens, though, St Helens have proven that they’re a force to be reckoned with. So, what about next season?
Succeeding in Super League XXV
We know St Helens are a side that play like champions (and deserve to be crowned as such) and they’ve had a master coach in the form of Justin Holbrook. The Australian professional took on the role of head coach in 2017 and has had a successful spell. But he has since decided to take on the role of Head Coach at the Gold Coast Titans, returning to Oz. Where does that leave the Merseyside team? Is their success down to the coach? If it is, then here’s hoping that replacement coach, Kristian Woolf, will continue the upward success of St Helens.
After spending five years in charge of Tonga and leading them to a World Cup semi-final, hopefully, the future is bright. Certainly, the work that Woolf has done at international level will serve him well, but the role will be different, as he has a top side on a platter.
Dominating doesn’t always bode well
In any sport, just because you top the table for a few years doesn’t mean you’re entitled to be the best club. Look at Chelsea or any team in the Premiership, or how the Rugby League’s changed over the years. Especially when the play-offs come into play, it doesn’t matter if you’re top of the league – look how St Helens suffered in the 2018 season, making it to the final only to fail. While the future does look bright for them, with a new coach and no doubt new players added to the team, what about the other sides? We never thought it’d be the Warrington Wolves’ year, but they made it into the top five. And the Wigan Warriors are always giving it their all. The points in the 2019 season have been close from the second position down to the sixth, with only St Helens being an outstanding team. If they keep that up, then 2020 will be the same. But if not, there’s going to be a lot of competition and no doubt it’ll be a close call. Exciting times ahead!