It has been a busy week on and off the field in Super League. We take a look at the latest news.
Huddersfield land Watson from Salford
Although yet to be confirmed by the Giants, it is expected they will announce the arrival of Ian Watson in the coming days.
One of the best English coaches in the game, the 44-year-old has guided the Red Devils to two major finals in the last 12 months, with a maiden grand final appearance last year before reaching their first Challenge Cup final in 51 years.
These achievements are impressive, especially considering the loss of key players and a small playing budget; the deal will be seen as a coup by the hierarchy at the John Smith’s Stadium, who had parted ways with Simon Woolford earlier this year.
The move came as a surprise to Salford, who had seen Watson turn down Hull FC just weeks before and they released a statement confirming his departure.
“The club were surprised and disappointed by Watson’s decision yesterday, following his previous statements of intent for the coming season, but understand his desire to continue his development through the experience of a new environment.”
Criteria for Super League’s 12th team released
Following the decision by Super League not to readmit Toronto Wolfpack, with the board rejecting their submission by eight votes to four, the Championship clubs hoping to take their place discovered their requirements.
They included having played in Super League or finishing in the top six of the Championship in 2018 or 2019; clubs must be able to boast an average attendance of at least 2,000 in that time and have a stadium capacity of 5,000.
Of the clubs eligible, Toulouse, York City Knights, Featherstone Rovers, and the Bradford Bulls have applied; with Leigh Centurions, London Broncos and Widnes Vikings (although unlikely to apply) also fitting the criteria.
The decision will be taken by a six-person panel chaired by Lord Jonathan Caine, with applications to be submitted by 9am on November 30 and a decision expected by December 16.
Super League semi-finals decided
The play-offs began this week, having been brought forward after Hull KR ended their season earlier due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
Wigan pipped rivals St Helens to the League Leaders Shield on points percentage, with both sides rewarded with a week off in the first round.
Finishing third saw Warrington face Hull FC, beneficiaries of the extended play-offs, having finished sixth, but they could end up playing a ‘home’ grand final at the KCOM Stadium.
In an impressive performance, the Black and Whites made it five wins from six as a typically effective Marc Sneyd kicking display, coupled with tireless work from their pack, saw them triumph 27-14 at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Andy Last’s side next face a trip to leaders Wigan next Thursday, bidding to make just their second grand final as Warrington crashed out of the play-offs for the second season running.
The week’s other semi-final saw the Catalans Dragons overcome a spirited Leeds Rhinos outfit after a blistering first-half, which saw them lead 18-0 after 30 minutes, with Sam Tomkins setting up Tom Davies, Samisoni Langi and Israel Folau.
A flawless kicking display from James Maloney and a second-half try from David Mead saw the French side reach the last four for the first time since 2014.
The Rhinos, without coach Richard Agar and assistant coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan (who were self-isolating), were not helped by losing Mikołaj Olędzki and Ava Seumanufagai to Head Injury Assessments and could not recover from their poor start.
Sean O’Loughlin to retire
On Friday, Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin announced he would retire at the end of the season, bringing a 19-season playing career with the Cherry and Whites to an end.
From making his debut in 2002, the hometown one-club man made over 450 appearances: winning four Super League titles, three League Leaders Shields, two Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge.
Also given the England captaincy, he played 22 times for his country as well as winning 11 Great Britain caps.
The 37-year-old, who has struggled with injury this season, has become the 15th player to be inducted into the Wigan Hall of Fame and will join the coaching staff for the 2021 campaign.