31 games, a Challenge Cup shock and a Super League relegation has brought us to this, the final 80 of the Super League season.
The reformatting of Super League in 2015, which saw play-offs ditched for a new ‘Super 8s’, ‘Middle 8s’ and promotion/relegation scheme was part of an initial plan to make the top flight of English Rugby League a more exciting prospect with a lot more at stake, with the very apt tagline “every minute matters”.
It seemed that the 2015 campaign maybe didn’t quite meet those expectations. No Super League teams were relegated and the Challenge Cup and Grand Final featured some familiar faces, in a season which saw the Leeds Rhinos grab a treble, was this change in format what the sport really needed?
However, if there was any doubt, the 2016 season certainly showed exactly how this new format would spark some electricity through the sport.
In the last 8 months we have seen a team that has gone from winning the treble, to finishing 9th in the league and battling in the Middle 8s to stay in the top flight.
We have also seen a rejuvenated Hull FC team under Lee Radford, a team who have shown no fear and gone on to win a Challenge Cup for the first time in 11 years, narrowly missing out on the League Leaders’ Shield and a spot in the Grand Final.
The final piece of the jigsaw saw Hull KR relegated from a golden point drop goal, in what was an exceptional season for one Hull side, it was bitter disappointment for the other. The result meant that a fired up Leigh Centurions side were promoted into the Super League, their first top flight outing since 2005.
The final bow of the season sees Warrington Wolves face Wigan Warriors as they step out at Old Trafford on October 8th.
The occasion marks Wigan’s third straight outing in Manchester , whilst Warrington will make their first appearance back at the iconic stadium since 2013. The pair have a rich rivalry, their most recent tussle saw a late Wigan win delay Warrington’s chances of lifting the League Leaders Shield, the tie could also be a rugged re-run of their Grand Final in 2013.
It could also be an occasion of firsts. If Warrington were to lift the Super League trophy on Saturday night, it would be their first since 1955 and their first at Old Trafford.
On the other hand, for Wigan it could be the first major occasion for some of their academy products.The game could see the likes of Joe Bretherton and Jake Shorrocks moving up in the ranks and playing their first senior Grand Final under Wigan.
Although, it will be the last game for Dan Sarginson, and for Wigan academy product, Josh Charnley, who both move on in their careers following the season closure.
Who will be victorious on Saturday night?
Only time will tell, 80 minutes in fact