Super League back with new format and doubled prize for table-toppers

Only the top four teams, instead of eight, will play off for the right to meet at Old Trafford

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The Independent Online

The past success of teams from down the table winning the Grand Final has forced Super League to double to £100,000 the prize-money for topping the competition.

St Helens, who went on to beat Wigan in the Grand Final, won just £50,000 for finishing top in 2014, and it was felt more needed to be done to reward consistency throughout the season.

The shake-up of the league also means teams will no longer be able to win the title from fifth place, as they did in both 2011 and 2012.

Both the Super League and the Championship will be split into three groups of eight at the end of the regular season in July and only the top four teams, instead of eight, will play off for the right to meet at Old Trafford.

Three points separated the top five last season and the new St Helens coach, Keiron Cunningham, whose side begin their title defence against Catalan Dragons on Friday, admits it will be hard to predict the four contenders.

“It’s so difficult because everybody has recruited so well,” he said. “Catalans are going to be a really tough team to beat.”

St Helens and Wigan are joint-favourites to finish top and the Warriors’ coach, Shaun Wane, believes the extra competitive edge this year will increase the intensity.

“Every game counts,” said Wane, whose side launch the season at Widnes on Thursday. “This new competition is going to make the games a lot more exciting. We can’t afford any slip-ups.”

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