Rugby League: Super League follows Aussies
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Tuesday 31 March 1998
The winners of the inaugural JJB Sports Grand Final at Old Trafford in October will take home pounds 275,000, compared with the pounds 120,000 finishing first was worth to the Bradford Bulls last year.
The whole format is different this year. "There is no trophy and no prize- money for finishing first at the end of the league season," said Super League's managing director, Maurice Lindsay, at the Old Trafford launch for the new season. "Everything is geared to making the top five and going into the finals series."
That finals series is based unashamedly on the Australian system, where the leading five clubs play off against each other, leading to a Grand Final.
Matthew Elliott, the coach of the defending champions, who start their defence against the newcomers of Huddersfield this Friday night, welcomes the change.
"We are really looking forward to it at Bradford," he said. "The objective is to make the top five and then it is a new competition. It means that your most important match of the season is your last one."
For Hull, on the other hand, their most important match this season could be their first. Lindsay was able to announce that the crisis, which saw their chairman, David Lloyd, walk out last week, was over and that the Sharks were not about to sink.
The club's captain, Alan Hunte, repeated the message that all would be well, both for the opening fixture at Sheffield on Sunday and beyond.
"The players have had a meeting to clarify a few things and we are 100 per cent behind David Lloyd," he said. "A lot of people have panicked over nothing and there was never any problem as far as the players were concerned.
"It makes no difference to us whether our contracts are held by the club or by David Lloyd. It will be business as usual and our spectators - who are the most important people in all this - won't notice any difference either."
The ambition for the season generally, however, is that the public should notice a difference. The competition will be more heavily promoted than ever and Sky is to put extra technical resources into the televising of the sport.
Salford will impose a life ban on the spectator who attacked the referee, Stuart Cummings, at the end of their Silk Cut Challenge Cup semi-final defeat by Sheffield on Saturday.
The club says that if the man taken into custody after the incident and expected to be charged is shown to be one of their followers, he will never be allowed into The Willows again.
Lindsay has described the claim of a delegation from the Australian Rugby League that they are still owed pounds 400,000 from the 1995 World Cup, for which he was director, as "fatuous".
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