Do Leigh & Newcastle hold the key to success for the new era?

With all the explaining required around the new era, it’s easy to forget that there’s now a clear pathway to Super League.

While Featherstone were left frustrated by the glass ceiling that was the Championship during their years of dominance, the re-structure has come at the perfect time for a resurgent Leigh, who brushed aside almost all in front of them last season, even eventual Challenge Cup winners Leeds suffered a major scare at the hands of the Centurions.

In many ways, Leigh could well hold the key to the early success of the new era. We’re not known for our patience in rugby league, and should the 2015 season pass without any real drama in the middle eight, then the sceptics will be out in force and on the RFL’s back almost immediately.

But if Leigh – and of course Bradford, Featherstone, London, Sheffield or others – could ruffle some feathers and claim a Super League scalp or two, then it would get the new era off to an ideal start.

Bolstered by one of the Championship’s biggest signings, possibly of all time, in Fuifui Moimoi, Leigh have that winning habit that will be hard to shake off even post-split.

Having spent a little bit of time down at Leigh Sports Village earlier in pre-season, there is a clear belief and confidence in the air throughout the club, undoubtedly spearheaded by the excellent job done on the field by Paul Rowley and his players.

In some ways, Leigh’s assured belief has sparked their Championship rivals in to life. Featherstone have recruited Paul Wood and Garreth Carvell for their pack since Moimoi’s arrival, while Bradford went in for Epalahame Lauaki.

The importance of on-field competition because of the rewards it can bring will add a new lease of life in to the Championship.

Beyond the Championship, clubs in or joining League One can also see the future.

Keighley have a plan to reach Super League by 2020, something that was basically out of their hands 12 months ago. Now, if they get things right on and off the pitch, they can make it on merit.

The same applies to Newcastle Thunder, the newly-rebranded club who clearly have ambitions of greater things, having strengthened their links with top flight rugby union side Newcastle Falcons.

Should an investor want to pump some money in to a League One club, they now can knowing that the golden ticket of Super League is an actual possibility.

And it could be that which determines whether the new era is a success.

The fear is that the top eight, whoever that settles to be in the next couple of years, could grow bigger and bigger and pull away from the rest of the game. With a desire to play more games against NRL opposition, a future possibility could be that the top eight go off and play in another competition post-split. That would leave 9th in Super League as the best any aspiring club could hope for.

 

But if the gap isn’t allowed to grow, the potential for investment and ambition in the lower leagues should allow more clubs, a greater spread of players and hopefully the platform to create a truly national game of professional clubs.

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