Congratulations and well done to the Warrington Wolves for their victory in the Challenge Cup Final.
Six tries to three was a fair reflection of the match,in my opinion, even though the Leeds NO TRY just after half time was a major talking point.
Tony Smith's attacking philosophy, and his ability to get different players to play this way, was responsible for the breaks and chances that his team created. The fact that they made more than three times as many breaks as the Rhinos justified the final score in my eyes.
One of the interesting 'stats' to come out of the game was the different impacts that the players on the subs bench had for both sides.
It's fair to say that the four men who began the game in a Warrington track suit seemed to lift their team far more when they entered the field than the four men sat next to Brian McDermott at the kick off.
Many experts and current players believe that Monaghan is one of, if not the, best rugby league players in Super League.
Quotes of the week
Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan, Tyrone McCarthy and Paul Wood made over twice as many runs with the ball than the four Leeds subs, and gained almost three times as many metres.
Admittedly, they may have had slightly more game time, and their team may have had more possession when they were on the field, but the fact that Smith chooses to start with possibly his best and most influential player on the sidelines is unique within the rugby league in this country.
Many experts and current players believe that Monaghan is one of, if not the, best rugby league players in Super League. He didn't do as much work in defence as his co-hooker, Mick Higham, but his runs from behind the play-the-ball repeatedly put Leeds in reverse.
No player in his team made more passes than him, even though he didn't play the full 80 minutes. His influence on the game was massive.
In Super League this year, Monaghan has only played in 14 of the 25 games so far and it will be interesting which players are selected by Smith for the last two rounds.
Realistically, Warrington's results against Huddersfield and Widnes won't make much of a difference to their play-off chances, which takes me back to the question last week about clubs selecting so-called 'weakened' teams.
I've since read up again on the latest rules and thought that you might like to see them. I've included the full wording below*, but have attempted to paraphrase it here:
The rules state that a club must select a "Full Strength" team so that no team gains an unfair advantage or disadvantage, and to do this it needs a squad of 25 players all of whom are entitled to play in the club's first team in League and Cup matches.
Section B1.11 states that each club can select whoever they like from their First Team squad (i.e., top 25 players). If they do wish to select somebody from outside of this playing group then they need to provide written medical evidence to the RFL Performance Department verifying the injuries sustained by the First Team squad players. The Performance Department need to determine if any players used from outside the Top 25 are of Super League standard.
The last sentence is one that I find very hard to answer. Who makes that decision and how? Is it the player's ability now or in the future? It's a rule that seems impossible as it seems so subjective. Still, it won't be a problem for the Wolves as they've got at least 30 players at the club who are all capable of playing well at this level right now.
Going back to Wembley for a moment, I'd like your help to conduct some basic market research. An old friend of mine asked me on Sunday morning why there were so many empty seats when he watched the game on TV.
For the record, the official crowd was just over 79,000 but I think that the figure included all of the club Wembley ticket holders in the middle tier. The 'real' figure was probably lower maybe somewhere between 60,000 to 70,000 (officially it was 6000 fewer spectators than two years ago when the two teams last met).
This old man had last been to Wembley in 1985 and was amongst the 97,000+ people who watched Wigan play Hull. He wanted to know why we attracted about 25,000 fewer people now than we did 20/30 years ago.
I don't know the answers but you might. The ticket prices seem similar if not cheaper and I've noticed some great deals on offer. We now have sophisticated databases which allow for direct marketing to potential supporters. The Stadium is in the same place as the old one and has much better facilities and the game has been live on TV for many years.
So why have the crowds gone down when the game as a whole seems much bigger? We need to try to understand the reasons why before we can find the possible solutions. Some might say that the crowds are higher than in the late 90's when Wigan played Sheffield and only 61,000 attended. In 1999 the Final between Leeds and London attracted c. 73,000.
What will happen in the Play-Offs this year? It was disappointing for the game and the players that the two Challenge Cup semi-finals attracted less than 23,000 in total this year. Players need fans to create the right atmosphere for them to be at their best.
How do we get people to go to the biggest games of the year?
*"In the event that because of an injury or illness crisis or for any other reason, a Club wishes to utilise players other than members of their First Team Squad (including but not limited to junior or loan players), the Club concerned must first produce written medical evidence to the Performance Department verifying the injuries sustained by First Team Squad players to the reasonable satisfaction of the Board. In any event any player utilised in such circumstances must be of Super League or Championship standard (as appropriate) as determined by the Performance Department. Further in order to utilise such a player, the Club must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the RFL that they will comply with the 'Club Trained' Rule set out in this section."