Rugby League Expert & Columnist @RLBarrieMc10
Barrie McDermott: Lots to look forward to in Super League!
Last Updated: 07/11/19 11:34am
Following the fixture announcement on Tuesday, Sky Sports pundit Barrie McDermott thinks the 2020 season will be a voyage of discovery…
We are in unchartered territory now. We were promised something different, as the 'New Beginnings' tag of 2019 boldly stated - and it's certainly here now.
We've got expansion teams such as the Catalans Dragons, who've been here since 2006, and we have one or two others in the divisions below. In the off-season I met with some representatives of the Valencia Hurricanes who are going to play Featherstone in a friendly - as well as host St Helens and Salford in pre-season. I think we've got something fresh, something exciting and something new. They're certainly a club with big plans.
Without being too critical, I'm not a big fan of the loop fixtures, we lose what is special about the Saints-Wigan type of games when it's played several times a season. We've just got to be careful that we don't dilute those types of fixtures.
I would love to see us work towards a 14-team competition. It might take us five years to get to that stage, but with what happened with the London Broncos last year, with Toulouse and Featherstone giving it a big push - we've got some quality at the top end of the Championship. I think we're in for an exciting couple of years.
The first weekend looks tremendous, the double header at Headingley should see the best stadium in the league full and providing the best atmosphere. Brian McDermott's Headingley return is a brilliant narrative to start with. He's a figure that has always divided fans, as his playing career was at arch-rivals Bradford Bulls. He delivered the most successful era in Leeds' history.
He was always a reluctant hero, he didn't do what he did for the adoration, he did it because he enjoyed doing it. He didn't get a victory lap at the end of his coaching stint at Leeds, so although he won't seek it - he'll get a well-deserved reception.
To bring him back with Toronto against Castleford, with potentially the debut of Sonny Bill Williams, it's all set for an outstanding game of Rugby League on the first Sunday of the season.
Toronto owner David Argyle and his team have got big ideas, they're exploring opportunities. Arguably their greatest strength is that they're only three years old and that means they aren't entrenched in the 'we've always done it this way' approach.
The CEO Bob Hunter is aware of how strong Rugby League has been for 125 years, but he also realises that his goal and focus is to bring some freshness and vitality to what is the best sport in the world.
Finally, I'd like to touch on Magic Weekend. Newcastle is a venue that always gets us. We needed to try Liverpool, but I don't think it attracted more fans. But at St James' Park, we can attract the fans as they can dip in and out of the stadium much better than what was possible at Anfield.
I think the fixtures will play a part in getting people up to Newcastle, a lot of fans will have missed not going up there last year and that will mean that tickets will be sold for Magic Weekend.
2020 is the 25th Super League season - and it's one I'm really looking forward to being there to watch as many live games as possible. It is a dream for me - we should get full stadiums, terrific atmospheres and watching the world's best sportsmen entertain and give us their all.