Rugby League Expert & Columnist
Brian Carney: Super League is up for grabs ahead of season restart
Super League returns in August with 21 matches in 29 days live on Sky Sports, starting with a triple-header at Headingley on Sunday August 2
Last Updated: 16/07/20 4:44pm
Sky Sports rugby league presenter Brian Carney looks ahead to what we can expect when the Super League season resumes on August 2 and some burning issues ahead of the restart…
First and foremost, everybody will be desperate to see the product back on the field and on the screens. If things improve on a macro level, we will see supporters back through the turnstiles as well but to start with it's going to be different broadcasting in empty stadia.
Let me tell you though, perhaps like few others sports rugby league's on-field action and the intense, physical nature of that will create a unique atmosphere all of its own.
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We will do our best to convey the ferocity of the action on the field for people as we always do, but it's great to have those fixtures announced.
Triple-headers are always interesting, and you will not want for rugby league coverage on Sky Sports in August. The depth of rugby league coverage on Sky Sports will go to Premier League levels in August, which is just phenomenal for the sport.
The players will be delighted to get back and they will get a buzz out of the triple-headers. They will also have to come to terms to playing in front of no crowds, but the bigger picture is we have got a season and a competition which is up for grabs.
We still do not know about promotion and relegation. My thoughts are there will be no relegation, which will take away what could have been a fair story bubbling away at the bottom of the table and a few clubs will be very relieved if relegation is abandoned this year.
But it will be an out-and-out sprint to get to the semi-finals and Grand Final when we return.
There are so many stories abound in Super League and if you come back to that first game when we restart on Sunday, August 2 between Hull KR and Toronto, there are two squads you feel would need to strengthen - certainly if they need to avoid relegation.
But I think the real story for those two sides are the men in charge and I really do not think Tony Smith or Brian McDermott, who know each other incredibly well and worked together at Leeds Rhinos, will be fazed by this one bit.
If you look at Toronto and their visa issues, and whether they will have to get loan players, if I could go through the list of Super League coaches and pick one to lead a team through the disruption which is predicted for Toronto and a team lying bottom of the table, I would pick Brian McDermott - he just will not be fazed by it.
I don't think there has ever be a question over whether he can motivate a side to raise their game. The other side is to take pressure off players and if the coach is not under pressure and relaxed about things, that drips into the psyche of his players and nobody will do that better than Brian.
The doomsday scenario of having their overseas players unavailable would be most unfortunate for everybody. Nobody benefits from not having Sonny Bill Williams, Ricky Leutele or the other bigger names of Toronto Wolfpack playing.
That would leave them scrambling around and they would have to rely on the goodwill of the other clubs, but it's a challenge and will be described as such by Brian McDermott.
Catalans story is one to watch
As we now know following the release of the fixtures for the rest of the season, Catalans Dragons will be playing all their scheduled matches for August in this country.
I listened to and read what head coach Steve McNamara and CEO Bernard Guasch had to say, and I endorse it. If they were able to play home games in Perpignan, they should have been afforded the opportunity to do that.
I don't know if this is just the way the cookie crumbled or whether there has been a deliberate delay in them having home games, but if Catalans Dragons are able to play at home, and it's safe for teams to travel to play them, that would have been their luck and good on them.
They're going to be a really interesting story though and I am delighted we're going to be able to see all of their games in August. We want to see the development of the Catalans with James Maloney in their side and Israel Folau.
They are a star-studded side and really do have some great players, but whether they can deliver this year will again be the question. I am not sure I have seen anything this year to say it's going to be different for them, but if you keep stacking a side with quality then ultimately you will come up trumps.
More questions than answers
If you look at the table now, tell me who are clearly the best teams? There is not the St Helens of 2019 putting their hand up at this stage - although no doubt St Helens will have a say in this season.
It's nicely compacted with some teams having played seven games and some as few as four.
Once the dust has settled on the first few rounds, we will get a clearer picture - but my overriding feeling at this stage is we are almost starting from scratch.
It's not beyond Wakefield in ninth to suddenly put a dent in the table and even Toronto. Their last game was a Challenge Cup win against Huddersfield Giants and even with no wins after six it's not all doom and gloom, although they have got the handicap of not playing at home.
In the few rounds we have had so far in 2020 we were left with as many questions as we had at the start of the season - and that's a good thing.