There has been a lot of confusion this year about the imminent 'Super 8's' structure that has been newly introduced.
It is aiming to make all divisions of rugby league more exciting, bringing back the traditional promotion and relegation, but this time in a more sustainable manner.
It basically means the best 12 teams will be playing in the top division, and the RFL knows they can maintain this status for years to come.
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So, the top 8 from this year's Super League contest the 'Super 8's', and are guaranteed their place in the Super League next year. The bottom 4 (Widnes, Hull KR, Salford, Wakefield) go into the Qualifiers, along with the top 4 from this year's Championship competition (Leigh, Bradford, Sheffield, Halifax).
The Qualifiers' points from this year are all wiped to 0, unlike those in the Super 8's, whose points carry over. Each team plays each other once, with the higher ranked teams having 4 home games, and the lower just 3 home games.
Another difference here is that it will be Widnes, Hull KR, Leigh and Bradford who have home games in the Qualifiers.
The 4 teams with the most points at the end of the Super 8's move into the semi finals, where 1st plays 4th, and 2nd plays 3rd, and the winners meet in the Grand Final.
Million Pound Game
This is different for the qualifiers, where the top 3 teams will compete in the Super League 2016, and 4th will play 5th in a play-off game known as the 'Million Pound Game' to determine the 4th team to be playing in the top division next year. The qualifiers who don't make it to Super League will compete in the Championship next year.
The bottom 8 teams from this years Championship keep their points and move into the 'Championship Shield' with the top 4 at the end of the 7 games moving into the play-offs for the shield, and the bottom 2 being relegated to the Kingstone Press League 1.
This means that there will be 12 teams in the Super League & the Championship, and 14 teams in League 1, as newly promoted Coventry Bears join the fray for next year along with the 2 relegated teams from the Championship Shield competition.
I hope this article has at least shed some light on the oh-so-confusing structure that I don't think I'll understand even when its over. Please let me know your predictions for the coming competitions, I'll give you mine now:
- Super League Grand Final winners - St Helens
- The Qualifiers, promoted - Widnes, Leigh, Hull KR and Bradford
- Championship Shield winners - London Broncos
- Championship Shield, relegated - Whitehaven and Doncaster