RFL respond to Smith comments
The Rugby Football League have launched a defence of the Stobart Super League play-off system following criticism from Warrington Wolves coach Tony Smith.
The former England boss yesterday called for a re-think of the top-eight system after two one-sided play-offs in the opening round and claimed that the views of the Super League coaches were being ignored by the governing body.
However, those comments have been challenged by the RFL's director of standards and licensing Blake Solly, who said Smith had not raised any concerns through official channels or at recent coaches’ meetings.
"The top-eight play-offs were introduced for the 2009 season during Tony's tenure as the RFL's technical director and there has been little, if any, opposition to the system from the Super League clubs since then," said Solly.
"Only last September the clubs voted 13-1 to retain the top-eight format, with the only dissenting voice coming from one club which had concerns about ClubCall.
"The play-off format is now in its fourth year and has continued to evolve.
"Few people at the outset would have predicted that a team finishing fifth at the end of the regular season would go on to win the Grand Final, as Leeds Rhinos did last year.
"The format has been so successful that the NRL in Australia have adopted it this season.
"There were some one-sided scores last weekend but how do you mitigate against form or individual performances in specific fixtures?
"For example, Tony's own club Warrington were soundly beaten by St Helens on Saturday and they finished the competition in second place. Nobody could have predicted that result."
Smith also claimed the Super League coaches do not have a voice and said the sport was "suffering because of poor lines of communication" – views which Solly strongly rejects.
"We have met the Super League coaches as a group on two occasions this year and will meet them all again in December," he added.
"These coaches' meetings have resulted in a number of positive initiatives, for example the introduction of the early-guilty plea for players referred to the RFL disciplinary tribunals.
"At the most recent meeting in May the entire agenda was handed over to the coaches and Tony led the meeting.
“The play-offs didn't feature on the coaches' agenda at that meeting. Tony has had ample opportunity to raise any concerns he has about the play-offs but hasn't done so, which makes his comments this week all the more surprising.
"I speak to Tony on a regular basis and, like all my colleagues at the RFL, am more than happy to sit down with him at any time to discuss any issues he may have."