In an unexpected move by the Rugby League Governing Body, the RFL, the new eight-team playoff format introduced for 2009 will see one team choose their opponent when they get into week three of the play-off's.
A press release was released by the RFL last night and was embargoed until 00.01 this morning, I managed to get my hands on this release and below is a snippet of this along with some quotes from RFL boss, Nigel Wood.
From the 2009 season onwards, the engage Super League Championship, now expanded from 12 teams to 14 franchised teams, will be decided by an exciting new playoff format involving the top eight teams in the competition. The format will also feature an innovative new element which sees one team given the opportunity to choose its next opponent.
The playoff stage of the competition will now be played over a four week period and will climax with the Grand Final at Old Trafford. The format is being introduced following consultation and discussion with the 14 member clubs in engage Super League and will bring tremendous added excitement and interest to both the regular season and the final decisive phase of the competition.
The engage Super League playoffs will see all eight teams involved in the four matches which take place in the opening week. The League Leaders will face the fourth place team, second will play third, fifth will play eighth, and sixth will face seventh. The two matches involving the top four teams will be known as Qualifying Playoffs and the winners of these games will progress directly to the third week of the series.
The losers in these two games will have another chance in the second week when they face the winners of the week one Elimination Playoffs which involve the other four teams (the losers of these games will clearly take no further part). In week three, the winners of the two Qualifying Playoffs will play the winners from week two.
Significantly, the winning team from week one with the highest League placing will be allowed to select their opponents at this stage, thus adding a further element to this phase of the competition.
All the games in week three will be sudden death semi-finals with both winners progressing to the Grand Final at Old Trafford and both losers eliminated.
Commenting on the new format, the RFLs Chief Executive Nigel Wood said, "This new eight team engage Super League playoff series is a tremendous development for the sport and the competition. It will create great drama and bring an added dimension to what is already the most exciting period in the season.
"The increase in playoff places will also add more interest to the regular season by giving more matches added significance as clubs battle through the weekly rounds to give themselves a shot at the title."
My question to Mr. Wood would have to be: "Why are you allowing a team to choose their opponents?" Surely this creates an unfair bias to the competition?
There has been mixed reaction to the news with many rugby fans left wondering "why?"
Further developments on this topic are set to be released over the next month, and we will bring them too you as and when they are released.