James Roby is starting to pay attention to the Super League table as the home straight creeps over the horizon.
The Saints hooker helped his side to the top of the ladder with a satisfying derby win over Wigan on Friday - and in the process, Saints became the first side to guarantee themselves a place in the top eight race to the Grand Final.
A complicated new structure kicks in this season, where after 23 rounds the top eight teams play for a place in the top four, for a shot at a place at Old Trafford, while the bottom four join the top four Championship sides to squabble over places in Super League for 2016.
But despite its critics, Roby admits to being a fan of the concept.
“The first time I saw it I agreed with it straight away,” he said when asked about the structure.
“Some people had cases against it but from the start I thought it was a great idea.
“As you look at the table now, no one knows who’s going to make the eight.
“It’s tight for places around there and you’ll have people battling.”
On the evidence of the league table, the concept has worked thus far. Only four wins separate Huddersfield in fourth spot and Salford in 11th with five regular season games left - only Wakefield now mathematically out of the equation for this year’s play-offs.
And even though Saints have booked a place in the top group from round 24 onwards, Roby has promised the champions will not coast to the finish.
“We’re all aware we’re at the top and that’s where we want to stay,” he said.
“It’s getting to that stage now and I have looked at the league table a little bit. We’ve put a lot of effort in and deservedly so we find ourself at the top.”
Roby also believes the intensity of the competition will continue to benefit once the Super 8s phase has started.
“When we do split into that eight they will be intense games,” he said.
“There is always a bracket to put yourself in and to do that you have to pick up wins.”
And while the 29-year-old didn’t train on Monday, he revealed he is fit to play against Castleford on Thursday and has been named in Keiron Cunningham’s squad.
He joked: “The coach is just looking after me a bit as I’m one of the older ones.”
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