Yates' view: Saints are top dogs again ... but is it right they are not champions?

The Champions will be decided at the Grand Final at Old Trafford. Picture: SWPix
The Champions will be decided at the Grand Final at Old Trafford. Picture: SWPix

Saints confirmed their status as 'top dogs' by claiming the League Leaders' Shield at the weekend but once more leaving the vast majority of sport-lovers totally perplexed and baffled why the table-toppers cannot call themselves undisputed champions.

Instead, they have now got to line up alongside four other contenders in a battle to reach the Old Trafford Grand Final via a play-off series and then hopefully claim the coveted trophy in front of a sell-out crowd at the Theatre of Dreams in order to achieve their ultimate goal.

Imagine Manchester City having to face a similar situation after their titanic struggle to overcome Liverpool in one of the greatest Premier League title races of all time in 2019. The fans would go stark raving bonkers!

But Rugby League decided some years ago - rightly or wrongly - to follow the Aussie style-format and while I have no qualms at the Grand Final being described as the last curtain call of the season and also a money-spinner in every sense of the word, I don't know how the St Helens players felt when watching Wigan Warriors pick up the coveted trophy at the expense of Warrington Wolves last October after they were clearly a better side than the two finalists over the length of a tough and demanding league campaign. And it could happen again this
year, heaven forbid.

Super League chief executive Robert Elstone has come forward with one or two innovative ideas to improve the 13-a-side code since taking office but like me I bet he will be struggling to find an answer to satisfy everyone in order to ensure the leaders after 29 rounds of the competition are suitably rewarded for their consistency between February and September.

I've spent the last 20 years trying to fathom out a solution - and confess I haven't yet come up with a genuine and appropriate answer apart from the regular season table-toppers advancing to the final without needing to be involved in the play-off series.

It would at least give them at least a 50-50 chance of lifting the trophy but there again it is likely to lead to further debate on the issue.

Some Saints' fans may feel that given a few weeks' rest ahead of the Grand Final is likely to be beneficial to the players and more or less guaranteeing an injury-free period.

Others, however, may think it is better to be part and parcel of the play-offs and keep the momentum going on a weekly basis until the bitter end.

Where is Sherlock Holmes when needed to solve the biggest conundrum in Rugby League? I think he would be hard pushed to find the perfect solution.