This Saturday is the Betfred Super League Grand Final between Wigan Warriors and Catalan Dragons at Old Trafford. New to rugby league? Ambi Nahal answers all the questions you may be too afraid to ask…
So what is the Grand Final?
The Grand Final is the last fixture in the Super League calendar each year. If you win the final, you are the champions. Both the Warriors – who finished top – and the Dragons have come through the play-offs to reach the final.
How do you reach the final?
The Betfred Super League season runs from February to October. There are currently 12 teams in the league, and they play 27 fixtures each. At the end of the regular season, the top six go into the play-offs.
The top two – this year, Wigan and Catalans – get a bye in the first round, meaning they did not play and went straight into the semi-finals. Teams finishing third to sixth played in the eliminators, which are effectively quarter-finals – Hull KR (finished 4th) v Leigh (5th) and St Helens (3rd) v Warrington (6th).
Hull KR and St Helens both won their matches, earning places in the semi-finals, where Wigan thrashed Hull KR and Catalans edged past Saints.
Why is there a team called Catalans in a domestic tournament?
Catalan Dragons – based in Perpignan in the South of France – are the only non-English side that play in the Super League, though Toulouse have previously been in the top-flight and could be again if they beat London in Sunday’s Championship final.
Catalans have been in the league since 2006 and have been to one Grand Final already, and won the Challenge Cup. There is a strong support in this region for rugby league and with average home attendances are 8,000 and interestingly, Catalans hold the record for the biggest attendance for a single Super League fixture (31,555 in Barcelona).
So does this have any link to the Rugby World Cup?
No. The World Cup – currently taking place in France – is a rugby union tournament. There are many different rules between the two codes of rugby, some being around time stoppages and restarts; the main being league teams have 13 players on the pitch (union has 15), tries are worth four points (five in union), goals worth two (two for conversions but three for penalties in union) and drop goals one point (three points in union).
Generally speaking, rugby league is often more fast paced, with fewer stoppages or kicks.
Another key difference to note between league and union is the geographical popularity. The rugby league stronghold is in the north of England, with five out of the 12 teams in the league hailing from the North West. Rugby union has much stronger hold over the south. This can be traced back to the split between rugby league and rugby union in 1895 in Huddersfield.
So who are the favourites for the final?
Wigan Warriors are favourites after finishing top and winning their semi final 42-12 against Hull KR, whilst Catalan Dragons needed a last minute try by Sam Tomkins to secure their spot.
However, the game between the two heavyweights will not be easy for the Cherry and Whites. They have only been successful in winning both the League Leaders Shield and the Grand Final twice. In addition, Tomkins is a former Warriors favourite who is capable of performing an upset in his last-ever match.
Where to watch?
Tickets are still available here.
You can watch the Super League Grand Final on Sky Sports Main Event from 5pm with kick-off at 6pm.
Picture: Harry Walsh via Unsplash