The championship teams met at Featherstone last Thursday where the RFL laid bare their fantastic plans for the 2015 season - as well as their significantly less than fantastic transitional plans for the forthcoming 2014 season. Indeed, we think it's always good to hear what you're going to be playing for 10 days before the season starts (or a month before the season starts if you're Oldham).
As anticipated, it was confirmed that teams finishing 10th, 11th, 12th , 13th and 14th in the Championship will be relegated to Championship 1 at the end of this season, with 1 team promoted from Championship 1 via the playoffs.
In our opinion not the brightest idea as we'd imagine that team finishing 10th in the Championship would be of a sigbnificantly better standard than any promoted team - but that's the RFL for you (you could finish 10th - outside the playoff places on bonus points or points difference - and lose your place to a Ch.1 side. That should go down like a turd at a buffet).
However it plays out, there will be some good quality 'proper' teams who get the chop - but it will create that magical, revered, holy-grail of a 12 team Championship - where teams can (and will) launch deperate kamikaze campaigns to try and haul themselves into that middle, pseudo-Super League 'promotional eight' .
It'll also give you a 14 team Championship 1, with Coventry Bears mooted as the likely addition in 2015. Though, given the RFL's previous record for inventing Ch.1 teams, it could be anyone. Or no-one…
Going forward, two teams will then be promoted at the end of 2015 (Champions plus play off winner), with the bottom two from the Championship relegated. Got that? Good!
At the recent Members' meet the team Q&A evening, Ian Talbot spoke of the Championship being a divided competition, where the one half will effectively compete amongst themselves for honours, whist the others will compete to stay in the Championship when the league restructures next year.
With that in mind, we've considered the Championship as two 'pools', based primarily on last year's finishing positions, but with an allowance for 'Big Spending North Wales Crusaders™' - having chucked some cash around in the close season to grab some key players with top-flight experience (Michael Platt, Mark Offerdhal, Stephen Wild - plus the Ashall brothers) - to be most likely to challenge in 'Pool A'
With five clubs earmarked for the drop in the restructure, in order to stay up a team would have to finish at least 9th - that's effectively second in 'Pool B'.
As a guide, champions Featherstone topped last season's championship with 70 points from 22 wins - an ambitious total, we think. The teams that finished 8 and 9th last year gained 39 and 37 points respectively from 11 wins. Workington in 8th also secured 6 bonus points. Doncaster in 6th only achieved one more win (+6 BPs) - then there was 14 points of daylight between them and Batley in 5th.
At the meeting Tal spoke about beating the teams around us, looking for at least 10 wins over the season, as many bonus points as we can grab on the way - plus a couple of 'shocks' against 'Pool A' clubs.
So, as we count-down to the start of the 2014 season, here are our 'Pools' and the teams we'll be scrapping with for that crucial 9th spot.
Whilst this may well be the trickiest possible season to get promoted, we've earned the right to have a go - so let's give it a good go. If we stick together and #believe, who knows what we can achieve?
North Wales Crusaders