Off the Ball: Still a lot of hard work needed to lift the League Leaders' Shield

Kyle Amor celebrates at Leeds - one more point will do it!

Kyle Amor celebrates at Leeds - one more point will do it!

First published in Sport St Helens Star: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Sports Writer

THERE’S many a slip twixt the cup and the lip – and maybe some of the post Leeds match coverage basically saying that Saints had the League Leaders’ Shield wrapped up was a little premature.

It was also a little insulting to Castleford, the only team who can now stop Saints from getting their hands on their first piece of silverware since Daniel Anderson departed these shores.

Make no mistake, Saints will have to get a point from one of two very good teams if they are to hold off the Tigers and finish top of the pile for the first time since 2008.

Opponents Warrington and Huddersfield are two teams who are battling for a top four berth and the second bite of the play-off cherry that goes with it.

Does finishing top matter? Well, if your perspective is that fans cough up their hard-earned for 27 rounds purely to establish a starting grid for the play-offs, then the answer is no.

But if you believe that position on the table is a reward for consistently grinding out the wins, week to week, then the shield is as good a trophy as any to hold aloft.

Saints – now bereft of three quality pivots in Luke Walsh, Jon Wilkin and Jonny Lomax – may no longer be the best team in the competition. And yes, there have been some pretty appalling blips in the 2014 campaign, but league tables don’t tend to lie.

That table shows that Saints have been the most consistent side of the year ...so far.

It would also be a very big tonic for the players in the team given only Paul Wellens, James Roby and Wilkin have won anything domestically.

Psychologically it would be a massive stepping stone for this group of players — and it is up to the other fans trailing behind to be dismissive.

Still, should Saints beat Warrington tonight, there will be nothing like the carnival that took place back in 1996 when the same opponents were vanquished to give the men in the red vee their first league title in 20 years and the inaugural Super League.

The switch to the concept of the Grand Final to decide the champions from 1998 saw an almost deliberate running down of finishing top. Maybe that was to ensure that the Grand Final winners were undisputed champions.

Surely the Grand Final is an established enough concept that the third domestic trophy need no longer be subject to ridicule.

Maybe it would help if we reclaimed the magnificent old Championship trophy for the team finishing top.

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