ST HELENS head coach Kristian Woolf feels this year’s Super League competition is ‘compromised’ and that change to its ending is needed in order to maintain integrity.

He has suggested that this weekend’s games could prove to be the end of the regular rounds in order to start an expanded play-offs series earlier.

When the 2020 campaign restarted at the end of July after an enforced Covid-19 suspension period of four months, the structure of the competition was changed so that win percentages would determine final positioning on the league table due to the likelihood of not all teams being able to complete all 20 scheduled rounds of fixtures.

New fixtures were published and the schedule brought about more games in a shorter period of time, with six games in 23 days taking its toll on Salford this week and them pulling out of tonight’s scheduled fixture with Warrington Wolves for player welfare reasons, claiming they had only 13 fit players left standing.

Regular rounds of fixtures are currently scheduled to the weekend of November 13-15, when the top four teams would then play in semi-finals the following weekend to determine which sides meet in the Grand Final title decider at the KCOMS Stadium in Hull on November 27.

But Woolf, in his first full season in charge of reigning champions Saints, believes changes need to be made for the coming weeks.

He is not on his own, though there are other head coaches that disagree.

A meeting of Super League clubs will take place on Monday to discuss the ending of the season, as well as the situation regarding Toronto Wolfpack bidding to return to the competition next year after withdrawing this summer.

“The thing is, unfortunately and not through anyone’s fault, the competition’s now become compromised,” Woolf said in his weekly press conference.

“It’s been compromised in a number of ways.

“We’ve got a top four set-up and we’ve got a number of teams that are still battling to really find that fourth position, or a number of teams that want to finish on top of those four positions.

“The fact of the matter is that some teams are going to play as many as 20 games, and other teams are going to play as little as 15 games, and that compromises the competition in itself.

“You can argue that both ways, but you’ve got less chance of losing if you play less games and that means your win percentage comes up higher.

“That means we’ve got a compromised competition and a compromised finals series.

“And it means that teams that deserve to be playing finals, could miss out, or teams that deserve to win a competition could not do that.

“The further compromise, unfortunately, is Salford not being able to fulfil a fixture and that does compromise it more because it does mean that a team that is in the top four gets a free hit in terms of a win which helps their percentage and gets a free hit in terms of for and against as well.

“Again, that’s not anyone’s fault, nobody wants that situation, it’s the situation we’re in with Covid and what it’s done to the competition.

“I feel sorry for Salford. They’re a very honourable club with honourable people. They wouldn’t have done that without having to do it. They’ve been put in a position where they’ve been asked to play a lot of games in a short period and with Covid cases on top of that. Unfortunately, that just creates problems.

“It’s something that needs a really strong look at. I do think, and I know the idea has been bandied around, this could potentially be the last weekend (of regular fixtures). I think that probably is what has to happen to be honest, otherwise we’re just continuing with a compromised competition that’s only going to become more compromised in time and more difficult to fulfil fixtures.

“I do think we’ve got an opportunity to start looking at how we can get into a finals series and how we can come up with something that makes sure a finals series has some real integrity about it in terms of who’s participating in it and who gets rewarded for being a part of it. Therefore who gets rewarded at the end for winning a finals series that has integrity.

“There’s been a lot of different ideas tossed around. I don’t think we can go as high as seven or eight teams (in a play-offs series). I think that rewards teams that haven’t played a good enough consistency of footy to say that they need to be in finals.

“We’ve got an 11-team competition and if we’re playing eight of those in a finals series and calling it a finals series then I don’t think we’re doing it justice.

“We had a system in the first place that said we had five in a finals series. I think that would be very fair. You’ve got five teams at the moment that are realistically in with a chance of playing in a top four. As I say, it’s no fault of anyone’s if some can’t fulfil games or get to play games.

“So I think that would be really fair going forward. If you have to extend it out (beyond five teams) then if you go to six then that’s probably a little bit fairer than going any higher.

“It would mean at least teams would be coming into a finals series with a better than 50 per cent win record and I think that’s really important in terms of what a finals series looks like.”

It was put to Woolf that the play-offs could experience similar issues with Covid, with teams being forced to cancel their appearance. And he was asked if his team would be prepared to go into a tighter bubble than they are already in to try to attempt to eliminate any issues.

“It’s not lost on any of our players or anyone in our club how difficult everything is at the moment,” he said.

“We certainly understand that Covid can hit anybody and could affect any club and it could, possibly will, play a big part in the finals series because someone somewhere is going to have some sort of a problem, that’s the reality.

“I don’t think that should scare us out of going to a finals series, that’s for sure. That’s the only way we’re going to keep integrity in the competition.

“I’d be willing to do whatever we need to do, individually and as a team, to protect our players and our club as much as we possibly can to make sure we can get through a finals series.

“If that means we need to live even tighter than what we are, and we’re living under very tight restrictions at the moment – some of those imposed by the Government and some of those imposed because we’ve asked our players to be a little bit tighter than what those Government guidelines are ¬- then no dramas whatsoever and I know the players feel exactly the same.”