CAST your mind back to the drama of 1996 when, on a sun-baked August Bank Holiday, Bobbie Goulding led Saints to an inaugural Super League title in a double-winning season.

That year it was nip-and-tuck between Saints and Wigan, and it was not just every game that mattered, but each try saving tackle and touchline conversion.

Precky’s tackle at Cas, Apollo’s try at London and Terry Matterson stroking the ball between the uprights at Wigan….Priceless.

It was not simply that every game mattered – but more importantly so did the league table.

With Saints eight points clear, you could say I would make this point – but the badge of champions should be worn by the team finishing top of the pile after playing everyone home and away.

Sure, we know the rules – and Saints have won the title from top of the table and from second, but that does not negate the argument.

Nor does the fact that we have had some tremendous nights beneath the lights at the Theatre of Dreams - in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2014.

We have had a few miserable one too, mind.

The very fact that next week Sky are televising a relegation battle, rather than a top of the table clash between Saints and Wigan, tells you everything you need to know about where the interest is until the end of September.

And as much as the reversion to the top five is a huge improvement on the 1 v 4, 2 v 3 knockout and the aberration of the eight-team play-off, it still renders the league table a mere starting grid after 29 rounds.

It is no good simply telling teams that finishing top means something – when we all know that the big prize is dished out at Old Trafford.

It is not possible to talk the League Leaders Shield up, when winning it is a subject of derision.

Once again we will have, by the looks of it, Saints lifting the dismissively named 'hub cap' to lukewarm applause and they will seek to force themselves to look bothered - and get accused of being disrespectful - knowing full well the only games that count are the final two.

The only way to make finishing top mean something is to reward the team’s skill, endeavour and consistency over the course of nine months with the title.

And as a side bet, re-instate the Premiership Trophy so everyone still has something to play for at Old Trafford.

If you look at the Premiership in football, one of the biggest sporting contests in the world, could you imagine them sorting out the champions with a end of year knock-out?

Never in a million years.