THESE are tough times and plenty of sacrifices have had to be made as we deal with Covid and its effects on all of our lives.

In the world of rugby league there has been a huge balancing act between player welfare, keeping clubs afloat, satisfying TV partners and giving hope to fans that they will see live action soon.

The pressure on players due to the looming fixture pile up awaiting in the autumn is enormous - and that did lead some folk to call for the Challenge Cup to be scrapped this year.

That would have been a huge mistake on so many levels.

For a start, the Challenge Cup is our oldest, most traditional competition - it is not simply something to fill in gaps.

This year has been tough for those players - strange home grounds, rituals, restrictions and regulations - the least we can do is keep alive their dreams of playing at Wembley (even if it is empty or only has a few thousand fans inside.)

It will seem odd, and difficult to get to in these socially distanced times. But it is important symbolically for Wembley to stay for this year’s showpiece - like it appears to have done for all other elite events - despite it presenting a logistical nightmare getting there in October.

Secondly, BBC gives our sport free to air exposure that stops the game being broadcast purely to its own followers. We cannot turn our noses up at that in a hugely competitive sporting market.

And we especially should not be having less of these types of exciting, sudden death games that capture fans’ imagination and will help us attract sponsors and grow the sport.

And three, all sports need variety - darts, cricket and football. Rugby league used to have a half a dozen competitions to play for - now we are down to two. It was important to keep both, no matter what.

So, to have tossed our most traditional of competitions aside like some suggested, purely to ease a weekend or two of fixture pressure, would have been a huge mistake.

Hopefully, the players will show just why that was worth it on Saturday where it is on Saints to right the wrongs of last year.