THE matches are now coming thick and fast, as we head into the business end of the season, with fixtures doubling up, this putting even greater demand on the players and also coaching staff.

Squads are already being tested to the limit with injuries and fatigue, with still plenty of action ahead. This will most certainly force coaches to rotate their squads, allowing playing opportunities to those who at the start of the 2020 Betfred Super League would never have thought they would be entering the fray so soon.

As we saw in the two fixtures on Tuesday youth will be given the chance. With both Warrington and Wigan virtually unrecognisable, and Saints and Salford both containing some future stars of our game, which was fantastic to see.

St Helens Star:

Great to see young half back Lewis Dodd finally make his debut in the Red V, as the Saints put on a clinical display to down derby rivals Wigan by 42-nil. It’s was a professional performance by Kristian Woolf’s team against a very young and inexperienced Warriors side, with usual story, skipper James Roby leading from the front with a man of the match display.

Times are tough for everyone at the moment, but certainly in RL, and don’t look to get any easier anytime soon with the Prime Minister’s announcement that live crowds may not return until March 2021. This was a major body blow to all concerned, however, in the finest tradition of our great game we’ll continue to plough on and show the resolve and resilience that we always have.

However, I do find some of the rules set due to COVID frustrating. How we are allowed to watch live sport on tv INDOORS in pubs, but can’t have restricted live crowds with safe distancing in stadiums OUTDOORS?

The pandemic has continued to cause major issues within the game, with Wakefield Trinity being the biggest victims having to stand down nine players due to track and trace, following positive tests within their camp. This virtually left them with a bare 17 players.

Other major news within the game is the ongoing saga of the Toronto Wolfpack and whether they will be allowed to return to the Betfred Super League in 2021. Me personally would like to see them return if they can prove that they have a solid business plan under the new ownership, and some personal guarantees that secure the contracts and welfare of the players and the integrity of our competition. I think they bring something different to Super League, and in a time when we are in negotiations with broadcasters they could be an important factor in regards to expansion.

Back to the Betfred Super League, with no game for the champions last week it was time to refresh and cast an eye on the other challengers in the top 4 race. It’s very much looking at the moment to be the ‘big four’ ..Saints, Wigan , Warrington & Leeds. Barring Saints all the other three still have one eye on Challenge Cup success, and are involved in semi-final action this Saturday.

However, that said my prediction has never changed anyway, I’m still tipping Saints to go on to Old Trafford at the end of November and retain the Betfred Super League trophy. I think we a by far the best team, led by the spine of Coote, Lomax, Fages and Roby, surrounded by some outstanding talents such as Grace, Walmsley and Knowles. It is just a case of keeping the foot on the gas and continuing with the performances we know they are capable of.

Back to the Challenge Cup action this weekend...and my old club Warrington go into the semi’s 6/4 favourites with Betfred for success at Wembley and retain the trophy, with Wigan 13/8, Leeds 4/1 and Salford the 8/1 outsiders. I’m going for a Warrington-Wigan final with the Wolves just snatching it!