Super League play-offs
Since 1998 a play-off system has been used to determine the Super League champions. The format has changed over the years, starting with a play-off involving first five, then six teams and currently eight. The play-offs culminate in the Super League Grand Final.
Use of a play-off system to decide the Championship brought back a rugby league tradition. The Super League Premiership, which had previously taken place between the highest placed teams in the competition, was discontinued as the purpose of its original incarnation had been to take the place of the previous Championship-deciding play-off system.
Current play-off system
For the Super League XIV season in 2009, a top eight play-off system was introduced to replace the previous top six system. This change coincided with an expansion of the competition from twelve to fourteen teams following the introduction of Super League licensing. The format is being introduced following consultation and discussion with the 14 member clubs in Super League. The series lasts four weeks, ending with the Grand Final.
The new eight team structure was developed by the RFL and, in their words, "is not a direct copy of other eight team formats operating in other sporting competitions" making it unique. The most significant feature of this system is that the highest ranked team from the regular season table winning a match in the first week of the play-offs will be able to select their opponents for their next game in Week Three. This selection opportunity is known as "Club Call" and is only possible for teams finishing in the top three during the regular season to achieve.
The RFL’s Chief Executive Nigel Wood stated that he believed the changes show Rugby League as "innovative and progressive" and added that the "new feature will also create more opportunities for broadcasters and the media to generate exciting coverage". Leeds Rhinos Chief Executive Gary Hetherington praised the changes as reminiscent of the sport's innovation since 1895, noting that the new system rewards those teams that finish higher in the table. Huddersfield Giants Managing Director Richard Thewlis commented: "This is another ground breaking move from our sport which has our full backing. It is an innovative move that will bring high class, pressurised play-off Rugby League to more teams which can only help drive development of players and the competition."
Four matches will take place on Week One, effectively in two pools: the Qualifying Play-offs and the Elimination Play-offs
These matches involve the teams who finish in the top four. They are:
1st v 4th 2nd v 3rd
The winners of these two games will progress directly to Week 3. The highest ranked winning club will have Club Call, whereby they choose their opponents in Week 3
The losers of these two matches will have another chance in Week 2 when they will be at home to the winners of the Week 1 Elimination Play-Offs.
5th v 8th 6th v 7th
• The winners of both matches will progress to Week 2, losers are eliminated.
There are two matches in Week 2, called the Preliminary Semi-finals.
Preliminary Semi-Final One
Highest ranked Qualifying Play-off Loser (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) v Lowest ranked Elimination Play-off Winner (6th, 7th or 8th)
• Winners to Club Call • Loser eliminated
Preliminary Semi-Final Two
Lowest ranked Qualifying Play-off Loser (2nd, 3rd or 4th) v Highest ranked Elimination Play-off Winner (5th, 6th or 7th)
• Winners to Club Call • Loser eliminated
Club Call will take place on the second weekend of the play-offs and will be hosted by the highest ranked winning club from Week 1. The host club will select who they play in Week 3 and can only select from the winners of the two Preliminary Semi-finals (Week 2) – they cannot choose the other Qualifying Play-offs winner.
The highest ranked club from the Qualifying Play-offs (Week one) must choose their opponents – they cannot cede the responsibility to the other Qualifying Play-offs winner.
The team with Club Call and the other Qualifying Play-off winner from Week 1 are guaranteed home advantage in Week 3. For example, should the teams that ended the regular season in 1st and 2nd place lose their opening play-off match, they could still find themselves playing away to the 3rd or 4th placed teams in Week 3.
Two matches again, losers eliminated from each, winners go through to contest the Grand Final.
Qualifying Semi-Final One Highest ranked QPO Winner v Club Call selected PSF winner
Qualifying Semi-Final Two Second ranked QPO Winner v Club Call Non Selected PSF Winner
Super League Grand Final
|Super League 8 team play-off bracket|
Week 1. Qualifying/Elimination play-offs: Fixtures decided by regular reason finishing positions. Higher ranked teams play lower ranked teams. Higher ranked teams receive home ground advantage.
Previous play-off systems
From Super League III in 1998 until 2001 a play-off structure involving the top five teams was used to determine the winners of Super League. Apart from the Grand Final all matches are staged at the home ground of the team placed higher in the final league table.
The same system was used in the NSWRL's Sydney Competition 1973-1994, the Australian Super League in its only season 1997, the VFL, 1972–1990 and New Zealand's Lion Red Cup, 1994–1996, and Bartercard Cup, 2000-2006.
From week two on the Top five play-offs system reflected exactly the Page playoff system.
Top Five play-off schedule:
- Qualification Final: 2nd vs 3rd
- Elimination Final: 4th vs 5th
- Bye: 1st
- Major Semi Final: 1st vs Winners of Qualification Final
- Minor Semi Final: Losers of Qualification Final vs Winners of Elimination Final
- Preliminary Final: Losers of Major Semi Final vs Winners of Minor Semi Final
- Bye: Winners of Major Semi Final
- Grand Final: Winners of Major Semi Final vs Winners of Preliminary Final
|Super League 5 team play-off bracket|
From 2002 to 2008 a play-off structure involving the top six teams was used to determine the winners of the Super League competition. Apart from the Grand Final, all matches were staged at the home ground of the team that finished higher in the final league table. A similar system was used by the Australian National Soccer League and is now used by the A-League to decide its champions. From Week Two onwards, the Top Six play-offs system reflects exactly the Page playoff system.
Top Six play-off schedule:
- Elimination Semi-final A: 3rd vs 6th
- Elimination Semi-final B: 4th vs 5th
- Qualification Match: 1st vs 2nd
- Elimination Final: Winners of Elimination Semi-final A vs Winners of Elimination Semi-final B
- Final Qualifier: Losers of Qualification Match vs Winners of Elimination Final
- Grand Final: Winners of Qualification Match vs Winners of Final Qualifier
|Super League 6 team play-off bracket|
- "New top eight play-off format for engage Super League". Super League. Retrieved 2009-09-19.
- "Super League play-offs overhauled". BBC. 2008-11-30. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Super League (2009-09-09). "All to play for as Super League gears up for Club Call". Super League. Retrieved 2009-09-11.